My ESOF2012: Day 4

Porridge with the Prof

Day four of ESOF2012 was an eventful one, started with meeting Prof Anne Glover, Chief Scientific Adviser to the President of the European Commission, at Porridge with the Prof. I heard her talk at the “Exploding Myths on Nuclear Reactor Security, Harm Reduction and GMOs” session on day two. The questioning started with the topic of women in high positions and that while there were a large number of women going into science in university, there was a lack of women in high science positions. Prof Glover explained that she felt it was a difference in attitude towards rejection, stating that “Women wait to be asked, while men just do it.” Citing a conversation she had with another professor, who was male, about why he was always being asked to talk at conferences while she was not, his reasoning was simple. “I’m not asked to them, I ask to talk at them.”

A topic which I hadn’t heard about until attending ESOF2012 was the idea of ‘science diplomacy’, using science as a way to release tension between countries. The example she gave was how scientists in the US and North Korea work together on projects, with scientists from both counties traveling to work in the other for a number of months.

Nearing the end of the breakfast, she said that she hoped that during her time as Adviser to the President, that she would get “people [the politicians] to stand up and say why they are voting against the evidence.”

 Can We Feed 9 Billion People or Will we Starve?

This session was chaired by Bruce Osborne of UCD, and focused on water supply, and pest and disease resistance in plants. One interesting results from this session for me was an experiment which should that by watering only part of the root, while providing a high nitrogen supply, the grain yield would increase compared to other methods. A method called “Partial rootzone drying.” The other talks look at the use of Bt plants.

“The Search for a Deeper Understanding of Our Universe at the LHC”

Director General of CERN, Rolf-Dieter Heuer, at ESOF2012

Director General of CERN, Rolf-Dieter Heuer, at ESOF2012

The highlight of day four was the keynote address by Rolf-Dieter Heuer, the Director General of CERN. CERN has been in the news a lot the past week with the possible discovery of the Higgs boson. His keynote address, Heuer explained what CERN and the LHC was, detailed what the Standard Model was and told us why the Higgs boson was an important part of the model. What I loved about Heuer’s address was that he made it easy to understand, walking the audience step by step through the process of finding the Higgs boson.

During questioning at the end, when asked if Ireland had approached him in relation to joining CERN, he hinted towards the fact that Ireland and CERN may be already in talks regarding membership.

“From Reading to Writing the Genetic Code”

Craig Venter at ESOF2012

Craig Venter at ESOF2012

This was the keynote that I was looking forward to the most. Craig Venter is one of the most well-known scientists around. He was one of the first people of sequence the human genome, he sequenced the metagenome of both sea and air, and recently he was involved in creating the first partially synthetic species of bacterium Mycoplasma laboratoriumDuring his address, Venter detailed the past few years of his scientific life in, what I can only describe as, a very nonchalant manner.

Little known fact, Venter has two navy seal bodyguards at all times. He was drafted and enlisted into the United States Navy during the Vietnam War.

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