Let’s learn about acids and bases

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acidic: An adjective for materials that contain acid. These materials often are capable of eating away at some minerals such as carbonate, or preventing their formation in the first place.

acidification: A process that lowers the pH of a solution. When carbon dioxide dissolves in water, it triggers chemical reactions that create carbonic acid.

atom: The basic unit of a chemical element. Atoms are made up of a dense nucleus that contains positively charged protons and uncharged neutrons. The nucleus is orbited by a cloud of negatively charged electrons.

bleach: A dilute form of the liquid, sodium hypochlorite, that is used around the home to lighten and brighten fabrics, to remove stains or to kill germs. Or it can mean to lighten something permanently, such as: Being in constant sunlight bleached most of the rich coloring out of the window drapes.

carbon: The chemical element having the atomic number 6. It is the physical basis of all life on Earth. Carbon exists freely as graphite and diamond. It is an important part of coal, limestone and petroleum, and is capable of self-bonding, chemically, to form an enormous number of chemically, biologically and commercially important molecules. (in climate studies) The term carbon sometimes will be used almost interchangeably with carbon dioxide to connote the potential impacts that some action, product, policy or process may have on long-term atmospheric warming.

carbon dioxide: (or CO2) A colorless, odorless gas produced by all animals when the oxygen they inhale reacts with the carbon-rich foods that they’ve eaten. Carbon dioxide also is released when organic matter burns (including fossil fuels like oil or gas). Carbon dioxide acts as a greenhouse gas, trapping heat in Earth’s atmosphere. Plants convert carbon dioxide into oxygen during photosynthesis, the process they use to make their own food.

chemical: A substance formed from two or more atoms that unite (bond) in a fixed proportion and structure. For example, water is a chemical made when two hydrogen atoms bond to one oxygen atom. Its chemical formula is H2O. Chemical also can be an adjective to describe properties of materials that are the result of various reactions between different compounds.

chemical reaction: A process that involves the rearrangement of the molecules or structure of a substance, as opposed to a change in physical form (as from a solid to a gas).

chemistry: The field of science that deals with the composition, structure and properties of substances and how they interact. Scientists use this knowledge to study unfamiliar substances, to reproduce large quantities of useful substances or to design and create new and useful substances. (about compounds) Chemistry also is used as a term to refer to the recipe of a compound, the way it’s produced or some of its properties. People who work in this field are known as chemists. (in social science) A term for the ability of people to cooperate, get along and enjoy each other’s company.

cocoa: A powder derived from the solids (not the fats) in beans that grow on the Theobroma cacao plant, also known as the cocoa tree. Cocoa is also the name of a hot beverage made from cocoa powder (and sometimes other materials) mixed with water or milk.

compound: (often used as a synonym for chemical) A compound is a substance formed when two or more chemical elements unite (bond) in fixed proportions. For example, water is a compound made of two hydrogen atoms bonded to one oxygen atom. Its chemical symbol is H2O.

exponent: A number, shown as a superscript (tiny number to the upper right of some other “base” number or mathematical expression). An exponent identifies how many times that base number or expression must be multiplied by itself.

fossil: Any preserved remains or traces of ancient life. There are many different types of fossils: The bones and other body parts of dinosaurs are called “body fossils.” Things like footprints are called “trace fossils.” Even specimens of dinosaur poop are fossils. The process of forming fossils is called fossilization.

fossil fuel: Any fuel — such as coal, petroleum (crude oil) or natural gas — that has developed within the Earth over millions of years from the decayed remains of bacteria, plants or animals.

hydrogen: The lightest element in the universe. As a gas, it is colorless, odorless and highly flammable. It’s an integral part of many fuels, fats and chemicals that make up living tissues. It’s made of a single proton (which serves as its nucleus) orbited by a single electron.

ion: (adj. ionized) An atom or molecule with an electric charge due to the loss or gain of one or more electrons. An ionized gas, or plasma, is where all of the electrons have been separated from their parent atoms.

logarithm: The power (or exponent) to which one base number must be raised — multiplied by itself — to produce another number. For instance, in the base 10 system, 10 must be multiplied by 10 to produce 100. So the logarithm of 100, in a base 10 system, is 2. In base 10, the logarithm of 1,000 would be 3, the log of 10,000 would be 4, and so on.

molecule: An electrically neutral group of atoms that represents the smallest possible amount of a chemical compound. Molecules can be made of single types of atoms or of different types. For example, the oxygen in the air is made of two oxygen atoms (O2), but water is made of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom (H2O).

mollusks: Soft-bodied invertebrate animals that usually live in water and develop a hard protective shell. Examples include snails, shellfish (like clams and oysters), slugs, octopuses and squids.

oxygen: A gas that makes up about 21 percent of Earth’s atmosphere. All animals and many microorganisms need oxygen to fuel their growth (and metabolism).

particle: A minute amount of something.

pH: A measure of a solution’s acidity or alkalinity. A pH of 7 is perfectly neutral. Acids have a pH lower than 7; the farther from 7, the stronger the acid. Alkaline solutions, called bases, have a pH higher than 7; again, the farther above 7, the stronger the base.

proton: A subatomic particle that is one of the basic building blocks of the atoms that make up matter. Protons belong to the family of particles known as hadrons.

salmon: A popular game fish that tends to live most of its life in the ocean, then enters coastal rivers (and freshwater) to breed and lay eggs.

sea: An ocean (or region that is part of an ocean). Unlike lakes and streams, seawater — or ocean water — is salty.

sharks: A family of primitive fishes that rely on skeletons formed of cartilage, not bone. Like skates and rays, they belong to a group known as elasmobranchs. Then tend to grow and mature slowly and have few young. Some lay eggs, others give birth to live young.

shell: The normally hard, protective outer covering of something. It could cover a mollusk or crustacean (such as a mussel or crab), a bird’s egg or some other relatively soft tissue that needs protection (such as a tree nut or peanut). (in munitions) An explosive bullet, bomb, grenade or other projectile.

solution: A liquid in which one chemical has been dissolved into another.

taste: One of the basic properties the body uses to sense its environment, especially foods, using receptors (taste buds) on the tongue (and some other organs).

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