15 Jun Chemistry in our everyday lives
When people hear the term chemistry, the mind often rushes to the romantic high school love chemistry and, perhaps, the popular atomic power chemistry. Both these two extremes have devastating effects if mishandled and misused. However, both are evidence of the commonness of chemistry in our everyday lives yet many times our minds stretch and miss the everyday scientific chemistry we witness simply due to a lack of deeper understanding about what chemistry actually is. Let’s just quickly explore how exactly we live chemistry every day.
By definition, chemistry is a subdivision of natural science that seeks to understand the composition, constitution and characteristics of substances. It also explores the various changes that substance molecules undergo if they are disturbed, altered, or tampered with. In other terms, it focuses on the structure and behaviour of matter, as it passes through different phases of its existence.
Cooking and chemistry
Chemistry is present when we cook our meals. It informs us when the food becomes too salty or not. Our tongues, through the sense of taste, can determine the acidity of our food. Acidity means the quality of being acid or sour. Wondering why we want salt in some of our food? Well, as we mix various vegetables and ingredients, their chemical composition is “altered”. Now, some vegetables have low acid content, hence, they are considered to be highly alkaline. Alkalinity is the opposite of acidity and it means, in food chemistry, “tasteless, uninteresting or bland”. By adding salt and heat, a chemical reaction takes place and the dish becomes tasty, delicious or spicy because you would have changed the acidity level of the dish. Clever right?
Water the clever element
Water is the most common element on the planet. An element in chemistry is a substance that cannot be decomposed in a chemical reaction or by any chemical means. Water has the ability to change its form without losing its chemical composition. If you boil water it changes to a gaseous state i.e. water vapour. This is so because of the introduction of heat to the particles of water. The changing of liquid water to water vapour is called evaporation. If heat is removed from water vapour, it condenses back to liquid water. The removal or absence of heat from liquid water leads it to solidify, ice.
We witness a lot of chemical reaction but lack of chemistry tuition makes us ignorant of such. When we cover a hot meal with a dry lid we see some water on the lid. When we are hot, we take an ice-cold drink to cool our internal temperature and hot coffee in winter to raise it. That is chemistry in our everyday lives. At a large scale, these three processes; evaporation, condensation, and freezing are what causes rainfall, snow and ice.
Diffusion and Osmosis
Ever noticed how when one cuts an onion, the eyes become watery? When you spray your deodorant on your body, the whole room becomes scented, doesn’t it? That is chemistry too! What happens is a chemical process called diffusion. It is defined as the movement of water vapour from a region of high concentration towards the region of lower concentration. So as you spray your perfume, whose contents are under pressure, you release them into a room of little pressure and they move into the regions where there isn’t any deodorant, filling the whole room with the fragrance. Osmosis involves water particles moving to a region of low concentration from a high concentration region through a permeable membrane. If you take a potato and place it into a jar with salty water, after some time the potato will become salty. The same process is what takes place when you marinate the meat before cooking it.
To better understand chemistry tuition, it’s important to appreciate these common and relatable scenarios. By the time we venture into complex reactions and concepts, assimilation becomes much easier. As such, live each day in the knowledge that science is all around us and take the initiative to observe it at every chance because it is indeed a part of our everyday lives!