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The Chemical Educator

ISSN: 1430-4171 (electronic version)

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Abstract Volume 3 Issue 2 (1998), S1430-4171(98)02189-5

Chemical Kinetics: As Important As The Second Law Of Thermodynamics?

Frank L. Lambert

Occidental College, Los Angeles, CA 90041

Published online: 2 April 1998

Abstract. The second law may be "time's arrow" but activation energies (chemical kinetics) prevent second law predictions from occurring for femtoseconds to eons. This is humanly important: Activation energies not only protect all the organic chemicals in our bodies and our oxidizable possessions from instant combustion in air, but also our breakable skis and surfboards (and legs) from disastrous fracture. Murphy's Law is often applied to chemical and physical mishaps--things going wrong. But things do not always follow the second law and burst into flame or break! Chemical kinetics is the reason Murphy's Law usually fails.

Key Words:  In the Classroom; Murphy’s law; activation energy; physical change; kinetics; thermodynamics; philosophy; time’s arrow

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Article in PDF format (40 KB )

Issue date: April 2, 1998

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