Why Take Chemistry, Anyway?

 

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One question I get a lot from students is "Why do we have to take chemistry? What's it good for in the real world?" Actually, that's two questions, but I'll answer them anyway.

Chemistry is used in everything we do in modern society. The aspirin (or acetominophen, or ibuprofen, or naproxen sodium, or ketoprofen, etc.) you take when you have a headache was manufactured by chemists working for pharmaceutical companies. The gasoline you use to operate your car was formulated by petroleum chemists to give it the best possible operating properties. If you have contact lenses, the plastics used to make the lens, as well as the solutions you use to clean them were developed by chemists. No matter where you go, there's chemistry! 

But the question remains: If you're not going to be a chemist, why do you need to know how this stuff works? Shouldn't you just be happy that it works at all?

Honestly, you don't really need to know the exact details of all the chemistry in your lives. Chances are that it would take you years to learn all the chemistry, and even then it wouldn't be all that handy to know. However, that's not my (or any other teacher's) goal in teaching you chemistry. I'm not trying to teach you everything - I'm just trying to give you enough of a background that you can understand some of the basics of what's going on around you. There are too many people trying to make money off the ignorance of people who haven't bothered to learn chemistry, and I don't want you to become one of them.

An example: There are pills you can buy which advertise that they contain "life-giving oxygen." This sounds wonderful! Let's go buy some. However, you need to realize at the same time that water also contains "life-giving oxygen." If you're trying to get healthy, I'll only charge you half as much for a glass of water as these other guys are charging you for the pills. If you don't know any better, you might get roped in by that scam.

I want you to learn chemistry because it helps you to realize what's good and what's garbage out in society. P.T. Barnum said that "There's a sucker born any minute." I don't want you to be that sucker. 

Comments, questions, or gripes? Email me at misterguch@chemfiesta.com

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