Yup, it’s the truth, chemistry has beaten out the other science in the nerdiest popularity contest of all. I mean sure biochemistry might have it in pure numbers, but we all know a little exclusivity is a good thing. As for Physics, very exclusive, but it’s hard to be the coolest when you are nearly entirely theoretical. So I am sure you are expecting some sort of support or proof for such a bold claim, well I won’t disappoint. Let’s start with the obvious; in chemistry, you can do nearly anything. Want to cure cancer, we got that. Want to create a crazy dangerous weapon, well we got that too. Both sides of a coin there. And just because everyone is thinking it, yes Breaking Bad is chemistry. And no, I won’t make drugs for you. Oh and for the obvious joke, chemistry does have liquid nitrogen…. the pretty “cool.” (wooo bad puns!)
Look a penguin! One of the rare fun parts of biology… I think he is angry with me!
Lets have a look at the contenders. Lets talk about biology first, the science of all things living. My bio teacher back in high school used to say “biology, it’s your life!” And he was right, but that doesn’t make it the best of the sciences. Most people think of biologists as people that get to hang out all day with the cute and adorable red panda. But that is an incredibly small part of the biology world, and even though hanging out with penguins, monkeys, kangaroos and whales id really cool. It is only a matter of time before the monkey gets bored and starts to throw its poo at you, or the rhino decides to see what it would be like to charge through you. The rest of biology almost always involves a microscope, with little tiny bacteria that always seem to be waving at one another. And sure curing diseases is great, not to mention all of the wonderful gifts that yeast has brought us (beer, bread and oh so much more). However when it comes to science there is only so much one can take of staring through a microscope at the bacteria party below before you start to wonder what’s going on down the hall in the chemistry lab, where all of the music is coming from.
Hubble images, brought to you by Physics and Dr. Phil Plait (@badastronomer).
Physics, oh physics, you know what you did! Physics is great; electricity, lasers, stars, black holes and superconducting supercollider’s (super squared if you will). But that’s almost all on paper, very little of physics can you see with your eyes, or even with a microscope. Sure you can watch a black hole through the Hubble, but you can’t reach out and touch it. And try touching the impact zone of the Cern-Hardon collider; you will be missing that hand in the future. Most of physics is theoretical, especially after you get out of physics one and two in undergrad. While I do respect it, and I am often in awe of it, there is nothing that would ever make me want to leave chemistry behind for a computer.
How is this not the coolest thing!
Chemistry, that’s right, leaving the best for last. Well this is the best of both world here, and quite literally where physics and biology collide. Hands on lab experience (without the flying poo, or microscopes) and the wonders of quantum mechanics all brought to a round bottom flask near you. Beautiful colors, the building blocks of the universe, curing disease, inventing molecules, and some of the biggest egos in the world… who could ask for more? In all reality nearly every piece of modern life came from a chemistry lab somewhere; components for smart phones, medicine, nearly every part of your car and the gas you put in it. It is a discipline of creation and discovery; like all sciences, but like I said before there is less flying poo and a chance to touch and see what you have done.
We may never be sure which science is the best, much to the regret of Dr. Heisenberg, and Schrodinger’s cat…. both thought chemistry was though.
Now I am not saying that you should pick chemistry over any of the other sciences out there. And by no means are these the only three out there, just the big three. I am just saying that chemistry has a lot going for it, maybe even more so than hanging out with a kangaroo all day. Just remember that when you are sitting through an organic chemistry lecture and find yourself surfing your smart phone or want to find the nearest bar to make it bearable.