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  "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 enterprise!
    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 resource impacts.
  • 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.

Space Endeavors

ET alive out there?

Natural resources

Establishing other colonies

New Chemical Science and Engineering Technology

Chemical Science 
Materials Technology
Sensors and dispensers
Chemical measurements
Most abundant precursors

Chemical Synthesis
Advanced composites
Zero waste processes

Green chemistry
Environmentally benign by design
Information system/Combinatorial Chem
Atomic Scale engineering
Biocompatible polymers and materials
Energy efficient processes
Least detrimental processes

Computer Technologies

Machine tools
Computers (hard/software)


Aerospace technologies
Robots and Intelligent machines
Scrap computers

Environment and Natural Resources

Env. damage assessment
New processes

Env. Remediation and Env. Forensics
Adv./Alt. materials

Process refinement
Adv./Alt. technologies


Scientific literacy
Human centralism vs. Universal centralism
Critical thinking

Natural resource appreciation
Effective Citizenry
Liberal Arts, Sciences & Life

Future Opportunities in chemistry, science, and society (interdisciplinary)


Public and civil service
Politics and governance
Energy & Natural Resources
Stock Assessment

Research and development
Perpetual learning
Anthropology & Archaeology

Profound Breakthroughs in the 20th Century






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). Zepto mole

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 regulators.


-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 viruses;
-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 conversion.
$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.

Is there 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.

Civilization zero
Civilization I
Civilization II
Civilization III
Civilization IX

Our current status on planet EARTH
Intelligent planet
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 1996.
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).


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