The October special issue is dedicated to lifestyle

Have you come across Perfume: the story of a murderer by Patrick Süskind? I was reminded of it after reading The art of translation, one of this month’s comment pieces about the science of odours and scents. Perfume tells the story of Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, who is born with a superhuman sense of smell and goes on to create the world’s finest perfume. His work, however, takes a dark turn as he becomes obsessed with the search for the ultimate scent. No dark turn here, but the authors of Perfume and The art of translation have something in common: their passion for perfumes, the science behind their creation and an understanding of the psychology of perfume. Also, they both raise an interesting point: describing odours is extremely difficult because there isn’t a common language or vocabulary to use, certainly not one that is descriptive enough or anywhere near universal. It is also an incredibly abstract, intangible and subjective area and, to make matters worse, odours and fragrances are not easily measurable: can you count smells? Can you rate their strength? Of course, these are some of the reasons that perfumes are so fascinating for scientists.

The art of translation is part of the selection of articles we have included in the October special issue, which this year focuses on lifestyle. In previous years, we’ve covered energy, food, health, water and transport so, in what constitutes quite a departure from ‘the more traditional topics’, we’ve decided to dedicate this issue to hair products, cosmetics, perfumes, fashion and the like. But fear not. We haven’t become a different type of publication overnight. No, we will not be discussing the latest trends for the autumn and winter season. Thus when we write about fashion in Clothing gets smart, it’s all about smart fabrics and the clothing of the future: fabrics that clean themselves without the use of water; or clothing containing photocatalysts that, when exposed to light, break down harmful airborne pollutants. 

When we discuss hair products in A sensitive subject, we’ve focused on the chemistry of sensitisers and, in particular, we concentrate on the properties of a chemical called p-phenylenediamine (PPD), which is present in almost all permanent hair dyes and has a history of causing sensitisation.

In Here comes the science bit, we’ve written about cosmetics and have raised a question on everybody’s mind: how many claims made in adverts are true? Can chemistry really roll back the years? Please let us know what you think.

In Food with a function, we’ve written about nutraceuticals – health promoting compounds added to foods. This industry has experienced tremendous growth in recent times as a consequence of the increased life expectancy and attempts by the population to stave off the effects of ageing. Indeed, the global nutraceutical product market reached $142 billion (£87 billion) in 2011 and is expected to reach $205 billion by 2017, so keep these numbers in mind as you read on…