That invisibility, Blum thinks, might also be what makes it so difficult for chemistry to capture the general public’s imagination in the same way that biology and cosmology do. “It’s so much easier with some of the other sciences to create a picture in people’s minds,” Blum says. “I think we are a species that responds to image really well, and it’s hard with chemistry.”
Also, Blum says, chemistry is tied to environmental risk in a way that most other sciences are not. “I do think you have to be honest about that.” Nevertheless, she says, we can’t ignore chemistry just because it has inherent risks. It’s not so much that we have to admire every aspect of chemistry, Blum explains, but it’s important to recognize that chemistry is fundamental to the way we navigate the world.
“I’m not trying to sell chemistry,” Blum continues. As a journalist, she says, that’s not her job. Rather, she sees it as her responsibility to share her fascination with chemistry. Sometimes that means highlighting when and how the science has gone wrong.Deborah Blum points to something that is really true about chemistry; industrial chemistry has a legacy that is often less than positive, and it's difficult to give a sense of optimism about chemistry when the likeliest question that you get from folks is "is this stuff gonna kill me?" or "isn't there a natural way to fertilize our crops/cure our diseases/power our society?"
I agree with her that chemistry is fundamental to modern life - and maybe that's part of the problem? So many people are ambivalent about the trade-offs that are inherent to our modern, chemistry-powered life. Perhaps there is an aspect of escapism to physics (and maybe biology?) - that's just something that most chemical research just doesn't have.