Why Learn Chemistry?

For the discussion of the sciences. Physics problems, chemistry equations, biology weirdness, it all goes here.

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inventivefficiency
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Why Learn Chemistry?

Postby inventivefficiency » Tue Dec 01, 2009 1:54 pm UTC

I googled this once but it didn't turn up any promising results. Much of it weren't relevant to the question, as google results often are. Chemistry is interesting to me because of its mystery, or better said, my incompetence for it. But not all things that are mysterious are interesting to me, like astronomy. I don't know why, but I don't love, I could care less for it. Empty spaces just doesn't pique my interest. Maybe it's an unconscious association with astrology. Maybe something else. I don't know.

As an aside, I ran across xkcd.com, of which some comical jokes fly over my head, a long time ago but never noticed it had a forum. There seems to be a lot of geeks on here. That's good. I love geeks. I have the impression they know a lot. By the way, the reason to learn chemistry so that I may understand some jokes is to me far from a valid reason. It doesn't fit my logic.

Anyhow, Why Learn Chemistry?

the tool
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Re: Why Learn Chemistry?

Postby the tool » Tue Dec 01, 2009 3:09 pm UTC

Because you enjoy the subject more than other classes? What other reasons are you trying to find?

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Re: Why Learn Chemistry?

Postby HighLowSplit » Tue Dec 01, 2009 3:25 pm UTC

Anyhow, Why Learn Chemistry?

You already answered your own question.
inventivefficiency wrote: Chemistry is interesting to me because of its mystery
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Re: Why Learn Chemistry?

Postby Izawwlgood » Tue Dec 01, 2009 3:28 pm UTC

Because if you want to do research in a lab that does more then crunch in silico models or smash high energy beams together, you'll need to mix chemicals, and you'll need to know why you're mixing those chemicals so you can modify your experiments as the experiment demands. Every one of the engineering and physics grad students I work with has needed help with chemistry or orgo in their experiments, and if they had taken either class, they would have saved themselves the temporary stagnation of being to proud to ask about it.
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Narius
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Re: Why Learn Chemistry?

Postby Narius » Tue Dec 01, 2009 6:02 pm UTC

I agree with the above post. I'm majoring in Physics, yet at my university physics majors are required to take a year's worth of general chemistry class. Even if you're not majoring specifically in chemistry, I personally think a basic understanding of each field in science can be useful if you're planning on any science/technology related field. But it ultimately comes down to you. Why learn chemistry? Because it's something that peaks your interest, that you can really get passionate about and enjoy. If that's the case for you, then that's reason enough.

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Admiral Valdemar
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Re: Why Learn Chemistry?

Postby Admiral Valdemar » Tue Dec 01, 2009 6:06 pm UTC

To echo what others have said, you do it because you want to. Right now, I'm working with HPLC and UPLC for chemical analysis, yet at school I was always more physics inclined and I'm a biologist by training. I, frankly, love all the sciences, from the Big 3 to the likes of psychology and geology and everything inbetween.

As Doc Brown said, "Actually I'm a student of all sciences."

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Re: Why Learn Chemistry?

Postby cv4 » Tue Dec 01, 2009 9:14 pm UTC

Admiral Valdemar wrote:
As Doc Brown said, "Actually I'm a student of all sciences."


Basically this. Chemistry is a core science. Most science programs will touch on chemistry to some extent and it bridges the gap between the more pure, and mathematically driven sciences (various forms of physics basically) and the others (biology, earth sciences, etc.)

If you are a student of science, chemistry is something you should know.

opsomath
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Re: Why Learn Chemistry?

Postby opsomath » Wed Dec 02, 2009 5:26 pm UTC

Because chemists get to play with sodium metal.

http://depletedcranium.com/sodiumdrop.jpg

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Admiral Valdemar
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Re: Why Learn Chemistry?

Postby Admiral Valdemar » Wed Dec 02, 2009 5:37 pm UTC

opsomath wrote:Because chemists get to play with sodium metal.

http://depletedcranium.com/sodiumdrop.jpg


Funny story: we had the ol' place-sodium-block-in-water-tank experiment at secondary school chemistry class once. Unfortunately, my teacher accidentally put a wee bit too much sodium in. The tank being covered in a little cardboard didn't really alter that either. Rather than fizzing about and dying off, the stuff stuck to the side of the tank, produced a load of hydrogen that stayed in the tank and then ignited said gas, blowing the cardboard top to bounce off the ceiling and smashing the tank itself.

It was about that time I wished we had francium.

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Charlie!
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Re: Why Learn Chemistry?

Postby Charlie! » Wed Dec 02, 2009 9:09 pm UTC

Admiral Valdemar wrote:
opsomath wrote:Because chemists get to play with sodium metal.

http://depletedcranium.com/sodiumdrop.jpg


Funny story: we had the ol' place-sodium-block-in-water-tank experiment at secondary school chemistry class once. Unfortunately, my teacher accidentally put a wee bit too much sodium in. The tank being covered in a little cardboard didn't really alter that either. Rather than fizzing about and dying off, the stuff stuck to the side of the tank, produced a load of hydrogen that stayed in the tank and then ignited said gas, blowing the cardboard top to bounce off the ceiling and smashing the tank itself.

It was about that time I wished we had francium.

Eh, potassium is actually the best: francium atoms are too big, it has fewer moles/g and moles/cm^3. It's because it's the hydrogen production that matters.
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Admiral Valdemar
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Re: Why Learn Chemistry?

Postby Admiral Valdemar » Wed Dec 02, 2009 9:43 pm UTC

Charlie! wrote:Eh, potassium is actually the best: francium atoms are too big, it has fewer moles/g and moles/cm^3. It's because it's the hydrogen production that matters.


Ah, but francium is radioactive! That makes for more fun, until you go and find some U235 to toy with. :wink:

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Ingolifs
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Re: Why Learn Chemistry?

Postby Ingolifs » Thu Dec 03, 2009 4:27 am UTC

Relativistic QM calculations suggest that francium is actually less reactive than Caesium.
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Vieto
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Re: Why Learn Chemistry?

Postby Vieto » Thu Dec 03, 2009 4:43 am UTC

can't we just pour H2SO4 on sugar and make carbon pillars? I mean watching huge fireballs of awesomeness on water is fun, but watching a carbon tower arise from a few grains of sugar...

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Re: Why Learn Chemistry?

Postby sikyon » Thu Dec 03, 2009 5:59 am UTC

My personal order of importance is:

Newtonian Force-balance/momentum physics > Chemistry ~= Thermodynamics > Biology > more advanced physics ~= calculus > fundamentals of quantum mechanics > fundamentals of relativity >> relativity ~= quantum mechanics

Of course this is from my engineering standpoint, where basically each of these fields explains observations in the real world.

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Re: Why Learn Chemistry?

Postby Tock » Thu Dec 03, 2009 8:01 pm UTC

Chemistry is one of those things that many universities throw at pretty much every science or engineering major in an attempt to make them give up. The general reasoning is that if you can't pass a semester of college chemistry, then you are obviously in the wrong field. The university I'm attending (U of Memphis) has had such a problem with people coming out of the state schools unprepared for chemistry that they actually have a semester course that quickly runs over all the important things from high school chemistry so you can have a chance at college chemistry.

tl;dr Most chemistry classes are hard, but they're a good indicator of how you'll do in the rest of your major if your major is scientifically inclined.

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Admiral Valdemar
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Re: Why Learn Chemistry?

Postby Admiral Valdemar » Thu Dec 03, 2009 8:22 pm UTC

Tock wrote:Chemistry is one of those things that many universities throw at pretty much every science or engineering major in an attempt to make them give up. The general reasoning is that if you can't pass a semester of college chemistry, then you are obviously in the wrong field. The university I'm attending (U of Memphis) has had such a problem with people coming out of the state schools unprepared for chemistry that they actually have a semester course that quickly runs over all the important things from high school chemistry so you can have a chance at college chemistry.

tl;dr Most chemistry classes are hard, but they're a good indicator of how you'll do in the rest of your major if your major is scientifically inclined.


I never found as much difficulty in chem as I did maths. What was always off to my science teachers at school was me being in the top set for science, and the second to last for maths. I was the only one to manage that, despite the likes of physics containing, well, a lot of maths. I figured it was down to motivation, where straight maths never appealed and so I was apathetic.

Not like chemistry, which was always fascinating thanks to a great teacher. Although at uni, I didn't do the biochem degree I originally considered, because a) it was even more of a slog than I'd have liked thanks to not doing any chem since secondary school, b) I like variety, and there's only so much biochem one can do.

I do hear that chemistry seems to suffer more than the other two big sciences when it comes to filling in positions, though science on the whole in the West is not as abundant a subject of study as it is in the developing nations like Chindia.

inventivefficiency
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Re: Know of any Links?

Postby inventivefficiency » Sat Dec 05, 2009 12:57 am UTC

Does anyone know of any links on the entire Web that has videos of someone teaching chemistry in a fun way, or better, someone applying chemistry in an inquisitively curious way. A quality video game that applies chemistry would also be remarkable, but I'm sure something like that doesn't exist.

Anyhow, this was the only comment that had some relevance:
"where basically each of these fields explains observations in the real world."

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Ingolifs
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Re: Why Learn Chemistry?

Postby Ingolifs » Sat Dec 05, 2009 8:30 am UTC

The 'periodic table of videos' is a good series of chemistry-related videos on youtube, a resource I wish I had when I was a kid and casually interested in chemistry.
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Jorpho
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Re: Why Learn Chemistry?

Postby Jorpho » Fri Dec 11, 2009 9:36 pm UTC

You can learn chemistry because you might just be able to find someone who will pay you to do stuff that requires a knowledge of chemistry.

And for the record, I found my undergraduate physics courses to generally be much more vicious than my undergraduate chemistry courses.

Also, isn't francium one of those things that is extremely difficult to accumulate in macroscopic quantities? (My old gen-chem textbook suggested that it ought to be liquid at room temperature, but I notice that most periodic tables don't designate it as such, even if they single out mercury and bromine.)

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Re: Why Learn Chemistry?

Postby Ended » Fri Dec 11, 2009 9:52 pm UTC

OT: regarding the reactivity of the alkali metals, this is a good video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QSZ-3wScePM
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XeF
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Re: Why Learn Chemistry?

Postby XeF » Sat Dec 12, 2009 2:03 am UTC

A good reason to learn Chemisty is that it follows through consequences in a precise step by step manner, and accounts for all materials used by properly knowing and measuring consequences of arbitrary complex transformations. Those who know can advise sensible choices for more than only jobs within chemistry.

A Chemist has a manner of thought which is so much more helpful than modern business accounting, because mols and masses are conserved through the train of thought of a Chemist. Only genuine efficiency improvements get the approval of a true chemist, and semi-rhetorical cost savings through discounting future values, circulating loans, and such are seen to be worth nothing. Therefore I would prefer to have the planning of the balance of materials and carbon cycles decided on my behalf by chemists than by executives with experience of running banks.

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Jorpho
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Re: Why Learn Chemistry?

Postby Jorpho » Sat Dec 12, 2009 6:10 am UTC

XeF wrote:A Chemist has a manner of thought which is so much more helpful than modern business accounting, because mols and masses are conserved through the train of thought of a Chemist. Only genuine efficiency improvements get the approval of a true chemist, and semi-rhetorical cost savings through discounting future values, circulating loans, and such are seen to be worth nothing.
...Um, do you actually know any chemists? (Oh, wait, let me guess, you only know "true chemists".)

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Admiral Valdemar
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Re: Why Learn Chemistry?

Postby Admiral Valdemar » Sat Dec 12, 2009 3:44 pm UTC

That's annoying in the same vein as "Oh, you're a bio major. Going to be a doctor are we?"

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Charlie!
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Re: Why Learn Chemistry?

Postby Charlie! » Sat Dec 12, 2009 8:13 pm UTC

Ended wrote:OT: regarding the reactivity of the alkali metals, this is a good video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QSZ-3wScePM

That's a little misleading, though, because of density effects. Potassium produces the most hydrogen per gram, iirc.
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XeF
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Re: Why Learn Chemistry?

Postby XeF » Sun Dec 13, 2009 6:46 pm UTC

..Um, do you actually know any chemists? (Oh, wait, let me guess, you only know "true chemists".)

YES. It so happens that I grew up in the house of a plain chemist, who did not get paid all that much, and one of my uncles is also a chemist. In terms of middle-management smooth talking ability, those particular specimens are .. well .. far too much like chemists to go up the ladder and end up running the country, but in terms of not losing count of life and death items, they do know where their mols go, and did take personal responsibility for them. Which is a lot better than national leadership seem to do and diametrically opposite to what financial executives have done.

Oh, and also my ex was a science teacher, but she is not a chemist because she ran off with the rampant feminist subjectivist brigade; that lot who bump into glass doors which they do not believe in because they were placed there by men to exclude them.
Last edited by XeF on Sun Dec 13, 2009 8:00 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Why Learn Chemistry?

Postby LemonyCricket » Sun Dec 13, 2009 7:31 pm UTC

I like learning for the hell of it. Just sayin'.

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Jorpho
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Re: Why Learn Chemistry?

Postby Jorpho » Sun Dec 13, 2009 10:00 pm UTC

XeF wrote:
..Um, do you actually know any chemists? (Oh, wait, let me guess, you only know "true chemists".)

YES. It so happens that I grew up in the house of a plain chemist, who did not get paid all that much, and one of my uncles is also a chemist. In terms of middle-management smooth talking ability, those particular specimens are .. well .. far too much like chemists
Okay, so you know two chemists who behave similiarly and are thus "far too much like chemists"..?

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Re: Why Learn Chemistry?

Postby MiB24601 » Wed Dec 16, 2009 6:27 am UTC

inventivefficiency wrote:Anyhow, Why Learn Chemistry?


1) There really isn't useless knowledge. Some knowledge may be of very limited usefulness but it can still be useful.

2) Chemistry can be very practical to know. For example, learning chemistry is what made the difference for me between knowing how to cook and being a good cook. Breaking Bad, a television series on AMC, often shows the main character, a chemist, use chemistry to survive in life and death situations. Some examples from Breaking Bad, such as how to recharge a car battery in the desert, are more realistic in their application than others, such as how to use chemistry to defeat a drug kingpin.

3) Sometimes you can make money from knowing chemistry. Mostly, I'm thinking about actually working as a chemist but making soap requires knowledge of chemistry and some non-chemists do that for fun and then can make a little extra money selling the soap.
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Re: Why Learn Chemistry?

Postby Angua » Wed Dec 16, 2009 8:01 pm UTC

Because without it, you can't take Medicine, at least in England. It's more important than taking Biology.
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Re: Why Learn Chemistry?

Postby BlackSails » Wed Dec 16, 2009 8:48 pm UTC

Same in the US actually. Med schools requires 2 years of chemistry, but only 1 of biology.

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Jorpho
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Re: Why Learn Chemistry?

Postby Jorpho » Wed Dec 16, 2009 9:05 pm UTC

MiB24601 wrote:2) Chemistry can be very practical to know. For example, learning chemistry is what made the difference for me between knowing how to cook and being a good cook.
Perhaps, but there are more good cooks who have not learned chemistry than there are people who have learned chemistry who are good cooks, I reckon. Even in chemical engineering there seems to be a lot of practical knowledge that's far removed from the actual theory.
Breaking Bad, a television series on AMC, often shows the main character, a chemist, use chemistry to survive in life and death situations.
Really? Gee, for some reason I thought it was a show about break dancing. What have I been missing..?

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Re: Why Learn Chemistry?

Postby MiB24601 » Wed Dec 16, 2009 9:29 pm UTC

MiB24601 wrote:2) Chemistry can be very practical to know. For example, learning chemistry is what made the difference for me between knowing how to cook and being a good cook.

Jorpho wrote:Perhaps, but there are more good cooks who have not learned chemistry than there are people who have learned chemistry who are good cooks, I reckon. Even in chemical engineering there seems to be a lot of practical knowledge that's far removed from the actual theory.


Much of what is taught in cooking school is chemistry, even if the students aren't told it is chemistry. Greg Dean, of Real Life Comics, went to cooking school and did a comic discussing the Maillard reaction as an example of the type of material taught in cooking school. An education in chemical engineering involves learning how the practical knowledge is connected to the actual theory.

MiB24601 wrote:Breaking Bad, a television series on AMC, often shows the main character, a chemist, use chemistry to survive in life and death situations.

Jorpho wrote:Really? Gee, for some reason I thought it was a show about break dancing. What have I been missing..?


I have no idea if you are kidding or not.
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