Something about Physics and Chemistry

Note: This is the homework for organic chemistry.

Preface

With the deep love and firm dedication to natural science, I have been long time wanting to write something about chemistry and physics. In fact, as I learned more about the two basic sciences, more and more remarkable differences between these two subjects appeared and they are so significant that they push me to determine which subject on earth I should devote the rest of my life to. Fortunately, I get a chance today to share my view of points semi-officially here, and I will write down every true feeling I have when I try to learn and understand these two subjects. These feelings may not be consistent and even against with those of yours, but they are not offensive or discriminatory and just stand for my personal viewpoints.

 

Difference between physics and chemistry

Both physics and chemistry are natural sciences, but strangely, they bear too many different characteristics. Physics is more logical: it tries to establish a complete, self-consistent system using laws and logical reasoning that universally explain how the world works and why a natural phenomenon appears with experimental results as proof and supports. However, chemistry is more empirical: it tries to collect as more as experimental data from which chemists try to establish a plausible theory or formula that may partially explain chemical phenomena. One, if bright enough, can deduce a wonderful physics system using only a few basic laws, but he can never do the same thing in chemistry, and even neither can he satisfyingly explain a phenomenon using existing chemical laws or empirical formula. In this sense, physics is a more labor-saving and efficient method as a tool to understand the world. With only one single law, such as law of universal gravitation, a man can learn a great lot about this world. He must be very excited and amazed about how universe can be understood by a so concise and labor-saving way.

 

Comparison between Physics and Chemistry

Characteristics Physics(Take theoretical physics as example) Chemistry(Take organic chemistry as example)
Methods of establishment and development Logical reasoning using basic laws with experiments results as proof and support Empirically with experiments results as development resources and logic reasoning as auxiliary
Range of application Very universal Quite limited
Size of objects for study From quarks to the universe From molecules to human-size materials
Ability of prediction Quite Strong Limited, inaccurate, and uncertain, with many exceptions
More applied or more pure Totally pure More applied
Intellectual requirement Very high Quite high
Main devices for research Paper, pencil and computer Laboratory, all kinds of expensive equipment and toxic reagents
Period of research achievement Quite long (1-20 years) Relatively short (1-3 years)
impact on human life Can be overturning Quite limited and more cumulative
Subjects may be impacted by the development of this subject Engineering, astronomy, energy, chemistry, biology, mathematics, electronic, philosophy, military, materials, etc. Materials, biology, pharmacy, agricultural, etc.
Salary Quite high

Relatively low (except for chemical engineering)

 

Impact and prospect of physics and chemistry

The impact and prospect of physics much more outweighs chemistry (no matter which branches). A great physics theory or equation like law of universal gravitation or E=mc2 can overturn the life of human being, while the effect of chemistry is much more limited. For example, the most outstanding chemical achievement humankind ever made is the low-cost and large-scale industrial preparation of ammonia, but this is also the only one achievement exerted by chemistry that can overturn the lifestyle of human being——they did not have to worry about food production any more.

Besides, the prospect of physics is much brighter than chemistry. To prove this point, you imagine both physics and chemistry had developed to their ultimate stage. As for physics, all of the laws, equations, rules, and particles that can be found would had been found. We would be able to freely utilize nuclear energy and even other undiscovered energy form. Due to the huge energy released from nuclear fusion, human being would never worry about depletion of energy. What is more, humankind would have own the ability to travel across the stars and even galaxies. They can colonize other planets and exploit the resource like metals there. To put the hypothesis to the farthest, if the universe is bound to collapse or permanently expand, the only way that may save human being is to develop physics and try to find the key leading to higher dimension space or another universe.

In comparison, if chemistry developed to its ultimate stage, human beings might be able to synthesize any substance they want, and they might be able to synthesize whatever medicine people desire. Nobody would be bothered by disease and everyone would live as long as 200 years old. So what? People are still to die. The development of chemistry (or biology) would just slightly prolong the value. Even if humankind gain immortality, they are still under the risk of death by accident. People might also be able to use the best materials ever, or the best performance batteries, but nothing more. They will still be stick to the tiny earth even with the ultimately developed chemistry (or biology), and they are even fragile to an incident like the one happened 65 million years ago.

In other word, if physics develop to its ultimate stage, the humankind’s life will be totally different. They would lead a so science-fiction-like life that it will even be beyond the best science fiction writer’s imagination. However, if chemistry develop to its ultimate stage, the humankind’s life will not experience that exciting transformation, and, negatively speaking, will be quite normal compared with today’s life.

 

Why physics and why not chemistry

I prepared for eight month, planning to transfer to a US college so that I can change my major and study theoretical physics. Why theoretical physics? I have explained above. Besides strong interests in this lovely, sophisticated, and intellectually challenging subject, I also admire the great impact and bright future that physics owns. I dream that one day my theory will change the world. And also I do not want to waste my time in chemistry which is more trivial, limited in impact and less promising. Also, theoretical physics is more intellectually challenging, which will bring me more happiness when I study it.

 

Differences between organic chemistry and other chemistry branches

Since this is an organic chemistry course paper, I shall talk more about organic chemistry. The biggest difference between organic chemistry and other chemistry branches is that organic chemistry is well organized. That is, the regularity of organic chemistry is quite strong that most of the learners are able to find the regularity and utilize it. For example, one can always expect the Grignard reaction to be an organometallic chemical reaction in which alkyl, vinyl, or aryl-magnesium halides (Grignard reagents) add to a carbonyl group in an aldehyde or ketone. And in many situation he can utilize this rule to predict products of a reaction. This characteristic, which makes organic chemistry to be easier to learn, is less remarkable in other chemistry branches, no matter inorganic chemistry, analytical chemistry or physical chemistry.

 The second biggest difference is that organic chemistry is much more fragmentary than other chemistry branches. Since the sorts of substances in organic chemistry are many more, the points that students should memorize remarkably increase. This characteristic weakens the advantages brought by its regularity and makes organic chemistry more like a “philatelic science”: we are always memorizing all kinds of reactions feathered by all kinds of reagents, and it is just like collecting stamps.

 

My feelings about organic chemistry

Organic chemistry is like a jigsaw puzzle. What the learner needs to do is just to try his best to memorize all kinds of reaction formula, reaction conditions and reaction mechanism, as well as some physical and chemical properties of common substance or organic rules. And then he just need to try his best to utilize what he has memorized to synthesis a substance (like total synthesis), just like playing with a jigsaw puzzle. All is around synthesis. This business can be quite monotone and less intellectual challenging. Imagine play jigsaw puzzles for month by month and year by year. I bet it will be extremely boring. What is lucky is that organic chemistry is highly regularly organized, so learning it will not be too painstaking. But to be honest, I hate organic chemistry, and also all other branches of chemistry (except inorganic chemistry), because what they care about is really trivial (compared with what I care about). And also, what I have learned in chemistry will help me nothing in my daily life, even nothing in helping me understand the world because that is accomplished by physics. Fortunately, I get a chance to go aboard to study physics months later and this semester will be the last two months that I have to study chemistry. After early July, I will permanently get rid of chemistry and I will never have to pay even just a little attention to it. And I can spend all of my spared time in my beloved, physics.

I would appreciate if you would love to support my decision. Everyone has his own beloved and I choose physics. No any offence.

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