If we look at the world around us with a beginner's eye, it seems
terrifyingly complex. Everything material is chemical, and everything
is reacting, on one time scale or another. How can we possibly keep
track of what is going on around us, let alone understand the principles
The chemical reactions that go on in our world are more tightly
interlocked than was realized only a few years ago. How can we
manipulate these reactions to our own advantage, and how can we
be sure that if we change things at one place, this will not create
unforeseen troubles somewhere else?
These are real problems, and as the population of this planet
has increased and the resources available recognized as finite,
a great many people have come to ponder such problems. Chemistry,
considered as a technique for managing a small planet, seems much
more formidable now than a few years ago when it was regarded
only as a method of making new plastics and fuels. If you want
to learn something about chemistry today, where do you begin?