Sunday, June 2, 2013

77. The physics of irrestible chemistry

It is intriguing how things work. Certain things you pay to learn while quite others are up for grabs, literally for free. Don't stretch your imagination too far, just smell the air around you to make a guess. I'm referrng here to the weekly chemistry lessons which neither refresh what you may have learnt at school nor enrich you with something you have little inclination on. No wonder, these lessons neither refer to John Dalton's atomic theory nor discuss Linus Pauling's chemical bonds.  

Chemistry, we are told, is what chemists practice! But what has chemistry got to do with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor or Dilip Kumar and Vyjayantimala or Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet or for that matter Ranbir Kapoor and Dipika Padukone. Without any disregard to their impecabble on-screen performances, it can still be safely argued that none of them would know who Joseph Priestley, Henry Cavendish or Robert Boyle were and hence may not have qualified any of the school-leaving exams! And much to our surprise, these on-screen couples have dealt in 'chemistry' at one time or the other.

Haven't all these couples offerred 'irrestible chemistry' on celluloid screens, week after week for decades at length? Howsoever it might be justified, such inference defies what we have known of chemistry as  the 'scientific study of matter, its properties, and interactions with other matter'. Should chemistry not engage at least two molecules in a quest to produce a new composition? In this light, what went between Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, by latter's own admission, was indeed 'chemistry'. Imagine if Monica would have been invited by universities to offer lectures in chemistry! 

Without getting any further into the naughty stuff called chemistry, let the onus of questioning the use of 'chemistry' in such matters solely rest with the chemists. Interesting would be to check what physicts have to say on the matter. Since 'chemistry' under reference involves attraction between two bodies and occurs within a given time and space, Albert Einstein and Issac Newton would have termed it as 'irrestible physics'. Not without reason had well-known radiochemist Frederick Soddy referred to chemistry as the messy part of physics! Einstein thought physics, and not chemistry, could be easily taught to a barmaid.