Fortunately for everyone, I am not writing an entire post about an alkane.  I am, however, studying alkanes in my last required semester of chemistry.

As a member of Cornell’s illustrious chemical engineering program, I need no less than five semesters of chemistry plus two semesters of chemistry lab to graduate with the much coveted bachelor of science degree in chemical engineering.  After one semester of general chemistry, getting AP credit for the second semester of gen chem, an entire painful wonderfully enlightening year of physical chemistry, complete with lab, I am currently enrolled in the final required semester of chemistry, organic chemistry (plus lab).  I’d heard from upperclassmen than people tend to strongly prefer either physical chemistry of organic chemistry but I reserve the right to withhold my judgement until at least the second orgo prelim.

We began the year doing nomenclature, then during the past couple weeks we’ve also started on mechanisms and reactions.  It’s been going all right so far, and I think it’s more understandable than the last part of physical chemistry II.  In one of the derivations we did in p-chem II, even after making corrections to the initial general equation to be solved, the answer we got was about 1021 times larger than it should be.  Naturally, the solution is to define a correction factor that equals 10-21 and multiply the derived answer by it.  Problem solved.  If it works in p-chem, my orgo lab results could use some correction factors as well . . .

One of the things that makes organic chemistry different from p-chem, at least up until this point, is that it’s been more visual.  The entire first semester of p-chem is based on the fact that you can’t know exactly where a quantum mechanical particle is (without losing all information about its velocity) and the second semester of p-chem contains things like entropy, which can’t even be measured, let alone drawn.  In contrast, orgo consists of molecules that can be visually represented by various forms of stick drawings as well as by model kits:

And yes, my penguins got in on the fun: