Thursday morning AGU dispatch: “The first sign of a scientific renaissance in America”

Jeff Goodell, our roving reporter at the American Geophysical Union’s fall meeting, filed his third dispatch — with the help of his iPhone.

Dark Ages are over; science matters again.

This morning, the fourth day of the fall AGU meeting, I walked into the bright open atrium at Moscone Center expecting the morning buzz to be a little duller than it has been. After all, conference fatigue should be setting in right about now. This is such a huge event, 15,000 scientists attending, with hundreds of talks and poster session each day, that just deciding which events to attend each day is exhausting. This morning, do I want to hear about cloud effects on aerosols, chlorofluorocarbons in the ocean, ice sheet hydrology, or geoengineering to counteract global warming?
Then there are the impromptu conversations in the second floor foyer of the Moscone Center, which were already going strong at 7:30 AM this morning. This is where the real deals go down, the inside dirt is swapped, the funding secured, the careers of eager young scientists made or derailed by the High Priests of Science. Yesterday, I bumped into Ray Pierrehumbert, a climate scientist at University of Chicago (and blogger over at RealClimate), who compared the foyer to a Medieval bazaar, where everyone hauls out there goods and people mill around, shopping ideas and gossiping. It’s a dizzying scene. In the space of a half hour yesterday, I had conversations about the impact of drought on California, the residence time of CFCs in the
atmosphere, and the possibility of detecting atmospheric mercury levels in polar ice cores.

On top of all this, there are the daily emails, IMs, and twitters to keep up with. Not to mention the dinners and parties at night (scientists like to drink). And yet, based on my own random and entirely unscientific sampling, the energy at the conference this morning is unflagging.

Maybe there is some drug going around that I don’t know about, some engineered stimulant that is keeping everyone high. Or perhaps it is the thrill of scientific discovery, or the urgency of understanding all the problems the world faces. My own theory: the powerful and unflagging energy here is the first sign of a scientific renaissance in America, a collective shout of joy from scientists who have been chained down and abused during eight year reign of the Bush Administration. If there’s a single bold headline to come out of this meeting, that’s it:

Dark Ages are over; science matters again.

More signs of the scientific Renaissance

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2 Responses to Thursday morning AGU dispatch: “The first sign of a scientific renaissance in America”

  1. Dill Weed says:

    I’m first!

    Dill Weed

  2. David Lewis says:

    I monitor Australian podcasts. I noticed a change in atmosphere in that country that started after they defeated their climate denying government and installed one that signed Kyoto the day after it took power. It seemed like a light had been turned on in a dark room. When it started to look like Obama was going to win, I let myself believe the same process would happen here.

    It is wonderful to hear the first reports. Thank you Jeff Goodell.