Thursday, December 8, 2011

Argh! Why are you trying to teach me chemistry?

So you get jokes like this! (Click here for more! They're not all as awesome as this!)

I find it interesting how many of us say, "I'm not good at math". When was the last time you truly tried to do any real math beyond adding up the bill at a restaurant and trying to divide it amongst the guests? (The reason it never adds up properly is because there's always someone who manages to get out of his/her fair share, not because you suck at math!) Are you saying that you're not good at arithmetic because you can't do it in your head or you can't do it successfully? Or are you having a flash back to your grade 11 report card?

The last time you probably did math for a grade was when you were 16 or 17. How many things did you last do when you were 16 or 17 that you could honestly say that after years of practice, you still aren't good at doing? You probably started to drive, but you've had years of practice doing that. You might have learned how to sew or crochet or knit, but years of making clothes and scarves has helped you become good. And you probably first learned to cook or bake properly. But for some strange reason, we get this math anxiety and practically yell, "I suck at math" at anyone who might be within a 2 metre radius.

Okay, my point was supposed to be about chemistry, but I think math and physics fall into the same category. People will say to me, "I know you're talking about chemistry, but all I hear is bzzz bzzz bzzz," or proudly proclaim that they didn't understand a word. I'm not sure why not being interested or not knowing is a sense of pride, and that's why I ask the question.

I understand that chemistry might not interest you...but considering the topic of this blog and the questions and comments I get every day, I think it might just a little. I have two big worries...

One, it seems like we know less about science every day. People are terrified of chemicals, even through they're everything! We can fall prey to the pseudo-scientific things the cosmetic companies say. We fall prey to the pseudo-scientific things natural and organic companies say. We believe things we're told by people who want to sell us stuff, and we don't know how to review a study to know if the results are good or not. A basic understanding of science is a good thing here.

Secondly, I'm a little worried about people who own businesses selling bath and body products who don't know enough chemistry to formulate their own recipes. I get messages every day from people asking me to help them formulate something for their business. Not a friendly "what do you think?" e-mail with a recipe attached - which I love!!! - but a "can you formulate this for me so I can sell it and make money" kind of e-mail with nothing attached. If you are selling bath and body products, you need to know enough chemistry to figure out what oil you can use or how to make your own emulsifier if your supplier is out and you have a big show tomorrow morning!

On top of everything else, I think we owe it to ourselves to learn a little bit of everything so we can be interesting and well rounded people!

Okay, here endeth the lecture...

As a final note...H2O2 is hydrogen peroxide!

11 comments:

Ruth said...

What else can I say, Susan, but you are the best...

Dawn said...

I try, but it all seems way over my head. The ph's and the hlb's. I get the need for oleic and linoleic, etc. but how things react to one another.......It just doesn't stick with me. It's like the grey matter keeps saying "this does not compute" :( I'll keep trying, but I'm 56 and I think my brain is rebelling!

melian1 said...

i also love chemistry cat!

re about chemistry and math, i think it is sheer panic that has its roots in high school failures.

Lise M Andersen said...

Loved your rant, and I loved this lecture. You go girl - now slap us around with more chemistry posts!

Starfire said...

Spot on! We are all capable of learning new things and an interest in the subject makes it even easier. Letting go of old fears is key, open up and embrace knowledge. No one is grading us anymore except ourselves.
Don't ever let yourself believe you are too old or too stupid to learn a little bit more.
Excellent post and points, applies to many subjects.
Thank you.

Tara said...

I've always been a "science geek", albeit I was more into biology than chemistry. Never even thought about making my own toiletries before a couple of years ago. Even though I can't stand cooking, I'm always up for making some shampoo or conditioner!

Shreela said...

I'm a new reader and read all your chemical lesson posts, and admit to needing to reread quite a few parts - it's been more than 15 years since I took organic chem, and struggled to make a B.

As far as math, a few times I've had great teachers and picked things up very quickly. Other teachers were dreadful, too bad high schools and colleges don't audition teachers to see if they're capable of making sense to students.

mamafrog said...

I have to say--I didn't take chemistry or advanced algebra until I was 40-something! Didn't have to have it in high school back then and the first time through college I had enough credits to skip it for a music degree. Truly, truly useless degree, mind you. I went back to college and had to take those courses. In spite of my dread, they were fun! I'm still not too good at math, dyslexia gives me some problems, I can do it with a calculator to check things out. I think you get a little heavy on the chemistry at times, but I do understand why and what applications it has for what we are doing. Besides, sometimes it makes things clearer!

DuhBe said...

Considering this blog is about cosmetic chemistry, I should hope you delve into the math and science since that's what the field entails. I'm sorry you get those annoying "please create this for me" and "I don't do science" types of emails. It is truly sad and I hope you're not catering to that crowd. Do you have a single link you can send them to which explains why their email will be ignored?

And I enjoyed your next post on organic chem!

Zenobiah said...

Guess what! I am pretty good at math. :D Chemistry on the other hand, well, I nearly failed that in high school and barely passed the mandatory course I had to take in college.

But I won't give up, I will eventually understand the HLB system and all the other things I need to know.

Anya said...

Professor Susan, if FE = Iron, is FEMALE = Iron Man?

I like that one but its not on there..LOL