Chemistry Misconceptions

Sources of Wisdom

1. Objects float in water because they are lighter than water.
2. Objects sink in water because they are heavier than water.
3. Mass/volume/weight/heaviness/size/density may be perceived as equivalent.
4. Wood floats and metal sinks.
5. All objects containing air float.
6. Liquids of high viscosity are also liquids with high density.
7. Adhesion is the same as cohesion
8. Heating air only makes it hotter.
9. Pressure and force are synonymous.
10. Pressure arises from moving fluids.
11. Moving fluids contain higher pressure.
12. Liquids rise in a straw because of “suction.”
13. Fluid pressure only acts downward.
14. Heat is a substance.
15. Heat is not energy.
16. Temperature is a property of a particular material or object–––metal is naturally cooler than plastic.
17. The temperature of an object depends on its size.
18. Heat and cold are different, rather than being opposite ends of a continuum.
19. When temperature at boiling remains constant, something is “wrong.”
20. Boiling is the maximum temperature a substance can reach.
21. Ice cannot change temperature.
22. Objects of different temperature that are in contact with each other, or in contact with air at different temperature, do not necessarily move toward the same temperature.
23. Heat only travels upward, it rises.
24. The kinetic theory does not really explain heat transfer. (It is recited but not believed).
25. Objects that readily become warm, are good conductors of heat, do not readily become cold.
26. The bubbles in boiling water contain “air,” “oxygen,” or “nothing,” rather than water vapor.
27. Gases are not matter because most are invisible.
28. Gases do not have mass.
29. A “thick” liquid has a higher density than water.
30. Mass and volume, which both describe an “amount of matter,” are the same property.
31. Air and oxygen are the same gas.
32. Helium and hot air are the same gas.
33. Expansion of matter is due to expansion of particles rather than to increased particle spacing.
34. Particles of solids have no motion.
35. Relative particle spacing among solids, liquids and gases (1:1:10) is incorrectly perceived and not generally related to the density of the states.
36. Materials can only exhibit properties of one state of matter.
37. Particles possess the same properties as the materials they compose. For example, atoms of copper are “orange and shiny,” gas molecules are transparent, and solid molecules are hard.
38. Melting/freezing and boiling/condensation are often understood only in terms of water.
39. Particles are viewed as mini-versions of the substances they comprise.
40. Particles are often misrepresented in sketches. No differentiation is made between atoms and molecules.
41. Particles misrepresented and undifferentiated in concepts involving elements, compounds, mixtures, solutions and substances.
42. Frequent disregard for particle conservation and orderliness when describing changes.
43. Absence of conservation of particles during a chemical change.
44. Chemical changes perceived as additive, rather than interactive. After chemical change the original substances are perceived as remaining, even though they are altered.
45. Failure to perceive that individual substances and properties correspond to certain types of particles formation of a new substance with new properties is seen as simple happening rather than as the result of particle rearrangement.