Monday, February 7, 2011

Introducing Chemistry for Cowards

While the purpose of this blog has always been to trace my own progress in learning about chemistry, I find myself more and more interested in field of chemical education. I become more interested in why it is more people don't understand chemistry every time I hear someone make an egregious error, like identifying "negative ions" as some kind of insidious miasma that must be purged from the air. Other times people will fail to understand something as basic as the idea that water is water, no matter where it comes from, one molecule of water is that same as any other molecule of water. So I've spent a lot of time considering what would be necessary in a primer for chemistry. Not another general chemistry textbook, just something that will give people enough basic knowledge that they could open up such a textbook and follow along pretty much anywhere.


I realize there will always be people who will never care enough about chemistry to read through a single post, no matter how well-written, on chemistry. So instead of trying to accomplish the impossible task of teaching the uninterested chemistry, I'm going to try and explain it to people who have at the very least a passing interest, and possibly, an intense fear. There are any number of people who have thought to themselves, "Oh, I'd love to learn about chemistry, but I'm not risking my GPA/graduation by taking up the subject just because I'm curious!" I might add: Pshaw on the society that punishes curiosity!

So I want to announce the beginning of a series of posts on the subject called, "Chemistry for Cowards: Everything you wanted to know about chemistry, but were afraid to ask." These posts will differ from other explanatory posts in that they will not be about specific phenomena, but be a way for people to sink their teeth into more fundamental topics. The specific goals here are to allow a person to follow a teenager's general chemistry homework with a certain amount of confidence. The next goal will be to allow the reader to use the following terms with limited confidence (the only form of confidence that ever means anything):

  • Atom
  • Molecule
  • Ion
  • Electron
  • Proton
  • Nuetron
  • Isotope
  • Heavy water
  • Nuclear
  • Nuclear Reactor
  • Control rod
  • Element
  • Periodicity
  • Hydrocarbon
  • Organic
  • Thermodynamics
  • Ideal Gas
  • Acid
  • Mole
  • Stoichiometry
  • Base
  • pH
  • Solubility
  • Chemical formula
The list of terms is minimal but not all inclusive. It's important for me to point out that this is chemistry for cowards. This isn't chemistry for autodidacts. If you find these posts disappointingly basic, that's because they're designed to be one notch below an introductory college text with less math than a high school course. I find people outside of high school are far less willing to do math and so I've made the math rather sparse, and in those cases where math is necessary, I explain in detail how the equation works, outlining every step such that there is nothing to fear. I'll also strive to make it easy just to read over the math.

Chemistry purists may object to trying to teach chemistry without math, but I argue I'm not teaching chemistry, I'm introducing it to people. Busy people. People with jobs, who might want to read something interesting on a lunch break without breaking out a pencil and paper. People who read blogs on their phone waiting for the bus. People who may understand these principles, but for whom it's been a while and a quick survey is all they need to jog their memory. People who don't remember how to move a logarithm to the other side of an equation. These people deserve to know about chemistry too.

As I write more posts on the topic, a button will appear in the menu bar, called- what else? Chemistry for Cowards. It will lead to a page that lists posts in the order necessary to understand them. Each post will also have a link back to that page, as well as a list of posts that may be required reading in order to follow along fully. I will strive to make this as user-friendly and easy to follow as possible, without dumbing it down to the point of uselessness. Feedback, as always, is encouraged.

6 comments:

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Mario Bianchi said...

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Rossima said...

Interesting read about a little discussed topic. Worth sharing among chemists and teachers of chemistry...

Ross Taylor said...

Excellent article. Thanks, to sharing the basic information about chemistry. e learn chemistry first we need to understand some basic concept such as Atom, Molecule, Ion, Electron, Proton, Neutron, Isotope, Heavy water, Nuclear, Nuclear Reactor, Element, Hydrocarbon, Organic, acid, base etc. This concept need to understand some busy peoples. Such a useful information. Industry Analysis Report

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