How does soap relate to chemistry?
Chemistry affects every area of our lives. Here is just one example of chemistry in action – the making of soaps. Soap was once made by boiling animal fat in ashes – the product was hard on the skin and not very pleasant to use. Today, soap manufacture involves complicated chemical processes to provide a wide variety of soaps for different skin types. Colors and odors can be custom-made for that individual experience.
"What is this made of? How can we produce this material quickly and at a low cost? Will this product harm us or help us?"—these are all questions that can be answered using the science of chemistry.
What is Chemistry?
Science is a general term used to describe the principled, rigorous study of the natural world. Many interconnected disciplines fall under this broader concept. For example, physics is the study of motion and forces. Biology is the study of living things. Geology is the study of the Earth and the rocks and minerals of which it is comprised. Chemistry is the study of the composition of matter and the changes that matter undergoes. Matter is anything that has mass and takes up space. Virtually everything around us is matter, including both living and nonliving things. Chemistry affects nearly everything we see and every action we take. Chemistry explains why milk that is left in the refrigerator for too long turns sour. Chemistry explains why certain pollutants called chlorofluorocarbons have done lasting damage to the ozone layer of our planet. Chemistry explains why the leaves of deciduous trees turn from green in the summer to various shades of red and yellow in the autumn (Figure below).
Chemistry touches every area of our lives. The medicines we take, the food we eat, the clothes we wear—all of these materials and more are, in some way or another, products of chemistry.
Chemists look at the world in two ways, often simultaneously. The two worlds of the chemist are the macroscopic world and the microscopic world. Macroscopic refers to substances and objects that can be seen, touched, and measured directly. Microscopic refers to the small particles that make up all matter. Chemists must observe matter and do experiments macroscopically; then make generalizations and propose explanations that are microscopic in nature. For example, anyone can observe the physical change in appearance that occurs as an iron object, such as a tractor, is left out in the elements and gradually turns to rust. However, a chemist looking at the rusting tractor considers the individual atoms that make up the iron, and how they are changing as a result of exposure to oxygen in the air, and water from rain. Throughout the study of chemistry, there is often a switch back and forth between the macroscopic and microscopic worlds.
- Chemistry is the study of matter and the changes it undergoes.
- Chemistry considers both macroscopic and microscopic information.
- Give two examples of chemistry in your everyday life.
- What is the macroscopic world?
- What is the microscopic world?
- Read the label on a prepared food product (for example: bread, cereal, dessert). List all of the ingredients in the product. Look up each ingredient on the Internet and write down what that material is doing in the food product.
- Select your favorite hobby or activity. List all of the items you use in that activity or hobby. For each item, find out how chemistry has contributed to the creation or better operation of that item.