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Fun with soap

Quick, what do you think when you hear the word chemistry?

I’ll bet you don’t think about soap, dryer sheets, sunscreen, deodorant, french bread, or miner’s lamps. Maybe if you had a better chemistry teacher, you would.

If my high school chemistry teacher had focused on how chemistry affects my everyday life–how soap works, why you have to wait 20 minutes after applying sunscreen, why bread rises–before launching into balancing equations, the Bohr model, and moles, I might have actually enjoyed it.

Heck, I might have picked a different career.

Instead I crammed for the tests and got the heck out, never to look back until grad school when I took materials science and plastics courses. And LOVED them!

Now when Popular Science comes in the mail, I flip straight to Theodore Gray’s “Gray Matter” column, and occasionally I go looking for a quick tidbit in Chemistry for Dummies by John T. Moore, and lose myself in the rest of the chapter.

These guys make a potentially dry subject fun and interesting. If we had more teachers like Grey and Moore, maybe the US wouldn’t be struggling to produce science and technology majors.

(Credit: Free images from