Reviewed by Peter Mahaffy
King’s University College, Edmonton, Canada
University of Western Sydney, Australia
Chemistry education research provides unequivocal evidence of numerous misconceptions that arise from inadequate molecular-level mental models that are based on images of static, single molecules. Examples include: confusion over what a chemical formula, equation or species represents; not knowing the difference between ’melting’ and ’dissolving’; and why ice floats in liquid water.
Odyssey helps to overcome these misconceptions by providing high school and first year undergraduate students and teachers a powerful set of tools to interact with realistic, dynamic, science-based models of bulk substances.
The software uses a force-field dynamics engine to visualise the dynamic behaviour of individual molecules and, much more importantly, multi-particle structures, solutions and processes. Through an impressive collection of 75 molecular labs (a sequenced analysis of simulations for completion as a worksheet), and 70 tutorials and demonstrations (visualisation of concepts using models and simulations), learners can develop an intuitive and robust molecular-level model of the dynamic nature of substances and reactions. They can plot graphs to see the importance of solvation, the relationship between entropy and temperature, how the average kinetic energy of a gas varies with molar mass and temperature, and how the energy of aquation depends on an ion’s charge density.
Simulations of clathrate hydrates, effusion of gas molecules of different sizes through a hole, highlighted collisions between gas molecules producing reactive, transient intermediate species. These and many other thought experiments enable learners to play with ideas at the molecular level and create understanding, much like a child in a sand pit.
Finally, Odyssey includes an electronic model kit, a molecular simulation ’stockroom’ containing hundreds of compounds, and a collection of 85 simulations of everyday substances.
In our experience, Odyssey helps both teachers and learners overcome the ’cult of the single molecule’, while illustrating many of the concepts found in general chemistry.
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