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Last updated on April 21, 2014 at 7:52 EDT

What is Chemistry?

January 25, 2013

Hi, my name is Emerald Robinson, and in this “What Is Video,” we’re going to try to answer the question, “What is Chemistry?”

Chemistry is the science of matter – both its properties and how it reacts with other matter. Chemistry is a physical science, which means it focuses on things that are not living. Instead, chemists and other physical scientists study the laws of nature. Chemistry is considered to be one of the “fundamental” sciences because everything in the universe obeys these natural laws.

Chemistry is also sometimes called “the central science” because principles of chemistry intertwine with other sciences, especially biology, physics, and math.

Since chemistry is a science, chemists use the scientific method, a specific set of steps designed to test answers to a problem, when they do their experiments.

Chemists seek to answer the question, “what’s it made of?” The answer to this question helps us understand how a substance will react under different conditions such as changes in temperature, light, and pressure. Chemists are also interested in how atoms join through chemical bonds, and how easily they can be pulled apart.

When most people think of chemistry, they think of elements, substances made up of a single kind of atom. As of 2012, chemists have isolated one hundred eighteen different elements. These elements are organized by their properties on a figure called the periodic table.

People have been doing chemistry for thousands of years. Famous chemists include Marie Curie, known for her research on radioactivity, and John Dalton, whose work is fundamental to our understanding of the atom.

Chemistry is used everywhere, every day. It’s used by pharmacists to create new medicines, by police and detectives to solve crimes, and even by engineers to make the computer chips powering the device you’re using to watch this video.