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Chemistry LibreTexts

1: Introduction to Chemistry

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  • What is chemistry? Simply put, chemistry is the study of the interactions of matter with other matter and with energy. This seems straightforward enough. However, the definition of chemistry includes a wide range of topics that must be understood to gain a mastery of the topic or even take additional courses in chemistry. Get ready for a fantastic journey through a world of wonder, delight, and knowledge. One of the themes of this book is “chemistry is everywhere,” and indeed it is; you would not be alive if it weren’t for chemistry because your body is a big chemical machine. If you don’t believe it, don’t worry. Every chapter in this book contains examples that will show you how chemistry is, in fact, everywhere. So enjoy the ride—and enjoy chemistry.

    • 1.1: What is Chemistry?
      Chemistry is the study of matter—what it consists of, what its properties are, and how it changes. Being able to describe the ingredients in a cake and how they change when the cake is baked is called chemistry. Matter is anything that has mass and takes up space—that is, anything that is physically real. Some things are easily identified as matter—this book, for example.
    • 1.2: Using the Scientific Method
      Scientists search for answers to questions and solutions to problems by using a procedure called the scientific method. This procedure consists of making observations, formulating hypotheses, and designing experiments, which in turn lead to additional observations, hypotheses, and experiments in repeated cycles
    • 1.3: Basic and Applied Research
      In science, we usually talk about two types of research: pure and applied. Pure research focuses on answering basic questions such as, "how do gases behave?" Applied research would be involved in the process of developing specific preparation for a gas in order for it to be produced and delivered efficiently and economically. This division sounds like it would be easy to make, but sometimes we cannot draw a clear line between what is "pure" and what is "applied".
    • 1.4: Classification and Properties of Matter
      The properties that chemists use to describe matter fall into two general categories. Physical properties are characteristics that describe matter. They include characteristics such as size, shape, color, and mass. Chemical properties are characteristics that describe how matter changes its chemical structure or composition. An example of a chemical property is flammability—a material’s ability to burn—because burning (also known as combustion) changes the chemical composition of a material.
    • 1.5: Applying Properties - MSDS/SDS
      A Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) is designed to provide both workers and emergency personnel with the proper procedures for handling or working with a particular substance. MSDS's include information such as physical data (melting point, boiling point, flash point etc.), toxicity, health effects, first aid, reactivity, storage, disposal, protective equipment, and spill/leak procedures.
    • 1.6: All About the Elements
      We will delve more into the initial construction and modifications of today's periodic table. For now, you need to be aware that the periodic table has columns (known as families/groups). Horizontal rows are called periods. On the table below, the element symbols are either one of two letters. Previously, some of the newly discovered elements used three letter symbols. These three letter symbols corresponded to a Latin numbering system until the elements were given official names.