Chemistry - University of Canterbury - New Zealand

Let’s talk chemistry

by John Packer and Bernard Scott

A dedication

This manual is dedicated to the late Professor Max L. McGlashan, a graduate of Canterbury College of the University of New Zealand, and Professor of Chemistry first at the University of Exeter, UK, and then as Head of Department at University College, London. His belief in, and writings on, the importance of absolute rigour and logic in the presentation of chemistry, especially in all areas involving measurement were far reaching, and of great importance to the proper teaching of chemistry. Unfortunately much teaching on measurement and of chemical calculation at the elementary level is still woefully inaccurate and illogical leading to unnecessary difficulties for students. Sections 7,8 and 10 of this manual, which are an attempt to rectify this situation owe much to his inspiration.

Introduction

What is chemistry?

Chemistry may be defined as the study of matter, its composition and properties, and the changes it undergoes.

What is meant by the language and vocabulary of chemistry?

Over time as chemists have developed basic ideas and concepts a distinctive chemical language has evolved. Chemists often use common words in a very special context (e.g. amount of substance). They use symbols for the elements and combine these with numbers to write formulae to represent different substances. They represent chemical reactions (the interaction of substances to give new substances) by writing chemical equations. To show the structure of various species they expand basic formulae to show the necessary detail. In short, chemists have developed a distinct vocabulary and language. As with other languages it has evolved and grown as new needs arise, and consequently is not always logical, or unambiguous.

What is Let's Talk Chemistry about?

It is an introduction to the basic concepts, vocabulary and language of chemistry. As in studying a foreign language a sound grasp of this vocabulary and language is essential to the understanding of chemistry. Many student problems arise from not knowing the basic language, or from non-rigorous use of by teachers. It takes time and practice to acquire a good appreciation and command of it.

What is in Let's Talk Chemistry?

It contains a manual on the basic language and vocabulary of chemistry that may be printed out in full or in individual sections (chapters). As this manual is of necessity brief, Let's Talk Chemistry also contains a much more helpful tutorial type electronic form in HTML, which has fuller explanations and more examples, and exercises with detailed answers.

Who is it for?

It is written for all students who need or wish to study chemistry for its own sake or need it as the basis of another discipline (biology, medicine, physics, engineering) at first year university level. It is of special importance for those who have not had the opportunity to study chemistry over their formative years, or who have not been fortunate enough to have experienced good teaching. However, it is also useful to those who have successfully studied chemistry over several years at school to reinforce their basic knowledge and understanding of its all important language. It is also for teachers with limited background of chemistry but who are called on to teach the subject. In teaching it is so important that basic terms and definitions are precise and accurate.

An acknowledgement

The compilers of this product wish to thank many colleagues whose comments and suggestions have proved invaluable. In particular they thank Marten J. ten Hoor of the Netherlands, for his rigorous reading of the manual. Without his criticisms and corrections a significant number of errors or inaccuracies would have been present.

How to use Let's Talk Chemistry

Using the printed form

If you wish to print sections of the manual, click on Paper, and print the required section. If you wish to print the whole manual for print the contents, sections one by one, answers and index individually and collate.

There are several ways the printed manual could be used by individuals. If you are a complete beginner and are having to work on your own, the sequence of sections listed in the Contents is a logical one and you could work your way through the whole manual. However, it is more likely that you will be using this in conjunction with a course. In this case if you wish to review a traditional topic select the section from the contents that seems the appropriate one.

To look up specific definitions of words or concepts of concern find the word in the INDEX and then go to the section indicated. There you will find the definition or explanation you are seeking. But instead of finding just a definition, as in a normal alphabetical glossary, you will see the definition or explanation in a broader context. By reading material both before and after the entry your knowledge will be enhanced. It is this aspect of this manual which makes it different from other publications.

At the end of each section there are a small number of EXERCISES on the most basic topics. Answers to these are given immediately before the index.

Using the tutorial electronic form at the computer

Click on Electronic.
If you wish to review a traditional topic click on Contents, and click on the required chapter, or select the chapter from the contents that seems the appropriate one. Then work your way through the chapter. You will find the format a little different from the printed form. You will come across many links that present much more information and help than in the printed version. These include figures, examples, and more exercises with worked answers to all exercises. You will need to use these links in this electronic form.

To look up specific definitions of words or concepts of concern find the word in the INDEX and click on it. This will take you to the appropriate part of the appropriate chapter and there you will find the definition or explanation you are seeking. But instead of finding just a definition, as in a normal alphabetical glossary, you will see the definition or explanation in a broader context. By reading material both before and after the entry your knowledge will be enhanced. It is this aspect of this manual which makes it different from other publications.

Contents | Index

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