How to ace chemistry class - Macleans.ca

How to ace chemistry class

Making the complicated science accessible to millions

by

Every once in a while my microbiology textbook shares a vaguely interesting fact that (almost) makes it worth reading. Like the fact that certain species of bacteria can be found 4,700 feet underground.

Sometimes my history textbook can be interesting. A Minoan palace that dates back to 1500 BCE featured indoor plumbing.

But there are absolutely no redeeming qualities to my Organic Chemistry textbook. Here are some of the organic molecules mentioned in the textbook:

1-Bromo-3-methylpentane

3-Methylpentylmagnesium bromide

N,N-Diethylethanamine

Those are real names. Seriously.

Another problem: some of the names are way too similar. Certain types of molecules are called “alkanes.” Some are called “alkenes.” Others are called “alkynes.” Then there are ethers and esters. Amines and amides.

Wouldn’t it be a whole lot easier if organic molecules were named the same way hurricanes are? As in “Chemical Bob” or “Chemical Irene”?

Of course, considering that there are tens of millions of organic molecules, we might start running out of names. Or at the very least, we might have to start using wimpy names. Like “Chemical Lawrence” or “Chemical Stuart.”

But there is an alternative. It’s a naming system that would be easy to learn and intuitive to use. Heck, it would transform Organic Chemistry. Instead of being universally hated, it would be an accessible and manageable course.

The new system: naming organic molecules after Pokemon.

It’s a tried-and-true method. For the past decade, millions of kids under the age of 12 have been able to memorize the names of thousands of Pokemon. And they can pronounce them perfectly, too. Why shouldn’t it work for Organic Chemistry?

There would be no such thing as “1,2-Dibromobenzene” or “1-Chloro-3-ethylbenzene.”Students wouldn’t have to learn names like “N-Phenylacetamide” or “1-(1,1-Dimethylethyl)-3-nitrobenzene.”

Instead, they would be memorizing “Charmander” and “Pikachu.”

Yup, easy peasy.