What’s inside of a zit? Why does eating turkey make you sleepy? How do glow sticks work? What causes a hangover? Chemistry (and this book!) holds answers to all of these questions. There are many wonderful stories about chemistry and the people behind these discoveries. Whether you have studied chemistry in high school or college, or even do chemistry for a living, we think you will enjoy this book. We certainly enjoyed writing it.

As you will see right away, our approach is quite different from a textbook. If you’re curious about the answers to hundreds of interesting questions about all the things in the world that you touch, feel, and taste every day, then you’ve come to the right place. The Handy Chemistry Answer Book uses a simple question-and-answer format to explain the chemistry in our daily lives. There are entire chapters on sustainable chemistry, the chemistry of cooking, and the chemistry of space. Some of these are questions we got from people like you! The questions in the chapter called “The World around Us” were all submitted from college students at the University of Michigan (our alma mater—Go Blue!) and Brandeis University.

We think that you’ve probably wondered, for just one more example, what sodium laureth sulfate is doing in your shampoo, but maybe never had a chance to ask. We are interested in explaining these things in plain language, and we’ve kept a conversational tone throughout the entire book, even with some very challenging subject matter. We hope that reading this book feels like you’re talking to someone about chemistry, even if you wouldn’t be caught dead doing that. There are chemical structures throughout this book, and we’ve used a simplified drawing system. Take what you can from these abstract drawings, but don’t dwell on them. Focus on the stories we’re trying to tell about molecules. And if you have a chemistry question you’d like to ask, or a chemistry story you’d like to share with us, please drop us an email. Finally, we both really enjoy working at our corporations and institutes of higher learning, respectively, and want to continue to do so for years to come. So every fact, implication, mistake, and opinion expressed herein is absolutely ours and ours alone,

and do not in any way represent the opinion or position of our employers, or any other person or organization.


Ian Stewart Justin Lomont

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