TO CHEMICAL INTERACTIONS
From the dawn of reason, inquisitive people have looked at the magnificently diverse world around them and wondered. Some pondered its creation and purpose, others wondered about the usefulness of its riches, and there were those who contemplated the fundamental nature of all things tangible. It was this last disposition that led human enterprise into the vast sector of knowledge that we now call chemistry.
Chemistry is the systematic unveiling of the nature of matter—its properties, composition, and structure—and the energy dynamics that accompany matter transformations. Chemistry is also the intellectual process of uncovering the nature of matter and energy that contributes to the ever-expanding body of understanding we accept as chemical knowledge.
The earliest analysis of the composition of matter was at once simplistic and stunningly sophisticated. Twenty-five hundred years ago the Greek philosophers held that everything was composed of four elements: fire, air, earth, and
water. By tinkering with the elements and their proportions, the four could be forged into all the different materials in the world. In time this four-element model was pushed aside as more compelling models gained acceptance. But the
core idea that basic substances, when combined in certain proportions, produce all the forms of matter on Earth was sound. Interestingly, the four ancient elements, when considered from an energetics perspective, are solid (earth), liquid (water), gas (air), and energy (fire).
Today we understand matter on Earth to be composed of 90 elements. We accept that the nature of matter depends on the number and arrangement of atoms of those elements and the particular energy load carried by that association of atoms at a particular time.
So, we know it all? Hardly. The frontiers of chemistry, like most of science, are active, and like all interfaces between the known and the unknown, chemistry is exciting for those prepared to confront the challenges.