Sunday, 11 March 2007

S103: Block 8 - Building with atoms, TMA-6

Block 8 - and its wall to wall chemistry.
After the horrors of Block 7 several people found this a bit easier, and some didn't. There are apparently two points in this course when people give up. The first is when they receive the first lot of course material and realise what they have let themselves in for.
The second is about this point when the first of the optional TMA's is presented. The course has been picking up momentum to this point, and I guess its a make or break point. If you had been struggling up to this point, this is probably the straw that breaks the donkeys back.

Anyway, the course covers
Electron orbital theory, then into chemical bonding types.
A chapter on chemical reactions and energy changes, and then a look at taht werid molecule water. This is followed up by discussing chemical equilibrium, and a bit about acids and bases, then its back to rates of chemical reactions, with a brief detour into industrial reactions.
Finally a forrey into organic chemistry, and a look at functional groups and their reactions, rounded of by chapters on polymers and pharmaceuticals.

I found it all very interesting and it left me with more questions than answers in some ways, as only the basics were covered - so I was always left wondering "Yes, but why..."

For the TMA the first question came from block 7. However I found it very easy compared to the depth of material in there. I think I could have answered most of it without reading block 7. There was a bit about energy absorption and emission spectrum's, transmutation of elements and a little bit on half-lifes.
Question 2 was chemical bonding, and drawing structural and lewis formats for bonding.
Question 3 was about pH of acids, and involved calculating the pH of a given solution.
Question 4 got you to explain an industrial reaction with relation to Le Chatelier’s principle, and talk a little about catalysts. This was a descriptive piece mostly.
Question 5 was about polymers, and you had to draw some polymers and report the type of polymerisation being done. Functional groups also had to be labelled.

I didn't find this TMA too difficult, although my dislike of essays didn't help with question 4.

Thursday, 1 March 2007

S204: Book 2 - Generating Diversity

Onwards to book two. Book two is a bit of a mixture - its called Generating Diversity and has quite a mix of chapters.

Chapter 1 is about surviving the winter, and the various strategies that organisms can use to get through that period. It covers things like hibernation, scavenging, and so on.
Chapter 2 looks at food and the various strategies available. Carniovores, herbivores, how digestion works and how often feeding is required.
Chapter 3 looks at diversity through natural selection and the sources of variation.
Chapter 4 is about reproduction, and covers all manner of different breeding strategies, from asexual to sexual and a number of other ways in between.
Chapter 5 is about defence and covers things like immunology, pathogens and so on.
Chapter 6 covers longevity and looks at the causes of death, the trade offs of a longer life and so on.

As I said, its a bit of a mixture, covering a lot of ground. Naturally there is a TMA on this material... It was an interesting book to read, as if you didn't like a particular subject much, it soon changed.