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Tutor profile: Cliff Y.

Cliff Y.
Math and Science Tutor

Questions

Subject: Organic Chemistry

TutorMe
Question:

How can I tell if SN1 or SN2 will occur?

Cliff Y.
Answer:

Both SN1 and SN2 are substitution reactions require a good nucleophile and a good leaving group. SN2 occurs in one step, when the nucleophile forces of the leaving group. On the other hand, SN1 occurs in two steps - the leaving group leaves first and then the nucleophile comes in. What determines which reaction occurs is the steric bulk of the compound with a leaving group. Substitution is kind of like playing "king of the hill" where the goal of the nucleophile is to push the leaving group off of the electrophile. If the hill is covered in grass which does not hinder movement, the nucleophile can come in easily and push the king off. This is similar to primary electrophiles, since hydrogens do not take up much space. But if there are lots of obstacles like fences and trees on that hill (lots of other things on the molecule), the nucleophile is not as likely to want to try to push the king off, instead waiting for the king to leave. Using the number of substituents on an electrophile, we can predict whether SN1 or SN2 will occur.

Subject: Chemistry

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Question:

Why can we change the coefficients in balancing chemical equations but not the subscripts?

Cliff Y.
Answer:

In a chemical equation, the coefficients in front of each compound and the subscript after each element tell us very different things. The subscript tells us what chemical compounds we are using, which are identified by the amounts of each elements in that compound. This matters because in a given chemical reaction, certain compounds are required for it to occur and they are not interchangeable. For example, the complete combustion of gasoline results mainly in carbon dioxide (CO2) and water (H2O). If we were to change the subscripts on water slightly, to H2O2, we would be making hydrogen peroxide, a completely different compounds. This is kind of like baking, where we have a list of ingredients and we cannot change the identity of the ingredients. While the subscripts cannot be changed, the coefficients can be changed. The coefficients tell us how much of each compound we have. In order to balance the equation, we can simply add more of what we need, just like in baking we can add more of something or less of something. This is why we change the coefficients in balancing chemical equations instead of the subscripts.

Subject: Calculus

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Question:

Why do we calculate the derivatives of functions?

Cliff Y.
Answer:

The derivative of a function tells us how fast the function is changing at a specific point on the graph. Once you have the derivative, you can find this change at any point on the graph (for which the derivative exists). A visual way of thinking of the derivative is a graph of the slope at each point on the function.

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