Friday at AAAS 2017: A Science Salad

schedule-boardToday was a little bit of everything as I continued to get a feel for this years conference. I started off by checking in on some of the results from Obama’s 2013 BRAIN initiative to research new methods of treating and preventing brain disorders. This was the first all female panel I have seen at AAAS! It was really heartening to watch these engineers and researchers describe their projects. My favorite being the wearable PET scan!  No more having to lay perfectly still in a big tube and pretend you’re on a roller coaster. Now there’s a chance of getting valuable diagnostic data from people who cannot hold still or safely lay down. It’s quite amazing.

From there I headed to a lively discussion about the ethics of gene editing. I found one speaker’s comparison of IVF treatment and gene therapy very compelling. I next found myself listening to Daniel Nocera talk about the chemistry behind his artificial leaves that can turn sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide into fuel. I had to pull on all of my old high school chemistry lessons but I followed the discussion enough to be very impressed with the idea.

I especially enjoy the astronomy panels at every AAAS meeting, and usually come away counting down the months until a favored project launches. This year I was introduced to a coming exploration of Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons. Europa has an ocean over a rocky sea bed that is covered by a thick sheet of ice. Those rocks and water make it a good candidate for having some sort of life. NASA is planning for 20 days of battery life on the surface while carrying 42 kg of scientific instruments. The mission is currently planned for 2024–25.

With my head full of space dreams, I found a seat at Naomi Oreskes’s Plenary lecture titled “The Scientist as Sentinel” and listened to her history of scientists as political activists. I was thinking about the good timing of that lecture as I followed a group of young scientists out into the hallway and heard them making plans for the protest on Sunday.

Suzanne K. Moses is Annual Reviews’ Senior Electronic Content Coordinator. For 15+ years, she has played a central role in the publication of Annual Reviews’ online articles. Not a single page is posted online without first being proofed and quality checked by Suzanne.