Figure 2. Commercial bottles of (left to right) aspirin (= acetylsalicic acid; source), acetylsalicic acid (= aspirin; source), baking soda (= sodium bicarbonate; source), and sodium bicarbonate (= baking soda; source).
Everyone knows that aspirin is a commonly used over-the-counter drug and baking soda is a safe household product. What can you say about the other two bottles? Would it be safe to open them outside of a fume hood? Are the chemicals in these two bottles poisonous or carcinogenic? Can they spontaneously catch fire? Could they be used in households and, if not, how should they be disposed of in a safe and environmentally friendly manner? A chemist would just laugh at all of these questions because aspirin is a trade name for acetylsalicylic acid and baking soda is a common name for sodium bicarbonate.
It helps to be educated. Alas, there are some dishonest people around. It has always been like that and it always will be. It is your knowledge that is the best protection you can get against those who want to fool you.
Another benefit of being chemistry-educated is that it can help you save money in your everyday life. Suppose you need some over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drug such as Advil, Motrin or Ibuprofen. If you know that all three are the same compound (rac-2-(p-isobutylphenyl)propionic acid) with no difference
in strength or likelihood of side effects, you will certainly consider getting 100 200-mg tablets of Ibuprofen for only $2 (Walmart) instead of paying $8-10 for the same quantity of Motrin or Advil tablets in the same store, or even more elsewhere.
From this course, you will be able to learn not only about baking soda, aspirin, and ibuprofen. You will also learn what man-made organic polymer fiber is stronger than steel, whether or not brown sugar is more nutritious than regular white sugar, why mixing laundry bleach with vinegar is not a good idea, and many other things that are helpful to know. The course, however, is not just a collection of useful facts and entertaining stories. It is a real chemistry course for the beginners. To learn more, keep reading.