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Science boost

Posted 23/08/2011 by KatieJ

Is science finally going through the resurgence that we have all been waiting for? Certainly there are some signs, if the latest GCSE A-level results are anything to go by. And does this bode well for chemistry or is it the other natural sciences that are benefiting?

Many observers have suggested that this greater interest in science has been sparked by television – originally, it was the US crime and forensic science series CSI, which in its many versions was said to be responsible for a rise particularly, and not unexpectedly, in forensic science, but more recently the so-called ‘Brian Cox effect’ has been referred to as a key driver in the popularity of science programmes.

Yes, scientists can be trendy, as Professor Brian Cox and Brian May from the rock group Queen amply demonstrate. Cox was himself was previously involved in music group D:Ream, whose ‘Things can only get better’ was adopted by former prime minister Tony Blair and the Labour Party for its election campaign back in 1997.

Chemistry, however, doesn’t have music stars among its ranks, although one could say that Harry Kroto is a world star for his research work on fullerenes. Both Cox and May are physicists although in a recent survey by the Royal Society that asked notable scientists: ‘Why science? Cox did answer: ‘Because without science we would be living in caves. It is the reason for everything we enjoy about our lives.’ So there is an implied compliment to chemistry in his answer, but we need to have some famous chemists speaking out today to show that chemistry is just as important, or perhaps even more important, as it ever has been.

Chemistry also doesn’t suffer from the problems that other branches of science appear to be experiencing, as C&I contributor Jon Evans points out in his new book. Evans believes that this enhanced interest in science is driven by people who want to bring their scientific knowledge up to date, as they find that the science they were taught at school is now considered wrong. He quotes the example of the planet Pluto, which is now no longer classified as a planet.

At least with chemistry, we don’t have that kind of problem – or do we?

Neil Eisberg - Editor

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