Chemistry in Lindau: This is going to be fun…

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The Council for the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings has just released the first abstracts for the upcoming Lindau lectures. As you may have heard, this year the meeting is all about chemistry and how it can save the world. Exhibit A in that respect is Paul Crutzen, who already did. He recently garnered widespread media attention with an… um… controversial scheme to pump the atmosphere full of sulphur aerosols to stop climate change, so everyone wonders what he’s up to next.

I personally expect him to present a full-fledged plan to terraform earth, since the status quo of climate change is most likely covered by his fellow world-saver Sherwood Rowland, who will talk about greenhouse gases. While those two talks will be packed, the one given by Hartmut Michel, concerning the precise nature of the oxidized Cyt-C-oxidase, will predictably receive a collective “Bleh!” from the assembled press. Expect to find me in the front row.

Gerhard Ertl meanwhile submitted an abstract that is almost Twitter-worthy in its brevity. Still, these terse remarks contain enough information to read “origin of life” somewhere between the lines. So this one may well be among the most interesting lectures of the whole event. Ertl, by the way, has a lot of things to say beyond surface reactions, e.g. about the relationship between a senior scientist and his Ph.D. students.

I’m slightly annoyed that so far, only one of the lecturers managed to submit references with their abstracts. Werner Arber earns a few Brownie Points here, especially since I suspect his lecture will only scratch the surface of the whole molecular evolution thing. He hints at two different types of genes, which would neatly resolve the neutralist-selectionist debate by sharing the genome between both sides.

About the last two lectures, I don’t really know. I don’t need Noyori to know that there’s great stuff you can do with chemistry and that “close involvemend with society” is the destiny of science. I’m probably just not the focus group. Maybe there are a few catchy quotes to come out of this one.

Ernst may be worth listening to if you are a young researcher and really need to know that there is a world outside the lab. If you are aware that scientists like Ostwald, Feynmann or Herschel were also accomplished artists and that having a social life is good for you, I guess most of this will be familiar. I like the image of the one-legged scientist, though.

So what’s your take?

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