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2013 AAAS Annual Meeting Comes to Boston, “the Athens of America”

Boston has a centuries-old history of attracting deep thinkers and curious minds, a trend that will continue 14-18 February, at Boston’s Hynes Convention Center, the site of the 179th AAAS Annual Meeting.

The latest stunning finds from Chinese dinosaur-fossil beds, the connection between global climate change and weather events such as Super-storm Sandy, and medical advances in facial reconstruction are a few of the topics likely to generate headlines during the world’s largest general scientific conference.

Sessions on speech recovery, space exploration, brain-machine interfaces, tastier tomatoes, the evolution of different skin colors, and great whales also promise exciting news.

The AAAS Annual Meeting, the world’s largest general scientific conference, offers free public lectures and hands-on fun for families as well as an array of technical sessions for registrants. “Triple-A-S” last met in Boston in 2008, when the conference drew 7,590 total attendees from 56 countries, including 981 newsroom registrants.

This year as many as 10,000 attendees are expected, including early-career scientists, teachers, and parents and children.

Two free Family Science Days—Saturday and Sunday, 16-17 February—will feature hands-on science-learning activities, plus a jam-packed “Meet the Scientists” speaker series designed especially for middle- and high-school students.

Boston skyline (Courtesy of iStock)

The 2013 Annual Meeting will offer free plenary lectures by world-renowned speakers who will discuss important progress on pressing science, technology, and policy issues, and share insights on future directions.

This year’s conference theme, “The Beauty and the Benefits of Science,” focuses on research that illuminates fundamental truths about the natural world, yet may also point to practical applications. The theme, set forth by AAAS President William H. Press, a member of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), was inspired by the “unreasonable effectiveness” of science in creating economic growth, solving societal problems, and satisfying the human drive to understand the world. The phrase “unreasonable effectiveness” was coined by physicist Eugene Wigner, who explored the beauty and benefits of mathematics.

Press serves as the Warren J. and Viola M. Raymer Professor in Computer Science and Integrative Biology at the University of Texas at Austin. He has played an active role in bringing science to bear on national policies.

Highlights from the 2013 AAAS Annual Meeting are expected to include these and many other breaking research news topics:

  •     An innovative effort to help stroke patients regain speech
  •     New dinosaur revelations based on fossils from China
  •     The quest to understand mysterious, invisible dark matter
  •     Efforts to improve the taste of unprocessed fruits and vegetables
  •     Emerging technologies such as electronic “tattoos” for patients with epilepsy
  •     Updates from the Mars Rover and the ongoing search for other worlds
  •     Single-cell imaging methods that might suggest new cancer treatments
  •     New thinking about great whales and fossils found at Cerro Ballena
  •     An expert panel’s assessment of climate change impacts on weather

Family Science Days and “Meet the Scientists” Series

The meeting will engage the public with free Family Science Days, which will include a Meet the Scientists event, hands-on activities and stage shows for families with children, teenagers, and young adults. To attend, the public should plan to pick up a free badge at Exhibit Hall D, using the Family Science Days entrance. Or, register in advance.

At the 2013 Family Science Days, youngsters will be able to excavate and date archaeological artifacts, paint with glowing bacteria, and build a solar cell using blackberries. Visitors will also be invited to explore the nanotechnology in everyday objects, conduct hands-on weather experiments, race hydrogen cars, drive underwater robots, and meet both live animals and cool scientists and engineers!

The 2013 Meet the Scientists stage shows will include a Science Magic! presentation by the Museum of Science as well as talks on the human experience of space flight by NASA Astronaut Michael Barrett. In addition, Sheila Patek of the University of Massachusetts will discuss the world’s fastest animals, and Jeremy DeSilva of Boston University will talk about fossils. Todd Coleman of the University of California at San Diego will describe electronic temporary tattoos that flex with your skin and wirelessly monitor your health.

Free Public Lectures

The 2013 Annual Meeting will offer free plenary lectures by world-renowned speakers who will discuss important progress on pressing science, technology, and policy issues, and share insights on future directions.

The meeting will open at 6:00 p.m. on Thursday, 14 February, with the AAAS President’s Address by William H. Press, a noted researcher in computer science, genomics, statistical methods, astrophysics, and international security. Dr. Press’ current research focus is bioinformatics and whole-genome genetics.

Sherry Turkle of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) will discuss, “The Robotic Moment: What Do We Forget When We Talk to Machines?” Turkle, MIT’s Abby Mauzé Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology in the Program in Science, Technology, and Society, will deliver another plenary at 5:00 p.m. Friday, 15 February.

“Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking” will be the focus of a plenary lecture at 5:00 p.m. on Saturday, 16 February, by Nathan Myhrvold. He is the Chief Executive Officer of Intellectual Ventures and retired chief strategist and chief technology officer for Microsoft Corporation.

Robert Kirshner, the Clowes Professor of Science at Harvard University will talk about “The Beauty of the Accelerating Universe” at 5:00 p.m. on Sunday, 17 February. Kirshner is an astrophysicist studying the physics of supernovae and observational cosmology, and a member of the High-z Supernova Search Team that used observations of extragalactic supernovae to discover the accelerating universe, which implied the existence of dark energy.

A plenary also is set for 8:30 a.m. on Monday, 18 February. Speaker Cynthia Kenyon is a molecular biologist whose discovery with colleagues that a single-gene mutation could double the lifespan of the worm C. elegans sparked an intensive study of the molecular biology of aging.

 Links

Registration information for the AAAS Annual Meeting.

Browse the full 2013 AAAS Meeting Program.

Annual Meeting news will be published and broadcast by an array of Science and AAAS reporters.

The social media hashtag for the AAAS Annual Meeting is #AAASmtg.