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Posted by on Aug 30, 2013 in General Science, Physical Chemistry | 3 comments

Physical Chemistry – Overview of Thermodynamics

In one example I use bond energies to calculate the energy per mole of sucrose and TNT (the explosive trinitrotoluene). Most students expect that TNT has more energy, but it turns out the two have about the same. So why is TNT an explosive (actually a conflagration)? TNT burns rapidly and involves a huge volume change. It is the rate of reaction (chemical kinetics) and the rapid volume change that causes the explosive damage. Then I can move to the thermodynamics overview.

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Posted by on Aug 6, 2013 in General Science, Physical Chemistry | 0 comments

Physical Chemistry—hotness and coldness

When I start into heat capacity I contrast the temperature of a substance with the feeling of hot and cold. A thermometer will tell you the temperature of a substance, but that does not tell you how much heat is present. If you touch something, you can tell if it is hotter or colder than your hand, but what about two substances at the same temperature?

Suppose outside it is -10 C (14 F) and there you find a piece of steel and a piece of Styrofoam. Which is colder? If you touch the steel it feels colder than the Styrofoam, but they are both at the same temperature. If you placed the steel on the Styrofoam, no heat will flow between them (Third Law of thermodynamics). Since your hand is much hotter than the objects, heat must flow from your hand into them.

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Posted by on Aug 2, 2013 in General Science, Physical Chemistry | 0 comments

Teaching physical chemistry–lecture recording?

Although the obvious “pro” of recording is to give students the chance to listen numerous times; review the material; and listen to missed lectures, there is a huge “con” and that is they skip class and opt to listen to my lectures at home. Last year the attendance dropped to half because lectures are available on line, but this year the time has been shifted to 8:30 a.m. from 10:30. I am going to predict that very few will want to attend at that hour.

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Posted by on Jul 3, 2012 in Physical Chemistry | 0 comments

Complementarity between spin components in quantum mechanics

This example nicely shows several things about quantum mechanics. First quantum mechanics is a statistical theory of measurement. You only get the SG results after many spins have been filtered. Second, Heisenberg’s uncertainty relations tell us that you cannot devise an experiment that will measure both the Z and X polarization simultaneously. You can do it for one, but not the other, and vice versa.

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