The Point of Chemistry: Examining its Redundancy

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In summary, Daniel thinks that chemistry is redundant as a science because it goes beyond the applicability of its physical roots. He also thinks that quantum mechanics is a necessary part of chemistry, even though it is taught in a different order than it should be.
  • #1
Gza
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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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  • #2
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.
 
  • #3
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.

Daniel.
 
  • #4
All I have to say is take physical chemistry...

your opinion will change guaranteed.
 
  • #5
Chemistry might not be fundamental but it's the most reliable science.
 
  • #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 going to build that bridge?
 
  • #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
symmetry
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
macromolecules
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...
 
  • #8
Gza The Genius. Chemistry is a branch of Physics. Physics is the OG.
 
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  • #9
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.
 
  • #10
ever had a nice glass of wine? not too much alcohol, or tannins, and pH just right?
 
  • #11
gravenewworld said:
Some of the discoveries in quantum physics/chemistry have been made not by physicists but by chemists.
I'm curious about who you have in mind. Could you name a few of these chemists ?
 
  • #12
Gokul43201 said:
I'm curious about who you have in mind. Could you name a few of these chemists ?

*Maybe* with Linus Pauling with his electronegativity scales, but that's 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)
 
  • #13
Bladibla said:
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)
QM lies at the heart of drug development. Look up structure determination through energy minimization.
 
  • #14
Gokul43201 said:
QM lies at the heart of drug development. Look up structure determination through energy minimization.
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.
 
  • #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.
 
  • #16
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...

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".
 
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  • #17
Monique said:
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.
I'm sorry, I meant 'drug design', not 'drug development'.
 
  • #18
Gokul43201 said:
QM lies at the heart of drug development. Look up structure determination through energy minimization.

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.
 
  • #19
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.
 
  • #20
arildno said:
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.

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.
 
  • #21
dextercioby said:
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.

Daniel.

This isn't necessarily true. While teaching the theory of QM to form a basis of knowledge for QM to learn chemistry/whatever could be in theory, better than smacking the sterotypical child with a premanganate reaction of alkenes, normally, the theory is relised *after* looking at it on the outside (in this case, chemistry). And the development in chemistry (medical and physical, although to a lasser extent in physical) has not slowed down due to this problem, which provides somewhat an insight that it *can* work.
 
  • #22
But theoretical chemists using computational tools for structure determination have not been aroud very long. The use of QM in determining protein structures is progressing pretty rapidly; computational packages now exist which can explain the structure and binding of drugs like salicylic acid.

In short, the field is still young, and as of now it is more effective to have a robotic arm randomly dip into a giant vat and sample through a large number of options than to use a computational approach to narrow down the possibilities to a synthetically useful range. But given a little time and practice... who knows ?
 
  • #23
Gokul43201 said:
But theoretical chemists using computational tools for structure determination have not been aroud very long. The use of QM in determining protein structures is progressing pretty rapidly; computational packages now exist which can explain the structure and binding of drugs like salicylic acid.

In short, the field is still young, and as of now it is more effective to have a robotic arm randomly dip into a giant vat and sample through a large number of options than to use a computational approach to narrow down the possibilities to a synthetically useful range. But given a little time and practice... who knows ?
I did make the caveat "at present". It was not meant to imply that QM in the future can't be useful in the drug development business.
 
  • #24
Gza said:
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...


That sounds like a good way to discourage students from wanting to study chemistry. A general course in a science should be designed to encourage an interest in the subject on the part of those students who aren't sure whether they want to study it or not. It should provide actual experience in the science.

A general chemistry course should include some explanation for the fact that atoms of some elements like oxygen readily combine with atoms of other elements but atoms of elements like helium don't, but detailed discussions should be left for later more specialized courses. A general chemistry course should cover the various specialized areas of chemistry such as organic and inorganic chemistry chemistry and why study of them is important.

Special attention should be given to areas where jobs are likely to be available, such as biochemistry.

I suspect that whoever designed your course doesn't understand that the huge amount of scientific knowledge that exists today limits a person's ability to understand everything about a field of science. It would be difficult for most of those in applied chemistry, such as in the medical field, to try to keep track of what is happening at the quantum level and still keep track of complex chemicals. A general chemistry class should thus direct those who are interested in chemistry at the quantum level to take a more specialized course.

Some scientists need to concentrate on working at the macro level, some at the micro level and others at the quantum level. The person who can function equally well at all levels at the same time is rare.

There are problems interesting students in studying science. I suspect part of the problem may be that general courses are making science sound more difficult than it is.
 
  • #25
Gokul43201 said:
But theoretical chemists using computational tools for structure determination have not been aroud very long. The use of QM in determining protein structures is progressing pretty rapidly; computational packages now exist which can explain the structure and binding of drugs like salicylic acid.

In short, the field is still young, and as of now it is more effective to have a robotic arm randomly dip into a giant vat and sample through a large number of options than to use a computational approach to narrow down the possibilities to a synthetically useful range. But given a little time and practice... who knows ?

A major problem is that the hardware doesn't exist yet. Supercomputers are just getting to the point they can be used to model 1 protein at a time because the structure is so complex. The ability to model interactions with proteins is still in the future. The closest possibility right now is using multiple computers via the Internet.

Certainly the current method of developing drugs is really very primitive and there is a need for people to enter the field of using a computational approach.
 
  • #26
why do you say physics is in crisis and then not explain what you mean?

physics appears to be doing fine from my perspective. classical, relative, and quantum physics are all being applied with accurate results. the only "crisis" i know of is the unification of general relativity and quantum mechanics.

chemistry and biology are in a much bigger crisis. food companies are at war over the use of genetically engineered crops, and the worlds brightest doctors are unable to cure cancer, AIDS, or even some simple illnesses. it is almost sad that one of the most powerful drugs we use (aspirin) has been around for a hundred years. don't you think chemists should be moving forward?
 
  • #28
I also want to mention that without chemistry, we would not understand how to synthesize the drugs that we discover. The process of preserving chirality in a molecule and being able to produce it from raw materials through using numerous steps and various protecting groups is very intricate.

More importantly, though, is the idea that the sciences are becoming more integrated, for example, biochemistry, molecular cell biology, the combination of physics and chemistry to produce molecular machines, the use of computers to derive molecular models, etc. I am a graduate student and I see that may of my colleagues are involved in research that requires knowledge of all of the sciences. We should no longer try to draw lines between disciplines, but should look to see how we can collaborate and work towards the good of "science" as a whole.
 
  • #29
X-43D said:
Physics is currently in crisis btw, chemistry isn't.

To echo Jeremy, I'd be interested to hear what the rationale is behind this statement, assuming there is one.
 
  • #30
I agree completely to the QM vs. Chemistry debate. The orbits and planes didn't make much sense since it was more reliant on Quantum Mechanics. I think during the time these parts of QM are being learned, then people should take a rest on Chemistry and introduce the idea of QM. I don't even remember my H.S. teacher mentioning QM and just made us figure out the work.

I will agree that many of the visual ideas of QM in Chem are pathetic and useless until you go into more detail in which things are used as conductors, where QM becomes more relevant. QM and Chemistry should be mixed together in a better way.

People aren't mixing QM and Chemistry very well and that's why QM in Chemistry seems pointless. Chemistry isn't pointless, the way people present QM in chemistry is pointless until learned why it has a point.

There needs to be more of an application and visual presentation along with definition of these acts.

Science is always in crisis because you can never know everything. The only thing someone should ever know is that they don't know anything and everything else is specualtion of scientific evidence that has shown validity to be replicated multiple times. Other than that, there is no truth. We don't know if an atom really IS that way. There may be a subpart to light for all we know.
 
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Related to The Point of Chemistry: Examining its Redundancy

1. What is chemistry and why is it important?

Chemistry is the scientific study of matter, its properties, and how it interacts with other substances. It is important because it helps us understand the world around us, from the food we eat to the materials we use in our daily lives.

2. Is chemistry a redundant field of study?

No, chemistry is not a redundant field of study. While some may argue that other sciences, such as biology and physics, cover similar topics, chemistry provides a unique perspective and focuses specifically on the composition and behavior of matter.

3. How does chemistry impact our daily lives?

Chemistry has a huge impact on our daily lives. It is involved in everything from the production of medicines and food to the development of new materials and technologies. It also helps us understand and solve environmental issues and improve our health and well-being.

4. Can we live without chemistry?

No, we cannot live without chemistry. As mentioned before, chemistry plays a crucial role in our daily lives and is essential for the functioning of our bodies and the world around us. Without chemistry, many of the products and technologies we rely on would not exist.

5. What are some current advancements in the field of chemistry?

There are many exciting advancements happening in the field of chemistry. Some examples include the development of new materials with unique properties, the use of renewable energy sources, and the creation of more efficient and environmentally friendly processes for various industries. Additionally, there is ongoing research in areas such as drug discovery, nanotechnology, and sustainable agriculture.

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