Here I was sitting in Chem class for the fifth week straight and then it hit me. “Why does any of this matter?” I have to say my unenlightened self thought this was a perfectly valid question. I had gone this far in my life not knowing chemistry and I had been doing just fine, how big of a difference could it really make? Then one day all of that changed.
I walked into my 8am chem lab just like any week, but I didn’t know what was in store for me. I started listening to presentation after presentation about the different places in life where we find chemistry and I realized chemistry might be all around us. “Whatever”, I thought this wont change how I live my life.
But I was wrong.. A girl in my class got up and started telling us about the chemistry in coffee. I was so surprised of many of the things I learned of my favorite drink. There are over 800 different chemicals in coffee and many are beneficial to us. They are full of antioxidants which help prevent Alzheimer, cancer and diabetes. They help kill bacteria in our intestines. And as a college student I found that the biggest benefits of coffee was that the caffeine helps keep us alert, it reduces alcohol cravings and the aroma and prevent stress.
The most interesting thing I learned was that darker brewed coffee is of course brewed longer and this makes it lose much of its healthy chemicals that give us all of the positive effects listed before. It was suggested to drink lighter roast coffee so that one can reap all of the benefits that coffee has to offer us. That did it for me, chemistry made a difference in my life. Because I plan on living a long time the last three times I have gotten coffee at the Grill I have switched from dark to light roast.
Chemistry didn’t stop affecting my life there. The next presentation that grabbed my attention was about the chemistry of chocolate. We all know that chocolate isn’t good for you. I thought so also but that isn’t quite the whole truth. Chocolate in its pure form has many benefits similar to coffee such as caffeine and antioxidants as well as anandamide which makes us feel happy, phenylethylamine which mimics the feeling of being in love.
Ok, so maybe chocolate isn’t all bad. Why do we have this conception then? Well it is because the chocolate we have here in the states has so much added sugar and other ingredients and so little of the original cocoa that there is few positive chemicals left. Instead we are eating a ton of sugar which isn’t nearly as good for us. Once again chemistry affected my life.
I was impressed by a third presentation. It was about artistic chemistry. This came as no big surprise, of course there is chemistry in art. I learned of a new technique called Raku Pottery. It is the art of covering pottery in a glaze and rapidly heating and cooling it to create a reduction-oxidation reaction yielding copper and carbon which gives the pottery a organic variety of colors which looks very beautiful.
Chemistry is also seen in stained glass. The artist wraps the glass in copper foil and uses hydrochoric acid to remove and oxidize the copper to create different colors then solders all of the glass pieces together. This understanding of chemistry in art gave me a whole new appreciation for the art that we see often.
Not only did I learn about how chemistry affects everyday life but I also learned about tactics for a good presenter. A good presenter first has to be knowledgeable of their topic. A good visual presentation always helps but more important than that is confidence in what you’re talking about. This makes it seem like you really know what you’re talking about. Plus confidence usually allows one to talk louder and clearer which is extremely important for presentations. I learned a lot about chemistry and presentation in lab the other day.