So, what does it mean to have an International Year of Chemistry? What should it properly celebrate or advance?
I think we chemists have a bit of a professional inferiority complex. The physicists have control over astronomy and space science with its endless pageant of high profile activities and imagery. Glamor-boy physicists have numerous programs on cable channels. Any synthetic utterance of Steven Hawking turns into a documentary. Medical science people are glorified to embarrassing levels for the most slender blips of therapeutic progress. Begoggled chemists do flash-bang demonstrations for whomever will watch.
Who will love us for the gift of cheap and abundant synthetic goods? Who will love and adore us for our facility with bond making and breaking? How many times has the product of your long endeavor been little more than a clear, colorless oil or a white crystalline solid? Besides you, who could boggle at this? Who will stop and take in a lingering look and shake their head in admiration and wonderment?
I think chemists should clam up about what it is that makes our field so endlesslly fascinating. We should resist the urge to share the wonder with the world. We should be stingy with the insights and the beauty. Call it “The Craft” and make it a mystery. Create scarcity and let the world pay a premium for us to divulge our hard won wisdom. If we want to create a buzz, then why not try to be quiet about it? The world adores a mystery.