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Chemistry Questions You Should Be Able to Answer


If you study physics, you should be able to explain why the sky is blue. If biology is your thing, you ought to be able to answer where babies come from. Chemistry doesn't have any great standard question, but there are some everyday phenomena you should be able to explain.

1. Why do onions make you cry?

Marcelo Brito Filho
Even better, know how to prevent the tears.

2. Why does ice float?

Architetto Francesco Rollandin, openclipart.org
If ice didn't float, lakes and rivers would freeze from the bottom up, basically causing them to solidify. Do you know why solid ice is less dense than the liquid?

3. What is the difference between radiation and radioactivity?

This trefoil is the hazard symbol for radioactive material.
Cary Bass
You do realize not all radiation glows green and will mutate you, right?

4. How does soap clean?

andrea, morguefile.com
You can wet your hair all you want, but that won't get it clean. Do you know why soap works? Do you know how detergents work?

5. What common chemicals shouldn't be mixed?

Skull and Crossbones
Silsor, Wikipedia Commons
Do you know better than to mix bleach and ammonia or bleach and vinegar? What other everyday chemicals pose a hazard when combined?

6. Why do leaves change color?

Autumn Leaves
Tony Roberts, morguefile.com
Chlorophyll is the pigment in plants that makes them appear green, but it isn't the only pigment that is present. Do you know what affects the apparent color of leaves?

7. Is is possible to turn lead into gold?

Nugget of native gold from the Washington mining district, California.
Aramgutan, Wikipedia Commons
First, you should know the answer is 'yes' and then be able to explain why it's completely impractical.

8. Why do people put salt on icy roads?

Snow Storm
Darren Hauck/Getty Images
Does it do any good? How does it work? Are all salts equally effective?

9. What is bleach?

Mark Gallagher, Wikipedia Commons
Do you know how bleach works?

10. What are the elements in the human body?

Photograph of graphite, one of the forms of elemental carbon.
U.S. Geological Survey
No, you don't need to be able to list every single one. You ought to be able to name the top three without thinking. It's good to know the top six.

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