And so it ended, the 2007 version of the AAAS in San Francisco. Recovering from a jetlag from hell, I have fond memories of the people I met and the talks I listened to.
Most impressive were the three plenary lecture speakers that honoured the meeting with their presence. First up was Larry Page, co-founder of Google (watch the full speech on YouTube). I was lucky to sit up close to the podium and listen to Page giving one of his rare speeches. His talk had all sorts of examples of how simple solutions by Mr Google could save the planet. They sounded simplistic, but I have to admit that Page has a way about him that makes you want to believe that the whole world will be a better place if only people executed his appealing technical solutions. One interesting remark he made was about the value of basic science, as you can read in the blog entry of Nature’s Nicola Jones.
“When you have basic technologies, you find interesting things to do with them. If you’re lucky it turns into something big.” – Larry Page
The second interesting lecture was by Nobel Prize winner Steven Chu, who announced his intention to start a new ‘Manhattan project’ for facing the world’s energy problems head on: the Berkeley Lab Helios Project at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Third up was the woman who made very clear on television only a few weeks ago that it is very likely that man has contributed to global warming: IPCC leader Susan Solomon. It was refreshing to hear her give the details of the IPCC report in clear language while preserving all nuances and uncertainties. One of the important points she made was that science is about giving information and not about making policy.
Even though all three speakers were preaching to the choir at the AAAS about the need to fund basic research, be bold in inventing new technologies to tackle the global energy problem and take consequences out of the information that science has given us, I still hope there were a couple of brave politicians and funding agencies listening so we can start to realise these sustaibale solutions.