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Chemistry for Breakfast: The Amazing Science of Everyday Life

Chemistry for Breakfast: The Amazing Science of Everyday Life PDF

Author: Mai Thi Nguyen-Kim

Publisher: Greystone Books


Publish Date: April 13, 2021

ISBN-10: 1771647485

Pages: 240

File Type: Epub

Language: English

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Book Preface

I WAS A pretty ugly baby. I was born with jaundice and refused to eat or drink. Seriously concerned, my parents did everything they could to feed me as much as possible—and continued to do so long after my health improved. As a result, I became a real butterball. When my hair began to grow, I developed the asymmetrical receding hairline of an elderly man. Naturally, my parents thought I was the most beautiful baby in the world.

As a chemist, I sometimes feel like the mother of an ugly child whose beauty only I can see. Most people see chemistry as evil, poisonous, artificial. Or they remember how much they hated it at school and couldn’t wait to drop the class. Convincing these people that my baby is beautiful is a science in itself.

At best, people have no idea what chemistry entails. They look at me, wide-eyed and clueless, and ask, “And what can you do with chemistry?”

Sometimes I’d like to shake them by the shoulders and yell “EVERYTHING!!! Chemistry is EVERYTHING!!!” For example, delicious food is one of my earliest associations with chemistry—my father is both a chemist and an excellent cook. He told me that all chemists are good cooks. If you can’t cook, then you’re not a good chemist. When I started to develop an interest in cosmetics at the age of thirteen, my father was able to explain everything involved there too—the chemical structure of color pigments, how volumizing hair spray works, and the pH value of face cream. For me, chemistry has always been part of everyday life.

Since studying chemistry, I have been beyond help. Whether I’m drinking coffee, brushing my teeth, or exercising, I think about adenosine receptors, fluorides, and metabolic enzymes. If I go for a walk in the sunshine, I think about melanin and vitamin D; if I cook noodles, my mind turns to boiling-point elevation and starch polymers. And I’ve become a pretty good cook too—I wouldn’t be a good chemist otherwise.

Many people have very specific ideas not only about chemistry itself, but also about the people who work in the field. I’m often told that I don’t look like a chemist. The success of The Big Bang Theory may have made it socially acceptable to be a nerd, but it also showcased many clichés—for example, that it’s categorically impossible to be an expert and have social skills. This is just one of the many clichés we scientists have to fight. Scientists are unfamiliar creatures who spend their lives in laboratories or surrounded by bookshelves. Nobody knows what we look like, whether we have hobbies, or whether we even have friends. Are scientists humans too? There’s just no way of knowing.

During my doctorate, I decided to start a YouTube channel called The Secret Life of Scientists. I wanted my videos to give a face to science. I didn’t just want to show how cool science is, but also how cool scientists are. This mission is like a complex research project, and I’m still working on it today. I now also produce the maiLab YouTube channel for the German content network funk and present the German TV series Quarks.

So why write a book as well? Because I want to really let off some steam. This book invites you into my chemist’s brain and provides a brief insight into my everyday life as a science journalist and YouTuber. Above all, however, I want you to read this book, look deep into the eyes of chemistry, and succumb to its irresistible charm. And if I’m right to believe that humans are curious creatures, then reading this book will show you not only that chemistry really is everything, but maybe even how beautiful this science can be.



1. Obsessed with Chemistry

2. Death by Toothpaste

3. Down with Chemism!

4. Sitting Is the New Smoking

5. Chaotic by Nature

6. What’s in It for Me?

7. Baby Dinosaurs and Monster Burgers

8. Covalently Compatible

9. Chemistry Stinks

10. There’s Something in the Water

11. Culinary Therapy

12. The Right Chemistry

13. A Passion for Facts



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