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Chemistry in Everyday Life

August 06, 2000

Chemists are not just scientists wearing white coats in laboratories. From such simple tasks as taking vitamins and baking bread to fueling automobiles and fertilizing plants, every person alive works with chemicals and chemical reactions daily, and is in fact a walking laboratory of chemicals in action. Learn how chemistry can help you understand how the world works and explore the many ways chemistry enhances our lives through these direct links on The Times Launch Point Web site:

Level 1

Wondernet: Your Chemistry Place in Cyberspace: What makes soda pop fizz and how do diapers keep babies dry? Learn about chemical substances and reactions through this fun series of experiments using household items.

Polymers: They're Everywhere: Polymers are long repeating chains of molecules that can be found all over, ranging from plastics and automobile tires to human hair and tree bark. Find out about natural and man-made polymers, get acquainted with polymer inventors like Leo Baekeland and Charles Goodyear and learn how polymers can be recycled into innovative new products. index.html

Newton's Apple: Bread Chemistry: How does a ball of dough become a loaf of bread? Learn about the role of yeast and enzymes and the various chemical processes involved in making bread through a series of activities you can try at home.

Level 2

How Stuff Works: Chemistry: What makes a spider's web so strong, why do sliced apples turn brown and how does dry ice work? Find out the answers to these and 60 other questions that explain how chemistry figures into making things work.

Better Hair Through Chemistry: How can you avoid bad hair days through knowing chemistry? Find out through this illustrated article that includes some fun experiments including how to make a hair hygrometer, which was such a reliable instrument when it was invented in 1783 that an electric version didn't come out until the 1960s.

NOVA Online: Kaboom! Learn how fireworks work and learn how elements from the Periodic Table can create different colors or special effects. Find out why demolition experts rely upon gravity and the smallest amount of explosives possible to make a building implode.

Level 3

A Visual Interpretation of the Table of Elements: Sodium is an essential element for living things and is used as a heat exchanger in some nuclear reactors. Learn about the everyday uses of each of the elements through this beautifully rendered Periodic Table of Elements.

Professor Proton's Resources for K-12 Faculty and Students: Chemists can work in art preservation, archeology and medical testing as well as develop a wide assortment of products ranging from petroleum to perfumes. Learn about careers in chemistry and explore how chemistry is an important part of our lives.

Understanding Our Planet Through Chemistry: Geologists use chemistry to determine how old the Earth is, to predict volcanic eruptions and to study acid rain and atmospheric changes. Learn about these processes through this series of illustrated essays.


The answer to this Internet quiz can be found in the sites at right.

What chemical is used to not only make dynamite but can also be used to prevent heart attacks?

CLUE: See Professor Proton's Resources for K-12 Faculty and Students

Find What You Need to Know: Have a project on California history? Need help doing a math problem? Launch Point covers more than 100 topics for getting your schoolwork done. Go to for the full list of subjects and direct links to the best Internet sites.

Answer to last week's Quest: The English language evolved as a mixture of Norman French, which was spoken by the nobility, and Anglo-Saxon, which was spoken by the rest of the population.

Launch Point is produced by the UC Irvine department of education, which reviews each site for appropriateness and quality. Even so, parents should supervise their children's use of the Internet. This column was designed by Anna Manring.

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