Friday, August 3, 2007

Application of Laws of Chemistry to Our Everyday Life

This Article is Meant for Amusement

This is part of a closing ceremony speech which I delivered at the first National Chemistry Week held on 23rd June 2007 at the NUS. The audience included members of the public, students and personnel of firms that had participated.

I am greatly honoured to be here to perform this closing ceremony for the First National Chemistry Week. The event is a great success. My grandchildren and friends told me how much they enjoyed themselves. My adult friends told me they enjoyed their visit to the Breweries, especially the free beers. Many Singaporeans know more about Chemistry now and what it can do for them.

I like to congratulate SNIC , the President Prof Andy Hor, the chairperson of the organizing committee Dr. Leong Lai Peng and all those involved for a job well done. I know how much work is involved. Let us give them all a big hand.

NUS has produced a brochure on Chemistry, The Central Science. I wish I had a copy of this brochure before I studied Chemistry in the University. I recommend those who are interested to study Chemistry or Science to get a copy of this brochure. It tells you everything you need to know about Chemistry. What you can learn, the courses and research activities now available, what the Department of Chemistry is like and even what you can expect your future to be with Chemistry. No one showed me this crystal ball during my time. I groped around finding my own niches.

Aim high with Chemistry. Hitch your wagon to a star. Chemistry and Singapore A-Star are good stars to hitch to. Your rewards are the “pies in the sky” that you can get. I am not here to sell you Chemistry, the magic pill that can cure all your ills. However I like to share with you the pleasures I had and enjoyed with Chemistry throughout my life. Chemistry has been my great teacher. Chemistry has taught me one great thing. Always make the Chemistry right and all will be well. Who are the best people to do that, making the Chemistry right, the Chemists of course. The theories and laws we study in chemistry are universally applicable if you know how to apply them. Let me give you some examples.

We have boys and girls everywhere; in our work places, in the universities and our communities. They are biologically compatible, they like to get married and yet many do not get married. Why? Even our government is worried and they have set up the SDU. The answer is quite simple. They have not got the chemistry right! Without getting the proper types of people (molecules) together, ensuring that the environments (the media, the pH, the temperature, the pressure, the catalysts required and the 5 C's etc) are right, no reactions will occur. I applied my knowledge of chemistry when I was courting my wife. It worked. I am sure you can make it work too with a little help from your knowledge of chemistry. This special reaction has to be done by you, yourself unless you can accept an arranged marriage with its attendant difficulties. Chemistry graduates can make good marriage counselors.

Making the chemistry right for people to cooperate with each other is very important and is good business. With proper networking we managed to get thousands of people to work together and raised millions of dollars for the various projects we did. If you can make the chemistry right, you can get what you want. Some people classified fund raising and marketing as an art. I believe it is more of a skill in chemistry where chemists can do very well. The Department of Chemistry should consider teaching this skill as a specialty and a topic for special research. Chemistry has discovered thousands of ways to make difficult reactions work. Why not apply this knowledge to solve real life problems. I am sure this will be a very popular course.

The chemists must not confine themselves to the laboratories alone. You cannot think outside the box when you are inside the box. Get out like what has been done during this National Chemistry Week. You are also needed outside the laboratories where you can catalyse and initiate actions that affect the lives of others. I know my grandchildren and their friends are very impressed by the activities you showed them.

Mathematics used to be the Queen of Science. Now, Chemistry is the King of Science. Its laws are universally applicable to so many things. As chemists we are proud of that. Chemistry has served us well. Let us support our King to deliver what is expected. Know more about chemistry, you can’t go wrong.

Lee Kum Tatt

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