Thursday, May 05, 2005


I have a chronic problem with selecting topics to study and develop. If I have a scheme, it becomes too rigid, but if I don't, I get lost among the possibilities. For now, I'm trying a scheme, but if it isn't satisfactory, I'll try something else.

I don't much like the traditional subdivisions of chemistry. It used to be that they were: General chemistry, analytic chemistry, inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry, and physical chemistry, and were studied in about that order. I've been trying a different approach:

1) Substances. The physical and chemical properties of elements, compounds, and mixtures.

2) Chemical change. Chemical equations and relationships of substances, thermodynamics and energy, rates and mechanisms, and types of change.

3) Chemical systems. One phase, two-phase, and multiphase systems. In this context, a Phase refers to one of the states states of matter: solid, liquid, or gas.

I'm not sure whether this approach really works yet or not; I'm still investigating it.

This depends heavily on physics. Mechanics, especially parts of classical mechanics is often useful. Electricity, magnetism, and optics are also important in chemistry. I've noticed some difference in the chemical approach to thermodynamics and the physical approach. Much of the structure of matter belongs as much to chemistry as to physics. There are various uses for astronomy, earth science, and biology in the study of chemistry. Discussions of the human body and psychology are somewhat useful, and I can sketch out how other areas are related to chemistry by identifying particular chemists. Like other areas of science, chemistry is largely a social endeavor. The chemical literature, mathematics, and measurement; chemistry as an occupation; chemical education; national approaches to chemistry and the history of chemistry are also subjects of interest.

I'm not mentioning any experiments or activities in chemistry: there are others more qualified to do so. What I can do is discuss some of the theoretical aspects of the subject.

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