YOU’RE SURROUNDED BY molecules. Small molecules—your ethanols, your methanes, your H2Os. But also big ones—the polymers, long chains of carbons and nitrogens and oxygens all strung together in impossibly complex combinations and orientations. If you’re a chemist, you see those molecules in everything, whether or not you actually see them: in the smell of pine trees and the feel of conditioner on your hair and the whiff of leather in a new car.
If you’re a non-chemist, you can still see those molecules. But not in some Beautiful Mind-like overlay of the world’s atoms and bonds—more like in difficult-to-pronounce, multisyllabic words on nutrition facts labels and ingredients lists that may or may not give you PTSD from that one semester of organic chemistry. If you’ve ever wondered just what the hell stearoxytrimethylsilane is and what exactly it’s doing in your face wash, these sources are here to help.