Let me begin by saying that 3.091 is the most important class you will take at MIT. It’s true. But, you know, anybody who stands in front of you to lecture should say the same thing about his or her class. If they don’t believe that they shouldn’t be standing in front of you lecturing. The difference is, when I say it, I’m right.
See, I have tenure. So what does that mean? It means you find your passion and pursue it. You don’t waste time on trivia. And that’s what I urge you to do: find your passion and pursue it.
Making safe batteries out of earth-abundant, accessible materials for portable power, ultimately to drive the car with electrons, electric fuel, to eliminate this country’s dependence on imported petroleum — we can do it. How? By inventing. And the way we’re going to invent is to learn the lessons in 3.091 that will give us the chemistry we need to invent a battery that can send that car 250 miles on a single charge, and put it in a show room for the same price as a car with an internal combustion engine. The only thing that stands between that image and where we are today is invention, and the requisite material is right here in this class.
And then, lastly, let’s never forget about dreaming.
What are the origins of chemistry? The ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs refer to khemeia, which was a chemical process for embalming the dead. You know the Egyptians were very fixated on the afterlife. And the chemists were revered in that society — not like here.
Newlands was a musician and he talked about octaves. So if you start here, if this is a diatonic scale, so this is C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C. So potassium lies an octave away from sodium. He was ridiculed. They said, have you considered perhaps putting the elements in alphabetical order? They were cruel. Scientists can be very cruel to new ideas.