How to study chemistry as a wannabe inventor?

In summary: Chemical Engineering Courses. High school chemistry courses are available on line. Perhaps have a look at the syllabus and see what you think?A level courses too, exams that are usually offered for university entrance (UK) Those would most like require practicals.As @Rive says there really is a lot to it in terms of years study to get the basics before you can look at novel applications.
  • #1
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I tried to study chemistry on my own for a while, and I came up with a question. You know, the whole point of learning new subject is to learn core principles, and then understand all their outcomes in things around us. And later to come up with new things based on this principles.

Say when you learn software engineering you learn variables, loops, condition statements and functions. That's all. After that, EVERYTHING becomes possible. You basically can understand core principles of any program. Invention starts here.

When you learn classical electromagnetism, that 4 equations, and you learned it. Everything further is just calculus and numerical PDE's. You are free to invent your own type of motor.

But people say that chemistry is empirical science. There isn't any generalizations in sight here while I'm studying. Only one. Quantum chemistry. But I heard that when there is more than few atoms computers start to fail.

Say I want to invent new type of battery. not necessary the efficient one. Usually I would like to learn these core principles, obtain some kind of software, and try placing some atoms, watch how they react... But the more I look, the more I see that is not the case with chemistry. Any ideas? Thanks in advance!
 
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  • #2
vasya said:
When you learn classical electromagnetism, that 4 equations, and you learned it.
Sorry, but that's just so wrong :doh: If you talk about four equations so seriously that'll tell everybody that you are just a beginner and knows nothing about it's higher math.

And then, when the real world application starts you'll feel nostalgic about the times when it was just four simple equations...

vasya said:
Say when you learn software engineering you learn variables, loops, condition statements and functions. That's all.
That's barely the qualification to start learning the real stuff 😨

I think what you need is ... how is it often said? ... to 'widen your perspective' a bit ... I suggest to start with some engineering courses or books. That'll ~ settle your question about chemistry too.
 
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  • #3
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Rive said:
Sorry, but that's just so wrong :doh: If you talk about four equations so seriously that'll tell everybody that you are just a beginner and knows nothing about it's higher math.

And then, when the real world application starts you'll feel nostalgic about the times when it was just four simple equations...That's barely the qualification to start learning the real stuff 😨

I think what you need is ... how is it often said? ... to 'widen your perspective' a bit ... I suggest to start with some engineering courses or books. That'll ~ settle your question about chemistry too.
the thing I meant is the basics to start project based learning usually are not so complicated. And I know a lot about it's higher math. and I know a lot about how complicated computer science is. but project based learning approach starts after variables, loops, condition statements and functions. That's what I meant.
After all, my queastion is about chemistry
 
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  • #4
I did learn chemistry in school. But not well.
I know about VSEPR and it's limitations, but not sure how do I apply it to my tasks....
I know that chemistry is usually started with acids/salts/oxides/bases reactions. but this doesn't really help you to make anything. and theory behind it has too many exceptions, that learning individual reaction processes on wiki is easier
 
  • #5
vasya said:
I did learn chemistry in school. But not well.
I know about VSEPR and it's limitations, but not sure how do I apply it to my tasks....
I know that chemistry is usually started with acids/salts/oxides/bases reactions. but this doesn't really help you to make anything. and theory behind it has too many exceptions, that learning individual reaction processes on wiki is easier
High school chemistry courses are available on line. Perhaps have a look at the syllabus and see what you think?
A level courses too, exams that are usually offered for university entrance (UK) Those would most like require practicals.
For 'inventing' you would have to reach a certain level of education (UG at least) AND have access to a lab!
As @Rive says there really is a lot to it in terms of years study to get the basics before you can look at novel applications.
EDIT: A quick Google found several on line courses 12-24 months. 'on line GCSE courses.'
 
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  • #6
vasya said:
I tried to study chemistry on my own for a while, and I came up with a question. You know, the whole point of learning new subject is to learn core principles, and then understand all their outcomes in things around us. And later to come up with new things based on this principles.
You might be interested in studying Chemical Engineering. You need formal instruction and laboratory exercises, and one does not do this at home, but in school.
 
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  • #7
vasya said:
the thing I meant is the basics to start project based learning usually are not so complicated. And I know a shitload about it's higher math. and I know a shitload about how complicated computer science is. but project based learning approach starts after variables, loops, condition statements and functions. That's what I meant.
After all, my queastion is about chemistry
Your question is really about Chemical Engineering. One needs "the basics", and real experience.
 
  • #8
vasya said:
I did learn chemistry in school. But not well.
I know about VSEPR and it's limitations, but not sure how do I apply it to my tasks....
I know that chemistry is usually started with acids/salts/oxides/bases reactions. but this doesn't really help you to make anything. and theory behind it has too many exceptions, that learning individual reaction processes on wiki is easier
Other than the suggested, "Chemical Engineering", you may also be interested in chemical synthesis. One needs formal study for this too.
 
  • #9
I wonder if perhaps the OP is looking at this through a more philosophical lens.

Some disciplines such as math and programming are abstract enough that their problems and solutions have exact and clear cut syntax and domains. Whereas practical sciences - including chemistry - are effects of the real world and therefore inexact.

The best example of this is emergent properties of bulk materials. You could study C, O, H and N for a lifetime and never come up with proteins. Likewise, you might study H and O for a lifetime and never come up with the intricacies of the salinity in the North Atlantic Gulf Stream.
 
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  • #10
vasya said:
I tried to study chemistry on my own for a while, and I came up with a question. You know, the whole point of learning new subject is to learn core principles, and then understand all their outcomes in things around us. And later to come up with new things based on this principles.
Emphasis added. I consider that a reasonable description of what professional chemists do every day.
vasya said:
But people say that chemistry is empirical science. There isn't any generalizations in sight here while I'm studying. Only one. Quantum chemistry. But I heard that when there is more than few atoms computers start to fail.
What people? Perhaps you have failed to grasp the fundamental concepts of the discipline. That is not the same thing as there being no fundamental concepts.
vasya said:
Say I want to invent new type of battery. not necessary the efficient one. Usually I would like to learn these core principles, obtain some kind of software, and try placing some atoms, watch how they react... But the more I look, the more I see that is not the case with chemistry.
This sounds almost as if you expect chemistry to be a computer game.
 
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  • #11
I don't think Chemistry can be reduced to a simple set of axioms that describe everything. I studied a lot of chemistry and I think there are just a lot of important things.

The quantum model of the atom, and the periodic table are the most basic underlying principles, but understanding rates, equilibriums, thermodynamics, environmental factors (solvents, temperature, pressure, etc), catalysis, ... there really is a lot that matters beyond the basic principle of elemental similarities.
 
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  • #12
votingmachine said:
I don't think Chemistry can be reduced to a simple set of axioms that describe everything.
Agreed. But can physics or mathematics be so reduced? I would venture, no they cannot be so reduced.

Chemistry is a diverse field of study with many sub-disciplines that all too often diverge from one another. That leads to fundamental concepts becoming secondary concepts applicable to one or more sub-discipline, and those in turn lead to tertiary concepts supporting increasingly distinct sub-disciplines. The focus of the specialist is increasingly on those tertiary concepts. Nonetheless, the most fundamental concepts lead to the more specialized, restrictive concepts. As but one example, any comprehension of molecular structure depends on a more fundamental understanding of atomic structure.

It was not that long ago that the observational astronomers, the descriptive cosmologist, the general relativists, and the particle physicists finally came together leading to the modern disciplines of astrophysics and physical cosmology. One might argue that such unification is a manifestation of a more mature scientific field. The lack of such unification thus being characteristic of a more descriptive scientific field.

Ultimately I am advocating that the solid introduction of the real fundamental concepts is vital to comprehension of the secondary or tertiary concepts that support the day to day intellectual endeavors of the practicing scientist--regardless of field.
 
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  • #13
After you can deduce basic chemistry from first principles, you can then move on to biology, which after all is just slightly more complicated chemistry
 
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  • #14
votingmachine said:
I don't think Chemistry can be reduced to a simple set of axioms that describe everything. I studied a lot of chemistry and I think there are just a lot of important things.

The quantum model of the atom, and the periodic table are the most basic underlying principles, but understanding rates, equilibriums, thermodynamics, environmental factors (solvents, temperature, pressure, etc), catalysis, ... there really is a lot that matters beyond the basic principle of elemental similarities.
can catalysis be explained through QM/QED?
 
  • #15
vasya said:
can catalysis be explained through QM/QED?
Some of it yes, but catalysis is a good example of a quantum chemistry problem that is even the biggest supercomputer is unlikely to ever be able to fully model.
In such complicated problems there is a massive difference between understanding the underlying principles, and actually being able to use those principles to gain even a qualitative understanding of what is going on.
 
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