Physiology: Chemistry - An Introduction

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What Is Chemistry?

Material chemistry: plastics, metal, etc

Biochemistry: chemistry of living things

Sensory neurochemistry: music

Pharmacology: psychoactive drugs

Sleep: melatonin

Alcohol: beer and wine

Caffeine: coffee

Food: proteins, fats, carbohydrates

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Animals in Chemistry

Cone Snail: most venomous animal

Platypus: venomous (neurotoxins)

Sharks: fancy blood

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Life Processes in Chemistry

Reproduction: hormones and pheromones

Movement: actin and myosin

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Basic Life Processes








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Chemistry Basics

Elements are 'pure' substances, which can't be broken down any further by conventional processes.

The existing elements can be combined to make all the other stuff that exists.

Elements consist of atoms, which are made of particles: protons, neutrons and electrons. 

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Elements in Living Things

Most living things contain similar elements: this is because we all share the same evolutionary origin.

This is useful: it allows animals to eat plants, and other animals, to gain energy and material to grow. 

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Life on Earth

Mainly contains carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and hydrogen. 

These probably came from space as meteorites and bits of comets. 

C^6 (12.01) 

H^1 (1.01)

O^8 (15.99)

N^7 (14.01)

Other elements important to living things: phosphates to make ATP for energy, and calcium for bones and shells.

P^15 (30.97)

Ca^20 (40.08)

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Periodic Table

Atomic number: number of protons

Mass number: number of protons and neutrons

The number of protons defines what an element is.

Isotopes: elements with different numbers of neutrons.

Radioisotopes: radioactive isotopes

Extra neutrons make the atom unstable.

Over time it can change into a different element by radioactive decay. 

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Radiocarbon Dating & Labelling

Can be used to measure the age of ancient carbon-containing materials, such as wood and bones.

After death, the amount of carbon 14 decays at a known rate: measuring the amount of carbon 14 left can help estimate the age: it works for things between 10,000 and 60,000 years old.

Radioactive isotopes can also be used to investigate physiological processes in living things.

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Atoms and Electrons

Atoms use electrons to make compounds. 

It is the interchanging or sharing of electrons which lets atoms join together and make compounds. 

Electron shells: the negatively charged electrons are arranged in layers around the nucleus of protons and neutrons. 

These aren't actual physical layers, they are more like energy levels. 

2 electrons go into the first shell, 8 in the second, 8 in the third...

Full electron shells = stability

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Periodic Table

Elements are arranged so the columns indicate outer number of electrons and therefore similar properties.

E.g. all of the group 1 metals are very radioactive

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