Chemistry is the science of the composition of matter, the ways in which particles of matter interact with each other and the discovery of the properties of various types of substances. This type of science has been practiced since before the advent of recorded history and has resulted in advances that have made life easier and more deadly, depending on the type of discovery made.
Modern chemistry can be traced back to alchemy, which didn’t explain much of anything but instead created an entertaining array of failed experiments in an attempt to turn lead to gold and other worthless substances into valuable materials.
Many of the unexpectedly strange discoveries in the field of chemistry confound expectations and express truths counter to intuitive thought. This list includes discoveries that provide a glimpse into the basics of life on earth as well as ridiculous, experimental chemicals that are barely able to exist.
10. Mosquitos Are Chemical Misogynists
A wide variety of nasty products, from citronella candles all the way to repellant sprays, attempt to repel one of the most annoying parts of camping throughout most of the world: mosquitos. These little bloodsucking annoyances leave behind itchy bites and can pass along brutal diseases such as malaria. On top of all this, it turns out they’re also misogynists.
Studies show that for whatever reason, mosquitos are attracted to estrogen, causing them to target women more than men. Interestingly, only female mosquitoes bite, which probably makes them one of the most misogynistic female species on the planet.
9. Oxygen is Blue
The majority of the air we breathe is made of nitrogen while oxygen makes up the lion’s share of the rest, with just over one-fifth of air consisting of oxygen. Argon makes up 0.9% of air, carbon dioxide is 0.03% of air, while the rest is probably just pollution. While oxygen gas is without color, when its cooled and pressurized into a liquid or solid form it takes on a distinct blue color, not unlike the blue meth that Walter White lovingly crafted on the hit TV series Breaking Bad. However, turning oxygen gas into a liquid requires a great deal of effort due to the fact that liquid oxygen boils into gas at the freezing cold temperature of -297.3 Fahrenheit.
8. DNA is Flame Retardant
Deoxyribonucleic acid contains all the genetic information that determines the physical makeup of the majority of biological life on earth. Made of chemicals referred to as nucleotides, the building blocks of life consist of a sugar group, phosphate group and one out of four different types of nitrogen bases. For humans, a complete set of genetic information, known as the genome, consists of 23 chromosomes containing 20,000 genes for a total of 3 billion bases. Discovered first during the latter part of the 19th century, the significance of DNA was finally understood by researchers in 1953. What no one expected is that the building blocks of life can’t be set on fire.
7. Bees Sting Acid; Wasps Sting Bases
The venom of insects are incredibly complicated chemicals that are made of complex arrangements of enzymes, proteins, peptides and other types of tiny molecules, all in the effort of defending themselves against threats, such as bears who love to steal honey. After careful study and comparison of the venom of bees and wasps, despite the fact that their venoms both exist to inflict tremendous pain, it turns out that the poison of bees are less than seven on the pH scale while the poison of wasps are greater than seven on the pH scale. As a result, bee stings are acidic while wasp venom is alkaline.
6. Metal that Melts in Your Hand
One of the defining aspects of most metals is the fact that the majority of them are highly resistant to heat, making it difficult to destroy most metals through temperatures with which humans are comfortable. Lead, platinum, silver, copper and gold are fine examples of metals that are very resistant to heat. However, one strange metal that defies expectation is Gallium, which has a melting point of 85.59 degrees Fahrenheit, which is about 13 degrees cooler than a human’s typical healthy body temperature. As a result, unlike M&Ms, gallium will melt in your hand and in your mouth, although it’s not recommended to actually try this out in any way, shape or form.
5. Allergy Alert: Dynamite Contains Peanuts
Dynamite was invented by Alfred Nobel, who reaped a great fortune from his discovery, which, with great irony, ended up funding the Nobel Peace Prize. Dynamite was a significant invention at the time because it was the first relatively safe explosive with an output greater than gunpowder, requiring less to blow up more. The main ingredient of dynamite is nitroglycerin, which is then poured into an absorbent material such as paper or sawdust before being wrapped up in a neat, explosive package. One of the main ingredients of nitroglycerin is glycerol, which is an oil that can be easily derived from peanuts.
4. Water Boils in Outer Space Instead of Freezing
As Khan Noonien Singh once quipped, “revenge is best served cold… it is very cold… in space.” In fact, the ambient temperature of outer space is the same as the cosmic microwave background radiation, specifically, -451.81 degrees Fahrenheit. Due to this extreme cold, one would expect water to immediately freeze when it dips to this temperature, but instead, water boils when exposed to outer space. This counter-intuitive effect occurs because of the lack of pressure that would normally keep water molecules together in a liquid or solid form. As a result, water will boil almost instantaneously before the individual molecules freeze.
3. Lemons Have More Sugar than Strawberries
Go ahead and suck on a lemon. It’s understandable if you don’t want to because of the sour flavor contained in a lemon’s juices. You’re more likely going to want to suck on a strawberry, because everyone knows that strawberries are sweeter. However, despite the opposing flavors of these two fruits, it turns out that lemons actually have more sugar than a strawberry of the same weight. The cause of a lemon’s sour flavor is the overpowering presence of citric acid, a compound found in abundance within lemons, triggering taste buds that communicate a sour flavor to your brain rather than the sweet sugar within lemons.
2. The Sun is One Percent Oxygen
One popular and pithy saying is the fact that we are all made of stars. Many of the heavy elements that combine to form planets with solid cores and crusts are derived from nebulae which are often the result of a star going supernova and spreading its elements throughout space, before gravity pulls them back together into a solid form. Almost three-quarters of the sun is made of hydrogen, which, through nuclear fusion, binds the most simple and abundant element in the universe into heavier elements such as helium and carbon. Oxygen is another element that the sun creates through intense heat and pressure, comprising about one percent of its total makeup.
1. The Most Unstable Chemical Ever
Self-destructive chemists consider azidoazide azides to be an exciting group of molecules due to the shear instability of dealing with these types of chemical compounds. One of the most unstable varieties is C2N14, which somehow connects two carbon molecules with fourteen nitrogen molecules, freaking the hell out of any chemist reading this article.
Extremely small amounts of this binary azidotetrazole release huge amounts of energy with very little encouragement. C2N14 responds explosively to being dissolved in solutions, gentle touches, slight movements, looking at the compound and not looking at the compound.
Expert chemists consider it a miracle that they were able to gather any information about this ridiculous chemical through X-ray crystal structure readings.
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