Chemistry and Our Universe: How It All Works

Chemistry is the science of how everything interacts. An award-winning professor covers it all-from the periodic table to pH to poisons to plate tectonics.
Chemistry and Our Universe: How It All Works is rated 4.6 out of 5 by 95.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Intellecually Stimualting This is the most "intellectually stimulating" science course I have ever seen since I attended grade-13 chemistry 50-years ago. It might be too detailed for non-nerds so I suggest you first watch a couple of lectures on-line before committing to a purchase (or sign up to watch them all on line)
Date published: 2021-06-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Molecules Matter! I have sometimes thought of chemistry as the science of why various things fizz, bubble, burn or explode, but it is more than that. It is not quite the “science of everything” as Professor Davis would have it. Atomic nuclei, gravity and electromagnetism are subjects of physics. But chemistry embraces everything else that happens between the nuclei, especially how and why molecules form, break apart and change. Chemists study the effects of heat and pressure, the organization and behavior of gases, liquids and solids, the effects of mixing substances, the speed of reactions, and the constitution of acids and bases. They also deal with practical applications, such as fuels, toxins, medicine, batteries, and explosives. Although Davis does not say much about biology, all life is a branch of chemistry; every breath we take, every morsel of food or drink we digest, every disease we contract, and every zygote we generate is a chemical reaction. Sixty lectures allow Davis to go far and deeply into the subject, yet the course has unavoidable challenges, especially for viewers with weak backgrounds in math and science. First, you will have to be very comfortable with algebra to comprehend the many equations that fill up more than half the lectures. Second, the course is full of vocabulary that will be completely new to you if you have not already taken chemistry in school, with words like mole (a quantity equal to 602 billion trillion atomic mass units), stoichiometry (a system of chemical accounting), enthalpy (a condition in which heat equals energy because no work is performed), catalysis (the presence of a substance that speeds reactions), and polymer (a long-chain molecule, such as hydrocarbons or DNA). If you can remember the difference between molarity and molality, you are doing better than I. On top of that, most equations, constants, and laws bear various scientist names to memorize. Third, the remote video nature of the course means you cannot get the laboratory experience you would in school. Davis certainly performs wonderful desktop experiments for you to watch and gives you problems to solve, but there is no substitute for using your own hands to work with test tubes, beakers, chemicals, gloves and safety glasses. I have some complaints. The writing on the slides is too small, especially for the problems. The course did not need material on light (Lectures 3 and 4) or nuclear physics (Lectures 43 through 46). I wish Davis had instead spent more time on the periodic table and explaining chemical nomenclature. Sometimes I also felt that there were gaps in and between lectures that prevented me from keeping up. Lectures 12 and 19 seemed especially difficult to understand, even after I read the guidebook. I missed connections between the early lectures on chemical bonds and later lectures; why do the differences ionic and covalent bonding or sigma and pi bonds matter? The guidebook has at least two minor mistakes that I spotted. On page 16, it gives 4.17 and 4.18 joules as the specific heat of water; which is it? Page 332 uses “brakes” instead of “breaks.” There is also one goof on video; in Lecture 7 Davis mistakenly gives 1873 as the year Krakatoa exploded; it was 1883. Otherwise, this is a very strong course and I do not hesitate in recommending it to those who desire a more than a superficial layman’s introduction to chemistry and want to get into the details.
Date published: 2021-04-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A wonderful overview of chemistry This has to be one of the best courses that The Great Courses has produced. Dr. Davis is very knowledgeable and presents the vast content with professionalism and a bit of humor. He is very easy to understand and makes the subject matter engaging. I learned so much more than my introduction to chemistry back in college. The graphics Dr. Davis uses allow me to visualize what he is explaining. Well Done!!!
Date published: 2021-01-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Great Course, indeed! I found this course to be just what I wanted to re-visit the chemistry I failed to absorb in high school and college, and I learned quite a bit more about real world applications. The graphics are very helpful; clearly a lot of effort went into producing this course. Well done Professor Davis and the Teaching Company!
Date published: 2021-01-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Informative and entertaining! I enjoyed this course very much. Very well presented. Extremly good lecturer that is able to convey his enthousiasm for the subjects he is talking about.
Date published: 2020-11-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Well named The subject is presented well and I am learning the things i desired from the course.
Date published: 2020-11-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Good Chemistry Review, with Math Problems I took Chemistry in high school and college. Professor Davis explained Chemistry ideas in ways that I had not heard, before. I enjoyed his lectures. I have never thought of The Great Courses as being a substitute for in-class lectures, where you can ask questions, if necessary. From some of the reviews, it sounds like some people do think The Great Courses are a substitute for high school or college degree courses. Yes, there are some errors in these lectures, and yes, some of the ideas are opinions of the professors. However, as refresher courses or courses that give you an overview of these ideas, The Great Courses, I think, meet the average needs of the "Students". Professor Davis is flawless in his presentations. No pauses or added pause words that some speakers, including me, use to collect thoughts. He was a pleasure to listen to. He performed some "lab" experiments in his kitchen and did some that I had never seen, before. He does do end-of-lecture problems, which I did not care to do, since I got my fill in my previous chemistry studies. For those who want to know more about chemistry and love math, these assignments and their solutions are perfect. He does stress the important concept of making sure the units of each equation are balanced. You can't start off with kilogram units and end up in seconds per meter, after canceling. This is fundamental in chemistry. I enjoyed refreshing my previous chemistry knowledge and the new information I gleaned from Professor Davis' course. It helps if you have had some background in chemistry because some ideas are difficult to grasp. All in all, I would recommend this course to anyone who likes science and, specifically, chemistry.
Date published: 2020-08-25
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Too many errors and loud warning mar the lecture s I completed listening to Dr. Ron Davis’s chemistry lectures and was torn between a two star and a three star rating. Generally, the chemistry related information is accurate and reasonably well presented. The history and nuclear related information needs to be taken with a grain of salt. The recording has a ridiculous, ‘perform the experiments at your own risk’ lawyer’s warning before every lecture. This is bad enough, but the warning is much louder than the lectures themselves which makes them intolerable. The course provides an acceptable overview of many concepts, but has many errors. A modest sample: mercury amalgam was ‘melted’ before use. Actually, dental amalgams are made by mixing liquid mercury with other metal powders at room temperature. The lectures state that modern air conditioning/refrigeration doesn’t work by evaporating a liquid in the cold section and condensing it in a hot section. In fact, almost all cooling works on this refrigeration cycle. The working fluids/gases have changed over the years from cost effective, non-flammable freons to less ozone depleting freons and some flammable alternatives. The lectures indicate that alkaline batteries took over the market in the 50s. In actuality, acid carbon zinc batteries were more popular at least through the 60s. The nuclear history and nuclear physics presented are more incorrect than correct. Lectures- Enriched uranium for Little Boy was made by gaseous diffusion at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. In actuality, ORNL didn’t exist during world war two. Enriched uranium was produced at Y-12 in high current spectrometers called calutrons. The gaseous diffusion plant at K-25 permitted shutting down the alpha (first stage) calutron lines in the summer of 1945. All the HEU for Little Boy came from beta calutrons. X-10, where ORNL is located now, had an air-cooled graphite moderated reactor that provided valuable information supporting Hanford reactor design. It is possible to tour the old reactor. I suggest that the course be edited by removing all of the nuclear related material, eliminating or turning down the lawyer’s warning, having one or more SMEs go through the lectures and eliminate or correct erroneous material.
Date published: 2020-08-21
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Chemistry is the study of matter and energy at the scale of atoms and molecules. Covering a year's worth of introductory general chemistry at the college level, plus intriguing topics that are rarely discussed in the classroom, this visually engaging and comprehensive course requires nothing more advanced than high-school math and is suitable for any science background.


Ron B. Davis Jr.
Ron B. Davis Jr.

I hope this will be a lifelong journey exploring and appreciating the rich and beautiful chemistry which breathes life into our planet, the chemistry of molecules based on carbon


Georgetown University
Dr. Ron B. Davis, Jr. is an Associate Teaching Professor of Chemistry at Georgetown University, where he has been teaching introductory organic chemistry laboratories since 2008. He earned his Ph.D. in Chemistry from The Pennsylvania State University. Prior to teaching chemistry at the undergraduate level, Professor Davis spent several years as a pharmaceutical research and development chemist. Professor Davis's research focuses on the fundamental forces governing the interactions of proteins with small organic molecules. His research has been published in such scholarly journals as Proteins and Biochemistry and has been presented at the Annual Symposium of The Protein Society. He also maintains an educational YouTube channel and provides interviews and content to various media outlets, including The Discovery Channel. At The Pennsylvania State University, Professor Davis received a Dalalian Fellowship and the Dan Waugh Teaching Award. He is also a member of the Division of Chemical Education of the American Chemical Society.

By This Professor

Chemistry and Our Universe: How It All Works


Is Chemistry the Science of Everything?

01: Is Chemistry the Science of Everything?

Chemistry is the study of all matter, but matter at a very particular scale-that of atoms and molecules. Professor Davis begins by outlining his approach to this enormous topic and then introduces the periodic table of elements, one of the most powerful conceptual tools ever devised....

31 min
Matter and Measurement

02: Matter and Measurement

Chemists have convenient units for dealing with matter at the atomic scale. In this lecture, learn the origin and relative size of the angstrom to measure length, as well as the atomic mass unit, the mole for measuring quantity and the Kelvin scale for temperature....

34 min
Wave Nature of Light

03: Wave Nature of Light

Light interacts with matter in crucial ways. In the first of two lectures on the nature of light, follow the debate over whether light is a wave or a particle, starting in antiquity. See how the wave theory appeared to triumph in the 19th century and led to the discovery of the electromagnetic spectrum....

30 min
Particle Nature of Light

04: Particle Nature of Light

Although light has wave-like properties, it also behaves like a particle that comes in discrete units of energy, termed quanta. Learn how physicists Max Planck, Albert Einstein, and others built a revolutionary picture of light that recognizes both its wave- and particle-like nature....

29 min
Basic Structure of the Atom

05: Basic Structure of the Atom

Peel back the layers of the atom to investigate what's inside. Observe how electrons, protons, and neutrons are distributed, how they give an atom its identity, and how they affect its electrical charge and atomic mass. Discover the meaning of terms such as isotope, anion, and cation....

31 min
Electronic Structure of the Atom

06: Electronic Structure of the Atom

Starting with hydrogen, see how electrons organize themselves within the atom, depending on their energy state. Graduate from Niels Bohr's revolutionary model of the atom to Erwin Schrodinger's even more precise theory. Then, chart different electron configurations in heavier and heavier atoms....

33 min
Periodic Trends: Navigating the Table

07: Periodic Trends: Navigating the Table

Return to the periodic table, introduced in Lecture 1, to practice predicting properties of elements based on their electronic structure. Then, witness what happens when three different alkali metals react with water. Theory forecasts a pronounced difference in the result. Is there?...

30 min
Compounds and Chemical Formulas

08: Compounds and Chemical Formulas

Turn to molecules, which are groups of atoms that make up compounds as well as some elements. Learn to calculate the empirical formula for a simple molecule and also its molecular formula, which gives the exact number of each type of atom....

29 min
Joining Atoms: The Chemical Bond

09: Joining Atoms: The Chemical Bond

In the first of five lectures on chemical bonds, start to unravel the mystery of what joins atoms into molecules. Investigate how molecular bonds reflect the octet rule encountered in Lecture 7 and fall into four classes: ionic, covalent, polar covalent, and metallic bonds....

31 min
Mapping Molecules: Lewis Structures

10: Mapping Molecules: Lewis Structures

Working at the turn of the 20th century, chemist Gilbert N. Lewis devised a simple method for depicting the essential blueprint of a molecule's structure. Learn how to draw Lewis structures, and use this technique to explore such concepts as formal charge and resonance....

30 min
VSEPR Theory and Molecular Geometry

11: VSEPR Theory and Molecular Geometry

Take the next step beyond Lewis structures to see how atoms in a molecule are arranged in three dimensions. VSEPR theory (valence-shell electron-pair repulsion theory) provides chemists with a quick way to predict the shapes of molecules based on a few basic assumptions....

28 min
Hybridization of Orbitals

12: Hybridization of Orbitals

Meet one of the fathers of modern physical chemistry, Linus Pauling. Hear about his theory of orbital hybridization, which solves some of the shortcomings of VSEPR theory by averaging the charge of electrons in different orbitals, accounting for the peculiar geometry of certain molecules....

29 min
Molecular Orbital Theory

13: Molecular Orbital Theory

Discover an alternate model of chemical bonding: molecular orbital theory, developed by Friedrich Hund and Robert Mulliken. This idea explains such mysteries as why oxygen is paramagnetic. See a demonstration of oxygen's attraction to a magnet, then use molecular orbital theory to understand why this happens....

26 min
Communicating Chemical Reactions

14: Communicating Chemical Reactions

Begin your study of chemical reactions by investigating how chemists write reactions using a highly systematized code. Next, Professor Davis introduces the big four types of chemical reactions: synthesis, decomposition, single displacement, and double displacement. He also shows how to translate between measurements in moles and grams....

31 min
Chemical Accounting: Stoichiometry

15: Chemical Accounting: Stoichiometry

Stoichiometry may sound highly technical, but it is simply the relative proportions in which chemicals react. Discover how to balance a reaction equation, and learn how to solve problems involving limiting reagents, theoretical yield, percent yield, and optimized reactions....

31 min
Enthalpy and Calorimetry

16: Enthalpy and Calorimetry

Consider how atoms and molecules can create, consume, and transport the most vital commodity in the universe: energy. Practice calculating energy changes in reactions, explore the concept of enthalpy (the total heat content of a system), and learn how chemists use a device called a calorimeter....

34 min
Hess's Law and Heats of Formation

17: Hess's Law and Heats of Formation

In 1840, chemist Germain Hess theorized that total heat change in a chemical reaction is equal to the sum of the heat changes of its individual steps. Study the implications of this principle, known as Hess's law. In the process, learn about heat of formation....

29 min
Entropy: The Role of Randomness

18: Entropy: The Role of Randomness

Now turn to entropy, which is a measure of disorder. According to the second law of thermodynamics, the entropy of closed systems always increases. See how this change can be calculated in chemical reactions by using the absolute entropy table....

31 min
Influence of Free Energy

19: Influence of Free Energy

Enthalpy and entropy are contrasting quantities. However, they are combined in the free energy equation, discovered by chemist J. Willard Gibbs, which predicts whether a reaction will take place spontaneously. Probe the difference between reactions that are endothermic (requiring heat) and exothermic (releasing heat)....

29 min
Intermolecular Forces

20: Intermolecular Forces

Investigate the physical properties that define the most common phases of matter: solids, liquids, and gases. Then, focus on the intermolecular forces that control which of these phases a substance occupies. Analyze the role of London dispersion forces, dipole-dipole interactions, and hydrogen bonding....

31 min
Phase Changes in Matter

21: Phase Changes in Matter

Survey events at the molecular level when substances convert between solid, liquid, and gaseous phases. Pay particular attention to the role of temperature and pressure on these transitions. Become familiar with a powerful tool of prediction called the phase diagram....

28 min
Behavior of Gases: Gas Laws

22: Behavior of Gases: Gas Laws

In the first of two lectures on the properties of gases, review the basic equations that describe their behavior. Learn the history of Boyle's law, Gay-Lussac's law, Charles's law, and Avogadro's law. Then use these four expressions to derive the celebrated ideal gas law....

27 min
Kinetic Molecular Theory

23: Kinetic Molecular Theory

Apply the physics of moving bodies to the countless particles comprising a gas. Observe how Graham's law links the mass of gas particles to the rate at which they escape through a small aperture, a process known as effusion. See how this technique was used to enrich uranium for the first atomic weapons....

30 min
Liquids and Their Properties

24: Liquids and Their Properties

Now turn to liquids, which have a more complicated behavior than gases. The same intermolecular forces apply to both, but at much closer range for liquids. Explore the resulting properties, including viscosity, volatility, incompressibility, and miscibility. Also consider applications of these qualities....

29 min
Metals and Ionic Solids

25: Metals and Ionic Solids

Solids are characterized by a defined volume and shape, created by close packing of atoms, ions, or molecules. Focus on how packing is very regular in crystalline solids, which display lattice geometries. In particular, study the structure and properties of metals and alloys....

31 min
Covalent Solids

26: Covalent Solids

Examine solids that are held together by forces other than metallic bonds. For example, sodium chloride (table salt) exhibits a lattice structure joined by ionic bonds; molecular solids such as sugar have covalent bonds; and diamond and graphite are cases of covalent network solids, as are silicates....

30 min
Mixing It Up: Solutions

27: Mixing It Up: Solutions

Dip into the nature of solutions, distinguishing between solutes and the solvent. Review ways of reporting solution concentrations, including molarity, molality, parts per million, and parts per billion. See how chemists prepare solutions of known concentrations and also use light to determine concentration....

34 min
Solubility and Saturation

28: Solubility and Saturation

Continue your investigation of solutions by probing the maximum solubility of materials in water and the concept of saturated solutions. Explore the effect of temperature on solutions. Then, watch Professor Davis demonstrate Henry's law on the solubility of gases in liquids and the phenomenon of supersaturation....

29 min
Colligative Properties of Solutions

29: Colligative Properties of Solutions

Certain properties of solutions depend only on the concentration of the solute particles dissolved, not on the nature of the particles. Called colligative properties, these involve such behaviors as lowering the freezing point, raising the boiling point, and osmotic pressure. Study examples of each....

32 min
Modeling Reaction Rates

30: Modeling Reaction Rates

Starting with a classic experiment called the elephant's toothpaste, begin your investigation of reaction rates. Learn to express rates mathematically and understand the importance of rate order, which is related to the powers of the concentrations. Extend these ideas to half-life equations, which are vital for dating geologic processes and archaeological artifacts....

32 min
Temperature and Reaction Rates

31: Temperature and Reaction Rates

Focus on the effect of temperature on reaction rates. Learn how to use the Arrhenius equation to calculate the activation energy for a reaction, and practice solving problems. For example, why does cooling food in a refrigerator reduce the spoilage so dramatically?...

32 min
Reaction Mechanisms and Catalysis

32: Reaction Mechanisms and Catalysis

Chemical reactions often take place in a series of steps, converting starting materials into intermediates, which are then converted into products. Each stage in this process has its own associated rate law. Learn how to analyze these steps, and consider a very special class of reactants: catalysts....

29 min
The Back and Forth of Equilibrium

33: The Back and Forth of Equilibrium

What happens when reactions can be reversed? Study reactions that take place simultaneously in both directions, leading to a dynamic equilibrium. Focus on homogeneous equilibria, which involve reactants and products in the same phase. Close with an introduction to the reaction quotient....

29 min
Manipulating Chemical Equilibrium

34: Manipulating Chemical Equilibrium

Continue your study of gas-phase equilibria by investigating Le Chatelier's principle, which describes what happens when a chemical system is disturbed. Examine three different scenarios that employ this rule. Close by exploring a world-shaking application of Le Chatelier's principle....

30 min
Acids, Bases, and the pH Scale

35: Acids, Bases, and the pH Scale

Now turn to acids and bases. Review the search for the defining qualities of these ubiquitous substances-a quest that eluded scientists until independent discoveries made by J. N. Bronsted and T. M. Lowry in the 1920s. Then hear how chemist Soren Sorensen devised the pH scale for measuring acidity and basicity....

28 min
Weak Acids and Bases

36: Weak Acids and Bases

In the previous lecture, you delved into strong acids and bases-those that ionize completely in solution. In this lecture, survey weak acids and bases, zeroing in on why they only partially ionize. Practice techniques for calculating their properties and concentrations in various solutions....

29 min
Acid-Base Reactions and Buffers

37: Acid-Base Reactions and Buffers

Mix things up by looking at what happens when acids and bases combine. See how a desired pH can be achieved through regulation of acid-base reactions. In the process, learn how to use the Henderson-Hasselbalch equation, which is indispensable in biology and medicine....

30 min
Polyprotic Acids

38: Polyprotic Acids

So far, you have focused on acids that donate a single hydrogen ion in an acid-base reaction. Now turn to polyprotic acids-those that donate more than one proton per molecule. Investigate the complex ionization processes that ensue, and see how they play a role in regulating blood pH....

30 min
Structural Basis for Acidity

39: Structural Basis for Acidity

Complete your study of acids and bases by searching out the fundamental causes of their disparate behavior. For example, why is there a difference in the ease with which various acids ionize? Your search draws on concepts from previous lectures, including electronegativity, molecular geometry, hybridization, and covalent bonding....

30 min
Electron Exchange: Redox Reactions

40: Electron Exchange: Redox Reactions

Encounter reduction-oxidation (redox) reactions, which involve the exchange of electrons between substances. Discover that this process explains geological events on the early Earth, including why iron in its metallic state is so rare in nature. Then explore associated phenomena, including the activity series of metals....

34 min
Electromotive Force and Free Energy

41: Electromotive Force and Free Energy

Meet three scientists who laid the foundations for electrochemistry. Robert Millikan measured the charge on the electron. Michael Faraday discovered the relationship between free energy and electrical potential. Walther Nernst formulated the relationship between redox potential and equilibrium constants. Their contributions paved the way for what came next....

33 min
Storing Electrical Potential: Batteries

42: Storing Electrical Potential: Batteries

Apply your understanding of electrochemistry to one of the most influential inventions of all time: the electrical storage battery. Trace the evolution of batteries from ancient times to Alessandro Volta's pioneering voltaic cell, developed in 1800, to today's alkaline, lithium, and other innovative battery technologies....

31 min
Nuclear Chemistry and Radiation

43: Nuclear Chemistry and Radiation

The energy stored in chemical bonds pales next to the energy holding atomic nuclei together. Look back to the gradual unlocking of the secrets of the nucleus, the discovery of radiation emanating from elements such as uranium, and the eventual harnessing of this phenomenon for weapons, electrical power, and medical treatments....

30 min
Binding Energy and the Mass Defect

44: Binding Energy and the Mass Defect

Dig deeper into the nucleus to discover how so little matter can convert into the tremendous energy of a nuclear explosion, as described by Albert Einstein's famous mass-energy equation. Focus on nuclear binding energy and mass defect, both of which are connected to the release of nuclear energy....

29 min
Breaking Things Down: Nuclear Fission

45: Breaking Things Down: Nuclear Fission

In the 1940s, scientists worked out techniques for speeding up the radioactivity of uranium isotopes by means of a fission chain reaction. See this process modeled with an array of mousetraps, demonstrating how the reaction can be controlled in a reactor or unleashed catastrophically in a bomb....

30 min
Building Things Up: Nuclear Fusion

46: Building Things Up: Nuclear Fusion

Revisit the nuclear energy binding curve, noting that most elements lighter than iron can release energy by fusing together. This is an even more energetic reaction than fission, and it is what powers the sun. Follow the development of fusion weapons and the so-far-unrealized dream of fusion reactors....

29 min
Introduction to Organic Chemistry

47: Introduction to Organic Chemistry

Launch into the first of three lectures on organic chemistry, which is the field dealing with carbon-based molecules, and understand why carbon makes such a versatile molecule. As an example, survey the incredible variety displayed by hydrocarbons, from bitumen (asphalt) to gasoline and methane....

30 min
Heteroatoms and Functional Groups

48: Heteroatoms and Functional Groups

Hydrocarbons contain only hydrogen and carbon atoms. See how some of the hydrogen atoms can be replaced with new elements and groups of elements to create compounds with new properties. These heteroatoms and functional groups form virtually unlimited combinations of organic molecules....

31 min
Reactions in Organic Chemistry

49: Reactions in Organic Chemistry

Get a taste of one of the favorite challenges for organic chemists-turning one organic compound into another. Focus on three types of reactions from the many used in organic synthesis: substitution, elimination, and addition. Close by considering the vital role of water in organic chemistry....

30 min
Synthetic Polymers

50: Synthetic Polymers

Starting with the mystery of the ancient Mayan rubber ball, trace the story of polymer chemistry from lucky accidents to the advances of chemist Hermann Staudinger, who in the early 20th century showed that polymers are macromolecules. Learn how synthetic polymers are created....

28 min
Biological Polymers

51: Biological Polymers

Turn from synthetic polymers to biopolymers - those that occur naturally. Focus on polysaccharides, nucleic acids, and proteins (including a special class of proteins, enzymes). Discover that living systems exercise a level of control over the synthesis of these polymers that no chemist could ever hope to achieve in the lab....

32 min
Medicinal Chemistry

52: Medicinal Chemistry

Probe the methods used by researchers to create molecules that can correct medical problems such as inflammation, bacterial infections, and cancer. As an example, study the lock-and-key model of enzyme activity, which explains how many enzymes work, highlighting a potential weak link that can be exploited by drugs....

30 min
Poisons, Toxins, and Venoms

53: Poisons, Toxins, and Venoms

Survey the types of chemicals that can harm human health. First, analyze the differences between a poison, a toxin, and a venom. Then, study examples of each, learning how arsenic disrupts ATP production, what makes nicotine deadlier than most people realize, and why venoms are typically complex proteins....

29 min
Chemical Weapons

54: Chemical Weapons

Delve into the dark world of chemistry as a weapon of war. Crude chemical weapons were used in antiquity, but they didn't reach true sophistication and strategic significance until World War I. Profile the father of modern chemical warfare, chemist Fritz Haber, and look at the specific action of a number of deadly chemical agents....

31 min
Tapping Chemical Energy: Fuels

55: Tapping Chemical Energy: Fuels

Explore the chemistry of fuels, which are materials that react with an oxidant to produce energy. Start with cellulose, the primary constituent of wood, then survey petroleum distillates, such as kerosene, diesel, and gasoline. Close by learning how plant oils can be used to make biodiesel, which behaves similarly to petroleum-based diesel....

30 min
Unleashing Chemical Energy: Explosives

56: Unleashing Chemical Energy: Explosives

Observe what happens at the molecular level that distinguishes fuel combustion from an explosion, and also learn what constitutes a detonation, which has a precise technical meaning. Survey explosives from gunpowder to nitroglycerin to TNT to plastic explosives, and study methods of detecting explosives....

35 min
Chemistry of the Earth

57: Chemistry of the Earth

Take a short tour of geochemistry, starting at Earth's core and working your way to the surface. Discover why our planet has a magnetic field, how radioactive atoms move continents and build mountain ranges, and why digging a hole to extract resources can produce a chemical catastrophe....

29 min
Chemistry of Our Oceans

58: Chemistry of Our Oceans

It is said that water covers 75% of Earth's surface. But chemists know better: more accurately, Earth's surface is bathed in an aqueous solution-a mixture of water and many different dissolved solutes. Focus on dissolved carbon dioxide, methane hydrates, and the quest to extract dissolved gold....

30 min
Atmospheric Chemistry

59: Atmospheric Chemistry

Now turn to the chemistry of the atmosphere, in particular the 1% composed of gases other than nitrogen and oxygen. Map the structure of the atmosphere, charting its temperature profile. Hear the good and bad news about ozone, and probe the cause of acid rain....

30 min
Chemistry, Life, and the Cosmos

60: Chemistry, Life, and the Cosmos

Conclude the course by ranging beyond our planet to sample atoms and molecules in the cosmos. Specifically, search for two substances that are prerequisites for life: water and organic molecules. Both turn out to be plentiful, suggesting that the study of chemistry has a long and bright future!...

33 min