Study Guide

Chemistry Basics Introduction

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Chemistry Basics Introduction

Welcome to chemistry—world of elements, reactions, matter, balls, and sticks. Oh, and chemistry cat. Check all your preconceived fears about chemistry at the door; it's awesome and everyone's using it. Biologists use it. Physicists use it. Even engineers use it. Learning how atoms interact has allowed people to view the world in a totally new way, so be prepared to be amazed.

What's the Matter? No, Not with You.

In this introduction, we will start by examining matter: how scientists describe and classify it. We will check out a small unit of matter called the atom. Get ready to take a smaller than nano view of the world...which is smaller than any iPod, we promise. We'll briefly look at the periodic table—a chemist's favorite chart. Finally, we will start to explore chemical reactions, which are a result of atoms recombining in different ways. Are you ready to jump into chemistry?

The correct answer, by the way, is yes. Here are a couple videos for your entertainment:

  • Watch sugar and sulfuric acid react to form what chemists affectionately know as a black "carbon snake."

  • Watch this poor gummy bear give his life so that we can marvel at what happens when the sugar in a gummy bear violently reacts with oxygen gas. (The gas in the video is produced by decomposing a chemical compound called potassium chlorate.)

Chemistry Basics Resources


Chemistry Demos from Serbia
The Serbian government (who knew they loved chemistry?) is committed to posting lots of cool chemistry demonstrations online. Many of the recorded experiments use caustic or toxic chemicals so all the more fun to watch (and not attempt to perform yourself).

Mr. Kent's Favs
This Mr. Kent guy has amassed pages and pages of awesome experiments on his webpage. One favorite is "elephant toothpaste extreme." Where was Mr. Kent when we were in chemistry class?

The Crazy Prof's Experiments
Fabulous fellows (and fellowettes) at the University of Nottingham just love to record themselves doing crazy experiments. We cannot get enough of the stereotypical white-haired mad scientist. Check him and his chemistry comrades out.

Top Ten Coolest Chemistry Videos
Wired Science presents their top ten chemistry videos. Included in the list is a video of a scientist spitting flaming spores. Need we say more?


"Sciency" Games
The good people at the University of Colorado at Boulder have developed simulations to illustrate multiple concepts in chemistry, among other sciences. Think of these as science video games. We must warn that some are downright addicting.


Science Podcasts
Nature Journal, one of the premier science publishing companies, keeps an archive of chemistry-related podcasts. The podcasts often feature Nobel Laureates, updates on cutting-edge research, insights into the world of nanotechnology, and relationship advice. Okay, one of those is not quite accurate...tune in to find out more.

The American Chemical Society (yes, chemists love to hang out with each other outside of work) makes "ChemMatters" available online. This is a magazine dedicated to "demystifying everyday chemistry." Check out the "news you can use" section to learn more about some pretty cool discoveries in the chemistry realm.

The Nobel Website
How many women have been awarded the Nobel Prize in chemistry? Who is the youngest scientist to receive a Nobel Prize in the discipline? Find all the answers here. Err, that's the answers to your Nobel Prize-related questions; we are still looking for a website with all the "answers" to life.

Royal Matters
Find out more about the latest groundbreaking news in the chemical world from the Royal Society of Chemistry. They share all the news you need from the other side of the pond.


Safety Info
This is handy—an online pocket guide (does that phrase even make sense?) to chemical hazards from the Centers for Disease Control. Search the thousands of compounds for safety information and precautions.

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