Physical Chemistry

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Physical chemistry

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Coffee/Iceberg Analogy

Which has a higher internal energy - a 'nearly boiling' hot cup of coffee or an iceberg? This is the ‘q vs T paradox’. The mass of the iceberg is greater so it has a higher internal energy despite being colder. Ask students to explain what happens when you place the cup of coffee onto the surface of the iceberg – why doesn’t heat flow from the iceberg to the coffee to make it boil? The discussion of why heat dissipates from hot to cold is useful in reinforcing the role of entropy.

Glow Stick Temperature Demonstration

An easy macroscopic lecture demonstration of the effect of temperature on the rate is to take three glow sticks and three beakers into the lecture. Place beakers side by side. Place room temperature water in one beaker, ice water in the second and very hot water in the third.  Place a glow stick in each beaker and ask students to predict what the difference will be. Leave equilibrating while you do something else, then come back and turn off the room lights. Discuss in terms of collisions and chemiluminescence.

M&M Demonstration

To emphasise the quantitative aspect of the first order decay process, you can use a demonstration on the visualizer – take 40 M&Ms and place them face up (the ‘M’ up) in a clear Tupperware container. This is the population at t=0. Ask a student volunteer to come and shake the container (gently) for 3 seconds and remove the M&Ms that are now face down – the remaining population is recorded as t1/2 on a graph.

Popularising Chemistry

It always seems like we're starting from further behind than a lot of the other sciences are because they seem to know less about chemistry when they get here.  If I say ‘think of a famous physicist’ you probably already have thought of three.  Then you could go outside and ask someone to think of a famous physicist and they'd probably think of at least one of the same ones.  You do the same thing with biologists.  If I say to think of a famous chemist … that's within chemistry circles, we can't do it.  We can name one but you know if you go out there and say, ‘Who is this person?’ they've

Chemistry is a Continuum

The concept of a continuum is, I think, really important in chemistry and… what I see is that students come up with this issue of things being black or white.  They struggle with this concept of the in between stuff.

Real Life Examples

I know it's hard for them to 'suspend reality' and just accept a concept. They grasp for real life examples or metaphors which make sense to them. Students don't like the concept of something that can shift/change. They like one answer which is set and that's it, right or wrong - not 'shifts to the left/right'.

Changing Old Knowledge

Difficulties are having to relearn something that they thought was true from school and not understanding the evolving nature of science. New knowledge is easier to assimilate than changing old knowledge.

Transferring Knowledge

Students see equations and panic. Students struggle to transfer mathematical knowledge to chemical situations. Students silo knowledge and find it hard to relate concepts to actual systems.

Curiosity the Only Limit

Students should [only] be limited by students' curiosity.

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