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Do you look down on chemists?

  1. Mar 25, 2009 #1
    my friend told me that chemists are failed physicists. like security guards are failed cops. any truth to this?
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 25, 2009 #2


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    Staff: Mentor

    About as much as to the statement that singers are failed painters.
  4. Mar 25, 2009 #3
    The ancient greek philosopher Aristotle noticed that our capability for abstract, rational thought was the primary quality which differentiated us from the lower animals. This formed a cornerstone of his thought, and so he ranked vocations in this order:

    1) Philosopher
    2) Mathematician
    3) Physicist
    4) Applied Scientist
    5) Soldier
    6) Artisan

    that is, the work becomes less desirable with decreasing abstraction and increasing pragmatism. I apologize for launching into a long historical story, but Aristotle's influence is such that his thought is basically the source of the elitist ranking (from most to least elite) "math > physics > chemistry > biology > ...".

    I feel that chemists work more hours then physicists in school (lots of long laboratory work), and their research work has more direct practical consequence for society.
  5. Mar 25, 2009 #4
    If I were you, I'd start looking for a smarter friend...
  6. Mar 25, 2009 #5
    I'm a physics major and about half way through my second semester of Organic Chem and it is by far the hardest class I have taken in my academic life. I have full respect for chemists.
  7. Mar 25, 2009 #6
    i mean its basically take a acid and base and you get a salt and water...
  8. Mar 25, 2009 #7


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    Staff: Mentor

    If that's all you (or your friend) know(s) about chemistry, I am not surprised by the conclusion.
  9. Mar 25, 2009 #8
    If that's all it is you should be able to explain why Tetrahedral complexes of the type ML4 do not exhibit geometrical isomerism.Is it because the ligands are equidistant?I havent got a clue what I have written about here?
    In England it has been a long enjoyed tradition for chemists physicists and biologists to take the mickey out of eachother.Because of the work that is currently going on in genetics I think that biology is the biggest science at the present time.:biggrin:
  10. Mar 25, 2009 #9


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    Loathe though I am to contradict one of the greatest thinkers in history, Aristotle blew it big-time. Some minds might be more naturally drawn to certain endeavours than others, but that doesn't mean that they're superior. Was Linus Pauling a better thinker than Steven Spielberg?
  11. Mar 25, 2009 #10
    I totally agree Danger, it is just one man's opinion (albeit a great man who supported his opinions with rhetorical arguments) blown way out of proportion. But I do maintain that greek philosophy is where this whole nonsense about "X is a better thinker than Y" got started. Personally I avoid the words "intelligent", "smart", "dumb" etc in favor of the less ambiguous "quick", "accurate", "good memory", "creative", etc.

    If the question was "who thinks more about the fundamental nature of space, time, energy and matter?" then the answer would be physicists, and if the question was "who is more successful at creating predictive models which can be used to benefit society?" then the answer would be chemists.
  12. Mar 25, 2009 #11
    You just replaced something bad, with something just as bad. I don't think you understand what physicists or chemists do.
  13. Mar 25, 2009 #12
    Stop feeding the troll please.
  14. Mar 25, 2009 #13
    I don't agree with everything Aristotle has said on this topic. What I do agree with is his reverence for the philosopher.
  15. Mar 25, 2009 #14
    I would say it is not true at all.

    As a chemist myself, you might say I am biased, but at university level (at least) from what I observed the level of knowledge in each of the science disciplines is so specific that is is virtually impossible to compare. The level of knowledge required to know about, say, organometallic chemistry (my personal worst part...) would be much different of those required in general relativity for example, but they would be in their respective courses as hard as each other.

    Having said that, it would be true (i think) to say Chemistry *is* a branch of physics; in fact, if you're being a really nitpicker, then all the disciplines are some form of physics. But that doesnt mean to imply at all that they are not as difficult as the other. The way I see it, If a Father and his son were to test their abilities, would the father be superior by virtue of the fact that he is older and gave life the to latter?
  16. Mar 25, 2009 #15
    I'll say it's a hell of a lot of fun!! Imagine this if you haven't seen it. You have this red solution in front of you. If it turns blue when you add some other solution it has a H+ or OH- or something. (I don't remember litmus colors. I always mix up. Look that up.) If your solution on addition of Magnesia mixture goes sky-blue, it contains Magnesium. If you add Nessler's re-agent and NaOH, and the solution goes orange, then it contains ammonia. Isn't that awesome?? It's one big puzzle. Like a Rubik's cube, only its not a cube, but more pieces to the puzzle. Don't tell me you don't like puzzles?
  17. Mar 25, 2009 #16
    Mine turns to gold. My gold cannon, BOOM!
  18. Mar 25, 2009 #17
    But, there is no chemical observation that cannot be explained by chemists, right? That makes it less interesting.
  19. Mar 25, 2009 #18
  20. Mar 25, 2009 #19
    Your right, I just couldn't stop my inherent bias from coming through, and for the record I do look down on chemists!

    The reason I look down on them is because their mathematical sophistication tends to be lower then that of theoretical physicists.

    This argument does not apply to artistic geniuses, because of the dichotomic nature of life, on one hand we have art/yin/dionysian aspects and on the other hand life has logical/yang/apollonian aspects. These latter aspects of life are most practiced by logicians, mathematicians, philosophers, and theoretical physicists. These people search for non-trivial universal and necessary truths i.e. synthetic a priori propositions. Chemists practice the same apolonian aspects of life but at an inferior level, by fully embracing knowledge a posteriori with their myriad of empirical relations (one could ague that physicists are guilty of the same, and I would concede, but clearly chemists are guity to a greater extent).

    Actually, Cyrus I suspect that you and I define these vocations in incompatible ways. I claim that to you a physicist is a typical holder of a doctoral degree in 2009, while for me these classes of folks are too mundane and insignificant to merit discussion. For me a physicist is an ideal type that has been manifested only imperfctly and even then only in those who are generally regarded as among the greatest contributors to the subject in history (one is reminded of Kierkegaard's remark that "they are not so uncommon, there are at least 10 christians in copenhagen alone").

    Almost by definition chemists have given up on seeking truth and are content to find 'a certain fictive hypothesis which suffices to explain many phenomena' (a quote by Leonard Euler, seemingly undermining my point {since Euler was a great mathematician and physicist} but as I stated earlier the chemist are guilty of this comprimise to a higher degree).
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2009
  21. Mar 25, 2009 #20
    No that is stupid. There are a lot of physicists I know who could not stand organic chemistry. Likewise, many chemists cringe at the thought of vector calculus.

    I would say chemistry is easier to learn because it is very concrete, unlike physics. However, people don't drop down into chemistry because they can't handle physics. Difficulty is not the only factor people have for declaring a major. It has mostly to do with interest and future prospects. And some people are just better at learning certain things over others.
  22. Mar 25, 2009 #21
    Guys, the level of comments here is comedic at best. Please, for your own sake just stop. The level of ignorance is astounding.
  23. Mar 25, 2009 #22
    Hmmmm........... you just disqualified yourself from commenting. Really, this is hog-wash.
  24. Mar 25, 2009 #23
    That's a pretty stupid thing to say, IMO.


    <chuckle> what a load of crap.

    Actually, confinement, I know what I'm talking about and you don't.

    Sigh, okay.
  25. Mar 25, 2009 #24
    I find your 'response' to be antagonistic, defensive, and lacking in content. Something about this thread strikes a bone in you, Cyrus, there must be some reason why you would immediately reply to me with schoolyard level insults. I would be happy to argue with you, but you have to state why you think such-and-such 'was a stupid thing to say' in order for a discussion to take place.

    Beware the notion of 'humility' as a virtue, this was put into place by the weak majority in order to protect themselves from the strong minority. It is as if a bunch of sheep were able to protect themselves from the wolves by calling the wolves 'arrogant.'
  26. Mar 25, 2009 #25
    Let me put it to you this way, I'm not a chemist; however, even as a non-chemist I'm insulted by your comments for all chemists.

    What you have posted is both ignorant, and insulting, and shows a general lack of appreciation or understanding of chemistry. Spare me your humility talk, and spend that time reading a book instead. What you've posted is crap and I'm not going to let that slide.

    For example:

    What is this nonsense? You're in a physicsforum try askings the actual physicists what it means to be one instead of using some 'philosophical' mumbo-jumbo definition pulled out of kierkegaards butt.
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2009
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