National Chemistry Week: The Chemistry of Sports

Think chemistry and the World Series have nothing in common? Think again. If the ball the pitcher’s throwing is too cold, you can forget about watching a home run—a cold ball won’t spring off the bat as fast as a warm one.

Chemistry is about more than memorizing the Periodic Table (or wondering if your date to the prom will work out.) National Chemistry Week is October 19-25, and this year’s theme is the chemistry of sports.

Chemistry makes sports happen. Remember those snazzy, full body suits the swimmers wore at the Beijing Olympics this summer? They were designed by NASA scientists to increase speed and required chemistry to weave the special fibers for the suits. Those crazy-colored sports drinks everyone chugs at practice? Keep on chugging them because they are designed to restore the water and salts your body loses when you exercise heavily. Gatorade, for example, is packed with potassium, calcium, sodium and magnesium, which are all electrolytes your body loses when you work out.

Chemistry extends beyond sports into other “everyday things” and chemists work in a variety of ways. They develop wine and beer, work in forensics, pharmaceuticals, agriculture and environmental research. Who would have thought that a chemist could improve the taste of buttermilk, instant coffee and mayonnaise. And George Washington Carver, an agricultural chemist, discovered hundreds of uses for peanuts, soybeans and sweet potatoes that gave small farmers new tools to be sustainable. His peanut discoveries helped farmers make dyes, paints, plastics, gasoline, nitroglycerin and cosmetics.

When do you use chemistry in your daily life?

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