Qualities of a Body of Knowledge
What are some relevant qualities by which we may judge the quality of a body of knowledge? We can start with the ratios of rules to facts and of facts to phenomena. We'll go on with the universality of principles, the extent of knowledge, and the simplicity & organizing power of concepts. So when we look at chemistry, what do we see?
In chemistry, there are too many rules for the facts we know. There are too many facts for the phenomena we know. Rules are so far from universal that they can never be called principles - as proved by the fact you can't name a single one that belongs entirely to chemistry. Knowledge of phenomena is very limited. And all concepts are ad hoc, baroque and with limited power.
Principles of Chemistry
But what about "Ka x Kb = Kw" and "all endothermic reactions speed up with increasing temperature"?
The problem with those principles is that they are very far from universal. Although chemicals can be acids or bases, most of them are neither. How exactly is it meaningful to talk about the pH of Uranium Oxide? Or steel? And as for reactions, the problem there is that chemical reactions consume themselves and so they have a nasty tendency of being intermittent. We're not talking then about something that persists but rather something that flickers to life and then winks out. Most chemicals are not in the middle of a reaction!
Concepts of Chemistry
What exactly are the fundamental concepts of chemistry anyways? The chemical bond is one. Unfortunately, talking about the universal laws of bonding would just be a repetition of quantum electrodynamics and electrostatic attraction.
Valence shell electron theory is a staple of chemistry. It explains the periodicity of Mendeleev's table. But Mendeleev's table itself explains nothing further. It only talks about how some chemicals are similar to other chemicals, not why they are the way they are in the first place.
Chemistry doesn't explain why there's two electrons to an orbital (physics does that) and it doesn't explain the shapes or numbers of orbitals (physics sortof does that). Hell, it's not even possible to account for the colour of gold without dragging general relativity into the mix!
Actually, if anything has any claim to being a fundamental concept of chemistry, it's orbitals. That's because orbitals are critical in chemistry yet they are far too complex to compute using physics. They're an emergent property.
Pity the orbitals don't really matter in the far reaches of chemistry. Certainly, everything is made out of them, but it doesn't seem to matter. Probably because when it comes down to it, there's only a few of them that matter at all.
Let's compare with physics.
A Brief Look At Physics
Absolutely everything in the physical universe is made out of energy. For something to even exist, it has to be made out of energy.
Do you know why photons can only travel at the speed of light? It's because if they didn't then there would be a reference frame in which they are at rest. And since their rest mass is zero, this would mean they have absolutely no energy. Thus there would be a reference frame in which a photon does not exist and another in which it does exist. And that's absurd.
Literally, Physical Existence = Energy.
Space then is a near-universal. Everything exists in space except for space itself. Space may or may not be a property that emerged from superstrings.
Information is another near-universal. Everything that exists save possibly space itself holds information in order to exist. The laws of thermodynamics are laws about information. 'entropy' can be defined as 'information we don't care about' thus neatly demonstrating why it has no role in the fundamental laws of physics. Information is a conserved quantity which follows specific laws.
From these concepts alone, it is possible to formulate a theorem about the maximum possible rate of computation in a volume of space at any non-zero temperature. Any attempt to compute more would require more energy, which would increase the energy density past the point a black hole would form which would disconnect you from the heat sink and destroy your ability to compute anything. That is a pretty fantastic thing when you think about it.
And Back To Chemistry
Chemistry has nothing like it. There are a few different orbitals and there are a few types of bonds ... but there seem to be too few types of bond to matter and the different orbitals hardly matter. So no universal laws and no universal theorems. I'm not sure why chemistry is so fragmented but it's a shame.
And that's why chemistry is an inferior body of knowledge.
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