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Physical Change

When properties of a material change but the identity of the material remains the same.

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The Study of Change

The Study of Change

Credit: Robert Lopez
Source: CK-12 Foundation
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

No one likes boredom.  It is likely that the biggest contributor to boredom is a lack of change.  Good news for you!  There is no way chemistry can be a boring subject; after all, chemistry is the study of change.

Amazing But True!

  • What is chemistry?  Many western textbooks describe a history for the term “chemistry” originating in either Greece or possibly Egypt.  Indeed, “Khem” is an ancient name for Egypt and alchemy (the precursor to modern chemistry) may simply have meant “the art of the land of Khem.”  
  • Interestingly, the Chinese have studied the observable world for millennia, and the modern day Chinese characters for chemistry might most accurately describe the subject.  ?? translates into chemistry.  The first part of this compound character is ? (change).  The second part of this compound character is ? (study).  Together, they represent the study of change.
  • Mastery of chemistry allowed the Chinese to invent fireworks in the 7th centry. They were used to accompany many festivities
  • Credit: Dominic Alves
    Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dominicspics/6148645597/
    License: CC BY-NC 3.0

    Modern fireworks during the Thames festival in London [Figure2]


  • Watch this video to discover how far reaching the discipline of chemistry is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=izeuGr0lbN0 

Explore More

With the link below, learn more about chemical and physical changes. Then answer the following questions.

  1. Is blending a smoothie together a chemical or physical change?
  2. Freezing, melting, boiling, evaporation, sublimation, and condensation are examples of phase changes. Are these chemical or physical changes?
  3. List processes that are examples of chemical changes.
  4. You are given a single piece of paper.  Describe how you could perform a physical change followed by a chemical change on the paper.

Image Attributions

  1. [1]^ Credit: Robert Lopez; Source: CK-12 Foundation; License: CC BY-NC 3.0
  2. [2]^ Credit: Dominic Alves; Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dominicspics/6148645597/; License: CC BY-NC 3.0


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