Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

I lack interest in Chemistry! Help!

  1. Jul 3, 2004 #1
    I am an aspiring Physicist and I'm really interested in particle physics and Quantum Mechanics. I have been in college for 3 semesters now and have had no clue what I've wanted to do until I finished Kip Thorne's "Black Holes and Time Warps" and found out so many amazing things about reality.

    I've taken General Chemistry twice now, faield it the first time around. But when I took it agian and passed it, I don't feel like I got a good understanding of it at ALL!!! Both times I've taken the class, two different professors were horrible. But the second one had a better curve. But when I try to think what all I know about Chemistry, I honestly have a blank.

    My main question is this: How much does Chemistry play a role in someone going into the field of particle physics? I have got the basics of Chemistry down, but struggle with other things such as bonding, SOME dot diagrams, and other thigns I can't remember just because I don't think I learned them enough to remember what they are called.

    I notice that in order to get a BS in physics I only needed to take one chemistry class, "Chemistry for Engineers" so I started wondering since that's the only Chem class required for the Degree, does Chemistry only play a very small role if any in this field?

    Also I bought the book "General Chemistry" by Linus Pauling and plan to go through as much as I can of it with what is left of the summer and do the excerises aswell. But if anyone can offer a better recommendation for another book PLEASE do.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 3, 2004 #2


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Ernest Rutherford, when he was offered the Nobel prize in Chemistry, refused with the words : "All science is either physics or stamp collecting".

    On a more serious note, you have no right to be dismissing general chemistry, if you want to do physics. If you can't get chemical bonding, you are not going to get much of physics either. Lewis (or other) dot structure diagrams are a very basic notational tool, and need to be understood.

    I know a bunch of physicists who don't, for instance, know the chemical formula of methanol, but that is different - though I find it quite inexcusable. You need to understand the concepts, since they are really just physics.
  4. Jul 3, 2004 #3
    Some concepts of chemistry are necessary for a firm grasp on physics, but these are few.

    Most of chemistry isn't involved in physics, but you probably should learn the basics anyhow.
  5. Jul 3, 2004 #4


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    chemistry IS physics !

    Look upon chemistry differently: it is applied quantum physics! In fact, the whole theory of chemical bonds and so on is nothing else but a very short-cut and intuitive way of skipping a very difficult quantum mechanical calculation. It is in fact amazing that the usual theory of chemistry works so well.
    So, to do something about your lack of motivation to learn chemistry, look upon it from the physics side. I don't know how much quantum mechanics you've learned already, but pick up a book like Atkins (physical chemistry) or even Quantum Chemistry (by Levine) with a rather good introduction to the necessary quantum physics. I'd say that chemistry is the most obvious application of modern physics.
    Another part of chemistry, all those things about equilibrium and so on, are in fact nothing else but thermodynamics, another part of physics.

    A completely different motivation for chemistry is the following: you're still young and enthousiastic, and you want, of course, do fundamental physics - who doesn't. However, life is sometimes more complicated than one thinks, and you might end up doing something slightly different, because of job opportunities, positions you can and cannot obtain etc... Imagine for example that you end up being an experimentalist. A little knowledge of chemistry is very useful then !

  6. Jul 3, 2004 #5
    Wow, thanks for the positive responses!
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook