Sunday, April 21, 2013

Week 16: Chemistry

Pastepaper covered boards and hand-dyed bookcloth spine greet the reader of Chemistry
   To many of us, science and math are often thought to be mysterious and difficult to understand. The words are often long and the equations don't have any pictures. The book-of-the-week for week 16 is an assembly of some of the basic elements (ha ha) of chemistry and is titled simply Chemistry. Be aware, this little book Chemistry will not clarify your fogginess relating to this fascinating science.

Cased-in stiff leaf book with a soft spine from handmade book cloth
The red paste paper on the cover prompts one to imagine the heat of energy and the orb-like spheres of molecules. Streaks of white refer to the illumination of knowledge.... also repeated in the stark white paper boards of the pages. The batik hand-dyed spine of geometric patterns relates to molecules, particularly carbon...known as the building block of life. 

Looking down on the stiff leaf book of collaged chemistry information
Inside the book, each page is affixed with an excerpt from an old Britannica Encyclopedia Book of Knowledge. .....did you know there are no more bound Britannica encyclopedias being made? Gosh! 
A diagram of the carbon molecule, atomic number 6 and atomic weight 12
I chose to focus on the chapter on chemistry from this vintage text book because of the range of information concerning chemistry that comes to us from the media every day... from how our bodies process food to environmental concerns. At the bottom of each page is the list of all of the chemical elements. A chemical element is a pure chemical substance that is made of only one type of atom. Each new atom has a distinct atomic number which is due to the number of protons that it has. As of 2011, 118 chemical elements have been discovered. When the source book of Chemistry was written in 1974, there were only 102 known elements. Amazing that there are still undiscovered entities in the world! 

Thinking about the properties of matter...
   Studying chemistry is fascinating in a broad sense. How our world is put together as teeny tiny they interact and affect each other in a communicative and reactive way is likewise amazing. Laws of science like Avogadro's Hypothesis and Bohr's Model give chemistry a visual language that helps us understand this invisible world. 

Chemists are all familiar with Avogadro's constant...which has to do with a quantity known as a mole

The law of Definite Proportions and a molecule of the atom hydrogen
   So this is how it starts...the smallest atom is hydrogen. It has one proton. The next smallest atom is helium. It has two protons. Lithium has three protons and is the next largest atom. The elements continue like that... each one adding a proton and becoming a new element. Really! Were it all that simple.. just adding a new proton.. then, wouldn't chemistry be so easy?  

   Lots of complicated laws and hypotheses tend to muck up the simplicity of chemistry. A reassuring fact is the Law of Conservation of Matter which states that matter is neither created not destroyed during chemical change. Well. With all the change that seems to be a constant since the beginning of time, isn't that a relief?

The law of Conservation of Matter

Finally, this little book ends with Figure 2, a drawing of how to categorize ALL MATTER.

...that's pretty simple...and we thought we were all so different!