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Chemistry???? August 25, 2008

Posted by fetzthechemist in Uncategorized.
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I find it extremely ironic that people talk about good chemistry when they refer to people getting along. Why choose the word “chemistry”? It is something most people dislike and avoided taking classes in it in high school or college. Few that do take it think of it as an enjoyable experience. Even worse is the current chemophobia that all chemicals are bad, ergo all chemists must create bad things. I keep thinking “WTF??”

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1. milo - August 26, 2008

I am waiting for the time when the public’s chemophobia finally gets to the point where it starts to eat away at the conveniences that chemistry has provided. At some point, it will not be possible to get fragranced detergent, deodorant or car air fresheners. With all the increased regulatory pressure chemical manufacturers are facing, it is only a matter of time before it just costs too much to make a chemical…

2. fetzthechemist - August 26, 2008

If you think about the scents added, the purpose is to make the product more attractive (maybe even masking an odor). If public tastes change, then the purpose is gone. I find the scents irrelevant to detergent and deodorant, air fresheners just mask bad smells.

But society’s abhorrence for chemicals will lead to some changes in products or in advertising. Ingredients are no longer highlighted. Total cereal adds vitamins. Crest has stannous fluoride. Lots of products used to tout added things.

I think chemicals will always be made, but sold differently. The stealth mode is already common. Next you might see “augmenting natural ingredients” for ones where more of a compound is added to one already there.

3. A-non-y-mous - August 28, 2008

That’s funny. Whenever people find out I’m a chemist (because they ask), about 90% of them tell me “Ewww, I failed it in high school/college”. I never knew what to say until someone (a former prof? I forget.) said his reply to that statement would be “I’m sorry you’re so dumb.” I’ve never used that line, but it makes me smile.

The public has a weird take on chemicals – the media has people convinced chemicals are bad, yet they turn a blind eye to the ones all around them. I think it comes down to education. Call the local news from your lab and tell them there was a sodium hypochlorite spill, then call from your house and tell them you spilled a bottle of bleach. You get the idea.

A book I like “The same and not the same” by Roald Hoffman addresses a lot of these points. It’s a very quick read, and has some good historical perspectives. It’s aimed towards a non-scientist interested in general chemistry/science – like my dad.

4. fetzthechemist - August 28, 2008

I found out when I tutored people that chemistry is very conceptual. Someone could literally go from a struggling C student to one readily making B to A range grades after things fell into place. Concepts link up instead of being isolated memorized facts. So it is not dumbness, just poor teachers who cannot put the patterns together in understandable ways.

5. The Chemist - September 1, 2008

I’ve read The Same But Not the Same, very good.

I think the link between chem and romance may stem from Goethe’s classic. Goethe, a chemist himself among other things, wrote a story called Elective Affinities using chemistry as a metaphor for why some people associated and others did not.

6. fetzthechemist - September 1, 2008

I have not read that Goethe, but I have avoided his writings with a passion since I had to read a few of his works in the original German when I took advanced German, third and fourth semester, in college. Funny how that turned me away from Marx and Engels, Brecht, Hermann Hesse, and other German writers. Although Mein Kampf in German is much more understandable and mesmerizing than a translation. I can see how poor Germans in the post-World War I chaos of the Weimar Republic might get into the socioeconomic arguments.

7. The Chemist - September 5, 2008

I met a guy who was studying German on the side, he too was incredibly disinterested in the classics he would have enjoyed had his efforts not been in pursuit of a deadline.


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