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Why chemistry is so difficult ?

  1. Oct 7, 2009 #1
    Hey friends, i am posting this message expecting some good suggestions and advices .I have been scoring very good marks in maths , physics and computer science but i am very weak in chemistry.The problem is that i do not like the subject , because unlike maths & all we are not studying the proofs and the derivations of theorems and formulas in chemistry . And it seems to be just studying "by heart". I hate doing problems which i do not understand completely.So can any one give some suggestions to make chemistry easy for me?
     
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  3. Oct 7, 2009 #2

    Monique

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    There is a lot of logic in chemistry, you just need to know the rules. Maybe you should just spend a little extra time to fully understand the subject.
     
  4. Oct 7, 2009 #3
    Any subject that you don't particular like or study earnestly in is going to be difficult. I'm sure if physics and math suite your taste more than you would find physical chemistry to be much more enjoyable. But chemistry is not difficult. I remember when I was an undergraduate and I kept hearing that Organic Chemistry was impossible. I didn't enjoy learning synthesis for but I recieved all A's in Organic (3 semesters).
     
  5. Oct 7, 2009 #4
    It sounds like there is more of a problem with your instructor than anything else. Equations and formulas for chemistry can be derived just as easily as they can be for physics or math. If this is your main concern, I would say just try to talk to your teacher after class and see if he can show you how to derive whatever formulas you're working on. My professor did this in class and it helped things go much more smoothly for me. However, if you just don't like the subject, that's fine. Try to get through it, and then after you've done as much as you need to do, move on to something else. Chemistry isn't for everyone, just like physics or math. Do what you like, and what you're good at, and things will be much easier for you.
     
  6. Oct 7, 2009 #5

    symbolipoint

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    Things become messy as you move from Math & Physics toward other sciences; maybe you'll find Biology worse (more difficult and messy, seemingly less systematic) than Chemistry. You have many different properties and qualities to learn about in Chemistry which are somewhat less or differently emphasised in Physics.

    One way to learn more comfortably is to start in simpler, less advanced courses and then study the courses in sequence; not skipping any of them. If you have gone from high school college prep. math straight into General Chemistry in college, then this can be very tough to handle. Think of these:

    Intro Chem - light, interesting, not very rigorous.
    Elementary Chem - Some need for math, maybe just Algebra 1 needed; looks at qualitative information mostly.
    General Chem - NEED Algebra 2. Rigorous, much deeper than Intro or Elem. Intensive, relating to some physics knowledge, even though Physics sequence were not prerequisites.
     
  7. Oct 12, 2009 #6
    I asked the teacher but she said that the derivations was too tough and lengthy and there isn't any use of wasting time for things which is not in the syllabus.
    But sir, I hate studying theorems without knowing the proof of it , So, can i use this forum to know the derivations that i needed ?
     
  8. Oct 13, 2009 #7

    Monique

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    Yes, you can post your question in the appropriate sub-forum. Doesn't your book give the derivations? Every book I studied from showed how the formula was constructed. You shouldn't waste too much time doing this from scratch.
     
  9. Oct 14, 2009 #8

    symbolipoint

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    More thought about this:

    Suggestion for making Chemistry BETTER for you but not EASIER for you --
    Your book should show algebraic derivations for some quantities. If you find none, then refer to another book. Introductory textbooks might have no derivations but General Chemistry books will have many of them.
     
  10. Oct 17, 2009 #9
    since u hate the work, u can't feel it is easy...so u'd rather buck up by startin from a lower level and then rise slowly..
    ciao.
     
  11. Oct 17, 2009 #10
    Here's a link to my general chem course's website. I'm not sure what subjects you're covering, but the supplemental reading material on gas laws, Lewis structures, etc. were very helpful to me. They have a lot of good information on where some equations come from (the Clausius-Clapeyron derivation is particularly detailed), and at the bottom of the page are some really good links. Hopefully at least some of this can be of some use.

    http://courses.chem.psu.edu/chem110h/
     
  12. Oct 25, 2009 #11
    I have this same problem, I'm a math student but I want to switch over to material science.. studying chemistry right now feels like I'm going through a history book - I don't know the physics behind their claims so I can't see how the equations are derived.. I'm reading a book called "General Chemistry" by Linus Pauling, should I find something else to read? I feel like chemistry would be really cool once I get past this barrier, but so far it makes me nervous

    thanks a lot
     
  13. Oct 25, 2009 #12

    turbo

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    Maybe there is a problem with the structure of the course? In my university (stone-age days) we were immersed in lectures, recitations, and labs that progressed from qualitative analysis to quantitative analysis (inorganic) and then on to organic chemistry. The courses were well-structured, rigorous, and well-buttressed by theoretical teachings. I'm not saying the courses were easy...the predicted attrition rate was 300+ freshmen in, fewer than 100 graduates out with Chem E BS degrees.
     
  14. Oct 25, 2009 #13

    can you really study chemistry "rigourously" without the knowledge of more advanced concepts in physics? that's one of my concerns.. thanks
     
  15. Oct 25, 2009 #14

    turbo

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    In my Uni, chemistry was very practical and results-oriented. The pulp and paper industry sponsored high-performing students and paid a lot of their way if they would track into a curriculum that concentrated on producing engineers for the industry. I didn't see a disconnect between physics and chemistry in the curriculum. BTW, this was all 40 years ago, so your mileage may vary.

    I remember when the Student Aid director called me to his office and told me that I was one of 5 students in my class to get a 5-year scholarship through the Pulp and Paper industry's sponsorship. I told him that I didn't want it because I had decided to switch to liberal arts, and he said "I'm going to call your parents." I said "I already told them". I still ended up as a Process Chemist in a brand-new pulp mill a decade later. Fate is a fickle thing.

    You're not old enough to have ever seen Rowan and Martin's "Laugh-In", but they had a recurring segment giving the "Fickle Finger of Fate" award for public events. It was a good spot.
     
  16. Oct 25, 2009 #15
    thanks a lot for the replies.. what do you think would be my best course of action? bear with the physics until I actually learn them in physics? (thermodynamics, temperature, light, planck's constant... et c are things I haven't really studied yet) or is there a book better suited for my situation? I just really don't like taking things for granted
     
  17. Oct 25, 2009 #16

    turbo

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    When I was in college, I looked at physics as an abstract field, grounded in experimentation and math, and chemistry as a more hands-on practical field grounded in real-world experimentation. I don't know why, but that might have been motivated by my desire to stay in Maine and work as a professional in a high-paying job.

    Please don't base your decisions on my experiences in college and work. I've made a lot of mistakes, and sometimes things turned out really well in spite of (or because of) them.
     
  18. Oct 25, 2009 #17
    I guess it's a matter of changing my attitude then, it seems like I have to change my philosophy of science to cope with studying chemistry haha

    thanks for replying

    edit: do you know if Linus Pauling's "General Chemistry" is a good book for someone who is starting out in chemistry?
     
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2009
  19. Oct 25, 2009 #18

    symbolipoint

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    emyt,
    Since you are trying to decide about changing major fields and you think you are interested in Chemistry because of it being close to materials science, you possibly are interested in both Physics and Physical Chemistry.
    Yah, you can study Chemistry with the bare minimum of Physics knowledge presented in the Chemistry course, but as you progress to other courses you NEED more Physics knowledge - which come from other required courses for a Chem. degree program. Those 'bare minimum' Physics courses are not always enough. MORE Math & Physics can be very useful, NOT LESS Math & Physics. Several ideas from Physics are important in getting a good understanding of Physical Chemistry and in getting good understanding of how quantitative analyses are managed (instruments, radiation, equipment).
     
  20. Oct 25, 2009 #19
    you're right about me "thinking" that I would like chemistry, I really think I would. I'm not uninterested, it's just that some of the information seems like it would normally be out of my depth (quantum mechanics???). I'm not objecting against studying more physics, it's just that I'm still learning lower level mechanics and the first page of my chemistry book talks about E = mc^2. I don't think MOST people are up to date on quantum mechanics upon entering their first year in chemistry..

    an example of what I mean is like in my book, the laws are presented as "this guy experimented and discovered that x is like y", whereas in physics and math it would be more centered on WHY this is true


    I really think chemistry would be something I would like, and the material science program requires you to take a lot of chemistry as well.

    thanks a lot for replying I appreciate it
     
  21. Oct 26, 2009 #20

    Borek

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    But it doesn't want you to know anything more at this stage - accept that E=mc2 and you will see where and how it may play a role. Why E=mc2 doesn't matter at this stage.

    That's why no chemistry course starts with Schroedinger's equation :smile:

    Chemistry is much more experimental science. It is not that chemists are not interested in WHY, but the real world is pretty complicated. In effect sometimes when we filter out everything that interferes with our understanding of WHY, we are left with a simple rule that is completely useless, because it doesn't describe the real systems. So before you can look at these detailed rules you have to get a feel of how the reals systems behave, to understand limitations.

    --
    methods
     
  22. Oct 26, 2009 #21

    Thanks a lot for this message, these are really good points. I suppose that the main goal of chemistry IS to explain the REAL world - not some mathematical axiomatic system that may only be relevant to itself. So, clearly experimentation would probably have more of a priority than "theory". Also, it was a good point you brought up about how we should start by studying through observations of "real" systems before becoming theoretical - after all, this is probably how all sciences were born.

    Thanks for your input, I'm much more comfortable now with my ignorance of quantum mechanics and other physical laws I may have to take for granted. Well, comfortable in knowing that I should at least learn about those theories and laws later in my educational career.

    this might be a stupid question but, do chemists/ chemistry majors usually end up (somewhere down the line) actually understanding (by understand, I mean comprehensively, on a "physics" level) all of those physical laws including quantum mechanics? It seems like you'd need a lot of math for that, and the chemistry programs I've seen seem to be more lenient in how the student takes his math courses.
     
  23. Oct 26, 2009 #22

    Borek

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    Many chemists - including highly succesfull professors - don't know much more about quantum chemistry than what is covered in general chemistry, or at best in some Quantum 101. Trick is, for many applications this knowledge is completely irrelevant. That is - you have to know what orbitals are, how they are filled, how they can create molecular orbitals, bonding, antibonding, what are their shapes - but it many cases it is enough to have good intuition about these things, intuition that is not followed by strict understanding of the math behind the description.

    And in fact knowing how these things can be calculated is not necesarilly helpfull (in practical terms), as most real systems are still too complicated to be analyzed (calculated) using quantum chemistry methods. They are getting better, but we are not yet in the place where computer wins over the test glass :smile:

    --
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  24. Oct 26, 2009 #23
    Ah I see, thanks. But it's probably true that if you are to make any big discoveries or come up with any enlightening theories, you should probably know what's going on with the physics behind the chemistry right?
     
  25. Oct 26, 2009 #24

    Borek

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    The more you know the better, it makes understanding of all aspects of what is going on easier. That's for sure.

    --
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  26. Oct 29, 2009 #25
    There's a lot of memorization involved. BUT, there's a lot of logic to it too. So spend time really understanding, and you'll do fine. :) i just failed a chem quiz, but that's 'cause i didn't study and didn't try understanding. i don't like memorizing stuff either... and i need to spend a lot of time understanding EVERYTHING. .. so you're not alone here. hang in there!
     
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