Chemical reactions are the basis of life on earth. As human beings, we are little more than the naturally abundant elements of which we are composed and the reactions between the compounds that they form. After all, how could life exist without water? Oxygen transport in a body the size of the human body would be impossible without the aid of a complex like hemoglobin. Besides being the basis of many of life's intangibles, chemistry also plays an active role in our daily lives.
Take for instance everyday household cleaning. If you're like me, you like to eat off of clean dishes, prepare food on a clean surface, and use clean restroom facilities. Taking the cleaning of any of these areas into your own hands requires a little chemical knowledge. Have you ever scrubbed away at some grease or oil that just won't come out? That's because we are used to most of the "gunk" that we clean up being a polar substance. Water is also a polar substance, and since like dissolves like, most polar substances dissolve easily in water. However, when we introduce water to big greasy hydrocarbon chains (usually called alkanes, or fats and oils as we know them), the water just slides right over them and our plate stays greasy. This is because fats, oils, and waxes are nonpolar substances. If instead of using water we used less polar mineral spirits (not recommended on food prep items), those greasy alkanes would be dissolved in no time. Solubility concerns are clearly at the forefront of chemistry in the home. For two substances to be soluble in one another, they must be composed of similar materials, as we saw in the case with water and other polar substances. The interaction between water and nonpolar substances in science is termed the "hydrophobic effect," meaning literally "water fearing." On a cellular level, there are many consequences of this effect, but the same is true in the macroscopic world. For instance, the "greasy" feeling your skin gets when it hasn't been cleaned...
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