If it stinks, it's chemistry—that's one memory trick some smart-aleck high-school students might recommend to identify the core sciences. But chemistry goes far beyond noxious fumes. It serves as the backbone of our modern society and is essential for a sustainable future and an improved standard of living for all.


To bring that message to people of all ages, the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) have designated 2011 as the International Year of Chemistry, or IYC2011. It happens to coincide with the 100th anniversary of Marie Curie's Nobel Prize in Chemistry.


Officially launched on January 28, IYC2011 will rely on the help of chemical societies, academies and institutions worldwide to increase the public appreciation of chemistry in meeting world needs; boost interest of young people in chemistry; and generate enthusiasm for the creative future of chemistry. Lectures, exhibits and hands-on experiments will explore how chemical research can help solve vexing global problems related to food, water, health, energy and transportation. Check the IYC2011 website for details and activities in your area.


As for Scientific American , we've got a series of articles planned that will explore the cutting edge of chemistry and nanotechnology. The special package will appear in a fall print issue, although you will be able to see early versions on our Web site.


We have also partnered with NBC Learn, which has begun its Chemistry NOW project in conjunction with the National Science Foundation. It features educational videos and other content about chemistry in everyday life. For Valentine's Day, NBC Learn takes a look at the chemistry of chocolate, explaining why the treat is so irresistible thanks in part to its ideal melting temperature and mood-lifting compounds. 



Read our past coverage about the health benefits of the confection:


Chocolate compounds boost blood vessel function


Take Two Chocolates And Call Me In The Morning: Participants in an aspirin study who couldn't swear off chocolate helped researchers find some sweet science.


Sex, Drugs and Chocolate Cake  


Cocoa linked to lower risk of disease 


Logo of IYC2011 courtesy of IUPAC and UNESCO