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Is chemistry useless?

  1. May 16, 2005 #1


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    This thought came up in my mind 2 years after taking a general chem class, a good half of which was dedicated to some basic quantum mechanics (shapes of s, p, d, f orbitals, various quantum numbers and their meanings.) During the class i had nothing more than some basic classical mechanics under my belt, so the whole notion of quantum numbers and "orbitals" made absolutely no sense to me, and i felt like all of the homework problems did little to help me in understanding, since they all had to be plug and chug, due to the fact that no underlying theory was presented that could be used to solve the problems with a more bottom-up approach. Having gone 8 weeks into my first quantum class, I feel as if all the dim lightbulbs installed by my chem class have finally been illuminated, and i'm able to understand what is actually happening. This makes me wonder what the point of chemistry is, since it seems nothing more than a bastardization of physics concepts into a framework of science meant to understand various forms of matter. Why not just start with the basic physical principles, and derive chemistry from there? I'm not saying this simply because I dislike chemistry, i'm just wondering if chemistry itself is a little redundant as a science...
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  3. May 16, 2005 #2


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    Chemistry works just fine regardless of the underlying physics involved. You only need know electron orbitals and valences and stuff.

    Using quantum physics knowledge to practice chemistry would be like using a pair of tweezers to apply the graphite powder from your pencil to your paper.

    Why are you learning quantum mechanics in your chemistry class, you ask. Same reason they'll teach you about your art tools in art class.
  4. May 16, 2005 #3


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    Unfortunately,it is taught the other way around.Normally,there should be an introductory QM course (basically,Schrödinger's scalar theory and some applications) before any general/inorganical/organical chemistry and atomic/molecule physics course.I find this situation really annoying for the majority of people who take college physics.It's the same in my country,so really only the very bright can understand it before a QM course.

    Chemistry is not useless,neither redundant,even though it's not fundamental.The idea is that it goes waaay beyond the domain of applicability of its physical roots.

  5. May 16, 2005 #4
    All I have to say is take physical chemistry.........

    your opinion will change guaranteed.
  6. May 19, 2005 #5
    Chemistry might not be fundamental but it's the most reliable science.
  7. May 19, 2005 #6
    organic chem is fun to learn...balancing equations is also fun

    Chemistry bridges physics and biology ....so if chemistry is useless how are we gonna build that bridge?
  8. May 20, 2005 #7
    This is the contents for my book on P chem

    part I thermodynamics

    0th law of thermo. and equations of state
    first law of thermo
    2nd and 3rd laws
    chemical equilibrium
    phase equliibrium
    electrochemical equilibrium
    ionic equilibria and biochemical reaction

    part II Quantum chemistry
    quantum theory
    atomic structure
    molecular electronic structure
    rotational and vibrational spectroscopy
    electronic spectroscopy of molecules
    magnetic resonance spectroscopy
    statistical mechanics

    Part III kinetics
    kinetic theory of gases
    experimental kinectics and gas reactions
    chemical dynamics and photochemistry
    kinetics in the liquid phase

    Part IV
    electric and magnetic properties of molecules
    solid state chem
    surface dynamics

    Who says chemistry isn't fundamental? The line between physics and chemistry is blurry. Some of the discoveries in quantum physics/chemistry have been made not by physicists but by chemists. Theoretical chemistry is even worse than p chem....
  9. Jun 6, 2005 #8
    Gza The Genius. Chemistry is a branch of Physics. Physics is the OG.
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2005
  10. Jun 7, 2005 #9


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    I went to college to study Biology . . . I got a Chemistry degree. What marvelous adaptive tendencies of diversity in chance-fluctuating envirnoments. Such is a beautiful expression of Quantum Mechanical favor.
  11. Jun 7, 2005 #10


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    ever had a nice glass of wine? not too much alcohol, or tannins, and pH just right?
  12. Jun 8, 2005 #11


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    I'm curious about who you have in mind. Could you name a few of these chemists ?
  13. Jun 8, 2005 #12
    *Maybe* with Linus Pauling with his electronegativity scales, but thats more of chemistry, not physics.

    Chemistry was never, should shouldn't be viewed as, redundant. Mendelev (sp?) had no idea of quantum mechanical particles, and yet he managed to work out the periodic table of elements. Not to mention Nobel himself, with the invention of the gelatine dynamite and so on.

    QM is just icing on the cake. Well, ok, its actually *much* more that that, and it helps us develop the atomic structure further. But can QM say.. help with the development of drugs such as artemisinin? We can only find those things out by experimentation, and not necessarily QM. (although it does take part)
  14. Jun 8, 2005 #13


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    QM lies at the heart of drug development. Look up structure determination through energy minimization.
  15. Jun 8, 2005 #14


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    No it doesn't, drug development takes place through trial and error, test all the substances in a library for interaction and see what application they might have. Researchers have tried designing drugs, none succesful.
  16. Jun 8, 2005 #15
    Chemistry is much more accurate than physics. Chemistry deals only with matter and its interactions with energy and itself. Physics is currently in crisis btw, chemistry isn't.
  17. Jun 8, 2005 #16


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    Well, it really depends on what you choose to call chemistry or physics. QM of molecules...very complex, yet can be labeled as physics or chemistrym, at times physical chemistry. The study of chemistry as a whole requires just as much mathematical work and scientific investigation as physics. Yes I admit that QM as relating to general chemistry was a bit confusing at first as they give you the basic rundown...however if you go just a bit further in chemistry (such as up to organic chemistry) you'll find that many of the concepts of QM introduced is applied further in a chemistry context. Other chemistry concepts outlined in general chemistry are considered the backbone to all of the important scientific fields, including nobel-prize winning medicine.

    In actuality it is the same way for an elementary physics course, the concepts are introduced without the sufficient details.

    So get it straight, what you're really upset is with acadamia, the "system".
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2005
  18. Jun 9, 2005 #17


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    I'm sorry, I meant 'drug design', not 'drug development'.
  19. Jun 9, 2005 #18
    Yes that is true. But while it may help us explain (and manufacture) such chemicals i.e. design them as you said, it will not help us 'predict' the structures of chemicals to counter diseases and illness. Again, Artemisinin as a example, It has a peroxide bridge in its molecular structure (which makes it so effective against malaria), but this was only discovered by expermientation. Of course now, via ozonolysis and so on processes we can artificially make such products.
  20. Jun 9, 2005 #19


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    What this shows, is that at present, QM is useless in actual drug development, not that drug development, or other parts of purely experimental chemistry is useless.
  21. Jun 9, 2005 #20
    It wouldn't be purely useless, I'm sure. While certainly the double-slit experiment won't do much to help chemistry directly, the identification of protons, neutrons, and electons and so on has helped predict the properties of many atoms or group of atoms. (i.e. chemicals)

    Drug making, although *can* be useful without QM, has developed this far due to it, which is pretty impressive.
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