How to Understand Basic Chemistry

Learning how to understand basic chemistry isn't too complicated. Chemistry is a physical science that studies the composition, properties and interactions between matter and energy. By studying atoms, molecules and their chemical reactions, we begin to understand how certain compounds are made. Understanding chemistry helps you understand the world around you, because almost everything that you can touch, taste or smell is the result of a chemical reaction.

The following is a list of the basic principles you can expect to learn in a chemistry course.

  • Elements: Elements are the building blocks of matter. An element is a substance that retains the same chemical composition whether it's a gas, a liquid or a solid; in other words, they don't break apart into other things when they change from one state to another. Hydrogen and carbon are called organic elements because they can create living things. Other elements, such as gold, lead and neon, are called inorganic elements.
  • Periodic Table: This reference tool organizes all the elements based on their atomic weight, or the number of atoms that they contain. Hydrogen only contains one atom, so it's first in the table.
  • Atoms, Ions and Molecules: These are the foundation of elements. In chemistry, you learn how they combine to form elements, and how elements can be combined to make compounds.
  • Chemical formulas: These are the blueprints used to create different kinds of compounds from elements.
  • Chemical reactions: There are broad rules that govern how different types of elements behave. Understanding these reactions can prevent you from creating unstable or dangerous compounds.
  • Chemical bonds: Experiments illustrate how atoms and molecules connect with each other. Some connections create solid matter, while others create flexible or liquid materials.
  • Liquids and gases: At different temperatures, elements change from a solid to a liquid to a gas.
  • Acids and Bases: All chemicals can be categorized as an acid or a base, depending on their pH. Learning how to test for pH can help you understand why some compounds won't mix and why plants grow better in some types of soil.

These are just some of the main concepts you'll discover in chemistry classes. Learning how different materials react with one another can be a lot of fun, and you'll gain a much better understanding of how chemistry shapes the things you use every day.

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