Scientific Hap Hits

December 15, 2007

I’ve discovered something really interesting in the past few days. Well, really interesting to me.

I’ve kind of clarified why it is that I chose to go into chemistry. And what it is that gets me through the hours of studying necessary to do well in the subject. And in the process, hopefully figured out a way to make those hours of studying seem much more like a pleasure than a chore.

I had this realization when I was talking to someone the other day. I don’t know how the topic came up, but I began to discuss how I found real amazement in the little things that I learned. Like the fact that polyester is a polymer of ester. Duh! And d’oh. Something so obvious, but I never really put two and two together. I rarely ever do in the first place, but whenever I manage to, magic happens!

Which is a big part of why I love chemistry: those moments of insight come around nearly ever corner. Chemistry, as our AP text put it, is the ‘central science.’ It bridges biology and physics, and really goes a long way to explain the stuff that makes up our day to day world. For me, biology is too complicated and physics is too hard. I’ll take plain old simple chemical reactions / structures any day!

I was reading my organic textbook for fun last night. For fun! An organic book?! I know, kind of strange. And the strangest part was that I think I actually learned a few things while having fun.

Or take today, for instance. I had to do a final report on nuclear chemistry for one of my classes this semester. In the process of writing the report, I realized how fundamentally lacking my knowledge of nuclear chemistry really was. So I sat down today with my Gen Chem textbook and took a look at the chapter on nuclear chemistry. And suddenly I had before me a treasure trove of interesting new facts that also made sense. Like, take gamma particles for example. They come from nuclear reactions that involve the gain / loss of a subatomic particle. But not directly. Rather, the reaction causes all the protons and neutrons to get uncomfortable, putting them in an excited state that is nowhere near as stable as they had been. In the process of finding a new stable state, they emit a high energy photon, and voila! You have the gamma particle.

And all of this really gets me to thinking that if I’m going to be spending a great deal of time thinking, I might as well spend it thinking about chemistry / mathematics / physics instead of, well, whatever it is that I usually spend so much time thinking about. Because the fact of the matter is, I enjoy learning chemistry. I enjoy learning mathematics. And when I understand it, I enjoy learning physics. But somehow, in the past few years of my life, school has managed to cut me off from that enjoyment by the imposition of grades and ‘homework.’ Ironic, really.

This should be a fun break, then. I’m going to do a pretty thorough review of Gen Chem II, since I won’t be taking it next semester. I’ll probably also work through some of the sections not covered in my linear algebra text. I was about to say that I’m going to get a headstart on Calc III, but then I realized that would be a giant waste of my free time. Better to spend that time reviewing some organic chem, learning / relearning physics, and perhaps revisiting computer programming. Or at the very least, some Maple-fun.

Honest, my life isn’t as boring as it seems! At least not to me!

Keep on keepin’ on!

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