A series of explanations of Chemical reactions using real world situations
This book is a must read for any prospective Chemistry student or anyone thinking of studying Chemistry. It was actually recommended to me by a current Chemistry student at the Oxford Open Day.
This whole idea of this book is captured in the title ‘Why Chemical Reactions Happen’, which was a question that I had never thought about before I picked up this book. We all know ice freezes to water at 0℃ but why does it happen and why at that temperature? The answer to this question requires consideration of entropy, enthalpy and even thermodynamics! This what I loved about this book: it strips back the layers of even the simplest reactions to find out what actually makes the reaction ‘go’. You won’t believe how many factors are involved in even the simplest processes.
The authors do a brilliant job in breaking down difficult concepts into simple and familiar ideas, normally from the A-Level course, then slowly building it back up so you understand not just the concept in question but also where it comes from. They illustrate this really clearly with diagrams when possible and even relate concepts back to principles discussed earlier in the book, so you can see how it all links together. I also found it worked in really well with my A-Level Chemistry as it showed me where the concepts that I was learning about were actually coming from, which I found really interesting.
Being honest at some points this book can get quite complicated and I had to re-read several chapters until I began to grasp the topic in question. This is because this book deals with several key concepts from the first year of a Chemistry degree at Oxford. But this gives you a great understanding of what you’ll actually be studying if you choose this course and you can decide if it’s for you or not.
In summary if you’re at all considering studying Chemistry I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It’s a genuinely enjoyable read and will definitely help you decide whether or not Chemistry is for you.
Science had always really appealed to me, but I had very little idea which course I wanted to do until Year 12.
Our chemistry teacher used to set us problems after lessons to keep us ‘thinking chemically’. One puzzle I found particularly interesting was that of whether a closed room would get warmer or cooler if you left a fridge open inside. To find the solution he pointed me in the direction of 'Why Chemical Reactions Happen' by Peter Wothers and James Keller. The book covers a wide range of topics, all presented in a logical and easily understandable manner. Usually these are accompanied by diagrams. Even better, rather than only providing mathematical proofs, the explanations are related to real world situations - just like the fridge problem.
The refrigerator question is quite simple, as to power the fridge you must add energy into the room so the temperature must increase. Unless the fridge were 100% effective at cooling, in which case the temperature would remain the same.
The book is structured around what a university Chemistry course might entail, with a range of topics being covered, most containing a couple questions of this style. I would recommend it to anyone thinking of taking a science degree - but, given that it is written from an enjoyably introductory perspective, also to those who enjoyed science at GCSE. It certainly convinced me that Chemistry was the course I wanted to take further. If you do decide to have a look, I hope you'll enjoy it as much as I did.