Monday, March 16, 2009

Chemistry In Our Lives

Chemistry is a part of our daily lives even though we don’t always think about it or find it relevant to our own individual lives. Sports and fitness have become a very important and popular part of our culture, which have both been affected by chemistry. The value and importance of chemistry has led to an increase in student interest to promote it to others. Everyday athletes interact with synthetic and natural chemicals that play a vital role in their performance. The advancement and progression of science has led to a dramatic increase in its use in sports, which in turn has made sports more complex and questionable as well. Race cars are using lighter materials to drive faster; basketball players are using lighter shoes to move quicker; fishermen are using more complex materials to catch more fish. These advanced materials are known as “high-performance” equipment. It is true that supplements and technology do not make the athlete, but it is not to say that athletes are without the benefits of chemistry. Chemistry plays an extremely important role in athletic performance, and sports would not be what they are today without its use.

The impact of chemistry is evident in a wide range of sports. Golf clubs, once composed of aluminum or steel shafts, are now made of composite fibers or polymers, such as Kevlar, to launch golf balls at higher velocities while maintaining accuracy (Giffin 814). “On the course itself, polymers are used to encapsulate fertilizers that slowly release their nutrients to ensure immaculate fairways and a smooth roll of the golf ball on lush greens” (Giffin 814). In football, modern shoulder pads are made of polyethylene and and polycarbonates, and much of the clothing is made of polyesters (Giffin 814). In tennis, rackets are composed of carbon composite materials that can have a larger head and a larger sweet spot, resulting in increased power and control (Giffin 814). In track, modern pole-vaulting poles are composite materials of carbon and fiberglass, which provide greater flexibility and strength to propel the pole-vaulters to higher marks. Many athletes in these sports use polyester clothing, which provides low air resistance and moves perspiration away from the body. Elasticity, strength, and lightweight are all characteristics of this type of clothing, which is valuable to the athletes. This “high-performance” sporting equipment not only benefits athletes because of their chemical composition but also how they are constructed and designed. Even though sports have become as complex as they are right now, scientific research is continually progressing and scientists are searching for new ways to develop materials.

In relation to the chemistry involved in athletic materials, the chemical compounds in sports medicine and supplements are also used to help the athlete. Steroids and Creatine are two of the most popular performance-enhancing drugs that athletes use for athletic enhancement. Not only do athletes use drugs for muscle enhancement, there are other widely accepted supplements such as sports drinks like Gatorade. “Sports drinks are a lucrative market with more than $2.4 billion in sales in 1999” (Giffin 815). They provide energy sources such as fructose and replace lost electrolytes such as sodium and potassium. In conclusion, it is important to understand how chemistry is involved in our daily lives.

Unfamiliar Terms:
1) High-performance: materials that are stronger, more resilient, and lighter weight than traditional materials such as wood and steel
2) Polymers: high-molecular-weight organic compounds comprising many smaller repeating molecular units
3) Polyethylene: a plastic polymer of ethylene used chiefly for containers, electrical insulation, and packaging
4) Polycarbonate: a synthetic thermoplastic resin, a linear polymer of carbonic acid, used for molded products, films, and nonbreakable windows
5) Polyester: any of numerous synthetic polymers produced chiefly by reaction of dibasic acids with dihydric alcohols and used primarily as light, strong, weather-resistant resins in boat hulls, textile fibers, adhesives, and molded parts
6) Creatine: an amino acid, C4H9N3O2, that is a constituent of the muscles of vertebrates and is phosphorylated to store energy used for muscular contraction
7) Electrolytes: any of certain inorganic compounds, mainly sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, chloride, and bicarbonate, that dissociate in biological fluids into ions capable of conducting electrical currents and constituting a major force in controlling fluid balance within the body

I think this article is very interesting and love the point it is making to athletes and students. It is trying to get us to realize how much chemistry is involved in our daily lives and how important it is to realize it. Chemistry has very valuable information to offer and the more educated we are about drugs, supplements, and scientific materials the better decisions we can make for ourselves and pass on that knowledge to others. Also, knowledge about drugs and supplements will have a great effect on our psychological and physiological health so it pays to be well informed. Many people are too easily persuaded by advertisements and the media that they buy and consume whatever they believe could work for them, which results in the loss of a lot of money and a loss of health sometimes. And understanding how chemistry works helps so much in creating products for athletes that keep them safe and comfortable. If football players today wore leather helmets like they used to, then there would probably many deaths in the sport, which is why they wear such protective pads. This knowledge will really pay off in the long run for everyone.

Giffin, Guinevere A., Steven R. Boone, and Scott E. Mckay. "Modern Sport and
Chemistry: What a Chemically Aware Sports Fanatic Should Know." Chemistry for
Everyone 79. 7: 813-19.

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