Here is a quick refresher, or primer, on all the science you’ll ever need to know. (If you believe that, have I got a deal for you!)

Matter

There are three states of matter: solid, liquid, and gas. For water, these are ice, water, and vapor or steam. Generally when the temperature goes up, the state of matter changes from solid to liquid, then from liquid to gas. Sometimes it goes straight from solid to gas. This is called sublimation.

Energy

All matter contains energy. Energy is “where the action is” with regard to science – but we actually know very little about it. Quantum physics is the study of… never mind. Energy can be in different forms. Examples: thermal (heat), electrical, nuclear, magnetic, mechanical (a.k.a. kinetic), chemical, and more…

Chemistry

Atoms are the basic units of chemistry. An element is matter that is made of atoms that all have the same number of electrons. Examples of elements are carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, and sulphur.

A compound (also called a chemical compound) is made up of molecules. A molecule is the smallest indivisible bit of a pure chemical compound. Some examples of chemical compounds include water, ammonia, salt, carbon dioxide, and ethanol.

When chemical reactions take place, electrons are exchanged between molecules and new chemicals are formed. Molecules aren’t necessarily made up of different elements. For example, an oxygen molecule is made of two oxygen atoms bound together.

Ions are electrically charged molecules that have lost or gained electrons. For example, as salt (sodium chloride) is dissolved in water, the sodium chloride molecule “breaks apart” into chloride ions and sodium ions. These ions combine with the hydrogen (H) and hydroxy (OH) ions of the water. In the salt water solution, these reactions – where compounds are being formed then broken apart again - are constantly taking place.

I have told you these things because an awareness of them is frequently important when working with food. Now, don’t you feel smarter?