||"Why Do I Have to Study Chemistry, or Science
for that Matter, Anyway?!"
||By D. N. Rahni, Ph.D.
- Name anything that may or may not be visible to unaided
eyes, yet it possesses mass and occupies volume, but it
is not a CHEMICAL? No " Matter"
of such kind exists.
- The total number of words in an unabridged English Dictionary?
Over a million words
- The total number of chemical substances registered
by CA thus far, most of which are natural, or anthropogenic,
still originating from natural precursors? Nearly
thirty million substances and it is growing at a rate
of half million annually! IUPAC Nomenclature (1960). Only
3000 of less than 100,000 chemicals
used today in the society are tested for persistence,
toxicity and bio-accumulation (PTB).
- Over half a million new manuscripts are being cataloged
by the Chemical Abstract Service of the American Chemical
Society, an annual $350 million dollars, information packaging
US Chemically related manufacturing, estimated to worth
over hundreds of billion dollars, generates trade surplus.
It has, however, led to many negative ecological and natural
- Greek Democritus’s "atomos" , indivisible
basic unit of elements, postulate remained dormant at
best vs. the Plato’s four element theory, i.e.,
water, air, fire, and earth theory that persisted through
the late 17th Century due to Plato’s fame!
Historically, there was first art and artistic expressions,
out of which grew technology and applications of materials,
first in support of the art, then as a political or military
tool, and at last, as a means of making life more convenient,
first for the affluent, then for masses. Many centuries
later, scientist, based on systematic observation, developed
science to explain the properties and characteristics of
materials and natural phenomena.
For instance, two pieces of pottery from the old Persia, excavated in Northeastern Mesopotamia
nearly four decades ago, was recently analyzed at the College of Williams and Mary to contain
tannic acid and other fermentation brewery residues. This
has in turn, pushed back the earliest organized agriculture
and farming period by over two thousand years to nearly
ten thousand years ago! Now, a couple of thousand years
ago, either serendipitously or by trial and errors, humans
had found out that using the same grape and the same process
for wine or beer fermentation but in different pottery,
they could vary the color, clarity, aroma, and texture of
the final product. So, they took advantage of using different
clays, earth, bronze and brass with presumably different
amount and type of metal compounds. It was an application
without understanding its science. However, the concept
of oxidation-reduction or simply REDOX, the basis for such
historical product optimization, was finally understood
within the past 150 years!
Or, the production and application of soap, charcoal, glass,
or harnessing fire and cooking very much followed the same
pattern. Many natural events that could have not been explained
at one juncture were considered "supernatural",
and therefore, worshipped.
It has been estimated that the amount of conveniences of
life from the point of view of energy and natural resources
consumption pattern, in a developed terrestrial lifestyle
is equivalent to having had over 500 laborers during the
Roman Era by a Roman Emperor or Empress! Granted, though,
such tremendous conveniences have caused many environmental
and quality of life challenges.
- What is Chemistry? The study of matter
and energy in the universe.
- Why Chemistry? Well, It is the Central
Science from one end contributing toward engineering and
technology, and to life sciences on the other.
- Technology Vision 2020: The US Chemical
Industry through Chemical Manufacturing Association (CMA)
highlights the challenges as follows:
SUSTAINABILTY is defined technological
development that meets the economic and environmental needs
of the present while enhancing the ability of future generations
to meet their own needs.
CMA prioritizes the following objectives: Increasing globalization
of markets; Societal demands for higher environmental performance,
and natural resource conservation; Financial market demands
for increased profitability and capital productivity; and,
Higher customer expectations, changing workforce environment.
ET alive out there?
Establishing other colonies
New Chemical Science and Engineering Technology
Sensors and dispensers
Most abundant precursors
Zero waste processes
Environmentally benign by design
Information system/Combinatorial Chem
Atomic Scale engineering
Biocompatible polymers and materials
Energy efficient processes
Least detrimental processes
Robots and Intelligent machines
Environment and Natural Resources
and Env. Forensics
Human centralism vs. Universal centralism
Liberal Arts, Sciences & Life
Future Opportunities in chemistry, science, and
Public and civil service
Politics and governance
Energy & Natural Resources
Research and development
Anthropology & Archaeology
Profound Breakthroughs in the 20th
Erwin Scrodinger and Werner Heisenberg et al 1925: Energy
is Quantized, i.e., discrete.
Sub-atomic entities have both particle and wave like properties.
The wavelength of Andre Agassi’s tennis ball (k =2.6x10-34m;
E=7.6x105KJ. Examples: computers, TV, radio,
radar, X-rays, the transistor, DNA molecule, PET, MRI, CAT,
WWW, communications, Nuclear fission/fusion, RIA, SETTI).
Challenge: Superstring Theory "Theory of everything
there is" Unified Theory
The ultimate challenge: To determine the nature of "consciousness"
-Metalloids Si, Ge, As with unusual
behavior, with conducting/non-conducting characteristics,
bubbles and holes, i.e., n-p junctions of electrons
and electron holes.
-1948 Bell Laboratories transistor discovery.
-In the mid-50’s laser was discovered, needed
for Internet and information superhighway.
-Circuit designs comparable to the electrical circuit
for a large city to be miniaturized onto a microchip.
-A credit card size hard disk that will store the
Library of Congress collection.
-100-1000 "Intelligent" computers per human,
that are communicating on and around the Earth.
-Many billions of simultaneous "intelligent"
computations per second by one computer, while communicating
and exchanging data with millions of others out there
automatically, will continue transforming business
enterprises, communication, science and technology
and very essence of our life.
Information, to ultimately place intelligence in and
around the planet; Scrap and invisible computers;
-Expert, thinker machines, sensors, dispensers, and
-Alter and synthesize new forms of life; Create new medicines,
therapies and monitoring of health;
-Some believe that most if not all diseases have genetic
basis; 100,000 proteins/genes identified by 2003, needed
in theory to build a humanoid, a super-biomacromolecule!
-Molecular medicine and the body/mind link; Forensics; Conquering
-In vivo monitoring, correcting and dispensing medicine;
Biotechnology and Bioengineering for mass producing organs,
medicine, tissues, industrial products, polymers, foods,
and feeds; Micro-surgery; life based molecular surgery;
Extending quality and quantity of life cycles; transgenic
animals and plants.
To Live Forever?!
Refer to Genesis’s story of eating apple, immortality
leading to mortality!
"By design, the body should go on forever." Elliot
Crooke, Stanford University Biochemist
"I don’t want to live forever through my work;
I want to live forever by not dying!" Woody Allen.
Elixir of life
The original basis for scientific curiosity/chemistry; gold
$40 billion dollars spent annually by the baby boomers for
diet and exercise in the U.S.; Eliminating, delaying or
reversing the aging related diseases; Boosting DNA replication
efficiency leading to cell reproduction efficiency; [DNA
loss of information, second Law of Thermodynamic, in a closed
system, entropy increase, things wear out and down]
- Immortal animals, those which increase their body size
by time, lobsters, flounders, sharks, sturgeons, and alligators,
show no noticeable sign of aging measurable in a laboratory.
They are only limited by their predators. Such observations
indicate that "age genes" do exists!
Science based nature appreciation: Possessing a manipulative
camera with macro-resolution snapshot capabilities on one
hand, and atomic scale resolution, on the other (SLR, telephoto,
optical and fluorescence microscope, SEM, STM, TEM, SFM.)
Challenge in life Evolving from passive
bystanders and observers to active choreographers of nature,
thereby creating and manipulating new forms of matter, almost
at will. However, the legal laws that should regulate the
impact of science on society will be far more challenging
than the pursuit of science itself.
The three Pillars of Science: Matter,
Life and the Mind.
to fully comprehend and exert control
over the matter itself.
anything else left to discover?
Sheldon Glashow, a
Nobel Laureate in Physics, describes metaphorically
the difference between what we have achieved in science
thus far, and what we will strive to attain in the
future. He tells the story of an outerspace ET named
Arthur for human convenience!,
who descends onto the Earth to find out two earthlings,
Fisher and Karpov are playing chess in NYC
Washington Square! He decides to learn all the moves
of the game, and then become a grand master! The former
challenge turns out to be far more trivial and faster
for Arthur than the latter! Yes, granted that we have
unraveled fundamental theories that describe many
phenomena in nature. We have nonetheless, completed
only the first phase in the history of science. Now
we are going through a transition form being amateur
chess players to grand masters, from simple observers
to choreographers of Nature.
Various Stages of evolution of the three Revolutions
(We are currently struggling with the second revolution.)
Let us ponder, Nations will rise and fall on their
visions and abilities to master the above three revolutions
and not any longer due to their military or natural
resource strengths. So, the pivotal quest in the upcoming
century is to master science and information.
status on planet EARTH
Invulnerable to any natural disasters
Conquering the galaxy
beyond the next 10,000 years? Who knows! Intergalactic
voyages and colonies?
Perhaps….(masters of space, time and travel)
Michael Krauss, Director
of University of Alaska’s Native Language Center says,
"The 6 billions population
on the earth living in 200 countries are descendants of
4000 tribes within the past 15,000 years! Currently 6000
languages are spoken on the planet. Within the next Century,
only 200-600 languages will survive, while few will be the
dominant ones." This may lead to cultural convolution
resulting in a "global nation."
VISIONS: How Science will Revolutionize the 21st
Century, Michio Kaku, Anchor Books 1997.
Technology Vision 2020: The U.S Chemical Industry Perspectives
The Future of Medicine: how genetic engineering will change
us in the next century, Time Magazine, January 11, 1999.
D.N. Rahni’s scattered thoughts, 1956- (http://dyson.pace.edu/rahni.htm).