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What is the difference between a chemist and an alchemist?


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Tagging this as 'vce-chemistry' because I'm presuming it's a VCE chemistry related question, but it's somewhat out of scope from a typical VCE chemistry curriculum. Where did the question come from out of curiosity?

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While alchemy involved reactions, alchemy is an ancient practice that predated the scientific method of today. Thus it tended to be informed by mysticism rather than a clear understanding of the physical principles behind reactions.

As a result, the most famous failure of alchemy is the inability to create gold from other substances - which of course is impossible without affecting the nucleus of the atom.

Besides nuclear chemistry which was only harnessed in the 20th century, this is impossible - and today we know reactions occur due to movement in electrons (which are relatively far more distant from the centre of an atom than the nucleus-protons and neutrons- is) - either from atom to atom(or ion) or molecule to molecule in the form of breaking and reforming of covalent bonds.


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