Chem One Online Support Course

Module # 1
Topics and Concepts
Page 1

Solutions to Problems
Program Downloads


Chapter 1

Pay particular attention to the following terms:

  • Potential and Kinetic Energy
  • Law of Conservation of Mass
  • Models
  • Definition of Chemistry (page 17)

Some important points

Models in chemistry are very important. Models are meant to be the best representations of reality or the best visual representation of a concept. But models my not always be completely correct, especially when the model depicts a reality that cannot be seen or a concept that may have different meanings to different people.

Dealing with chemistry is dealing with atoms which are realities unseen. We describe atoms and how they behave through observation and inference. The cumulation of such efforts are theories and models. But do theories and models match the reality? Although some may jump at this question and defend all of science by saying that our theories are the best models of reality based on the amount, accuracy, and precision of data and observations obtained, I figure models work as long as they describe with a large percentage of accuracy past, present, and most importantly future behavior. The present models of atomic theory seem to fulfill this requirement. When they don't, they will be modified (which has happened many times) or discarded.

On the other hand, concepts such as love can be visualized in many ways. But one persons visualization of love may not resemble another persons description of the concept. Thus in chemistry (and science in general), in order to promote and maintain a uniform understanding of concepts, scientist try to describe ideas, concepts, theories, and laws in terms of mathematics. Mathematics is often cited as the language of science. Unlike written and verbal language which is subject to nuances in definition and meaning relative to context, mathematics can distill complex ideas down into varying degrees of simplicity, uniformity, and precision. Thus a study of chemistry and other sciences always involves some use of mathematics.

Models and mathematics are tools that are used in chemistry to build understanding of the microcosmic world, just as a hammer or screwdriver may be used to build things in our world.

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