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Last thoughts on Euroscience 2010

Science BusEuroscience chooses its host cities in what has become an Olympics-like competition. The winner for 2012 is Dublin, which brought a purple bus and a cheerful throng of Ireland boosters to Torino to promote attendance at the next ESOF event. They also brought free food, which turned out to be a winning choice during a reception at the mid-point of the conference. Hundreds of young, hungry researchers and communications professionals jammed the wide hallway intersection in the Lingotto to drink, eat and otherwise be charmed by their Irish hosts. Indeed, many of the sessions were peppered with Irish experts of various stripes, from energy executives to research scientists.

Dublin will have to press hard to outstrip Torino, which in billing itself as an “unknown” city of science, had the evidence to back up its claim. The evidence included development of MP3 technology, the blood pressure monitor, the 500-hour light bulb filament (Edison’s original only lasted 40 hours), the invention of the transformer and the first programmable computer (called the Perottina), as well as the synthesis of nitroglycerine. Torino itself was a surprising blend of sophistication and grittiness, French-influenced piazzas and 19th-century apartment blocks.

The conference itself also merits some awards and in a final tribute, I list winners in my top 10 categories.

Apple gameBest name for a presenter: Felicitas Pauss

Best name not mentioned: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Three opportunities for presenters to connect the Lab name with a person or a discovery being discussed went by without even a whisper of Berkeley Lab’s name.

Best quote: When you make electrons turn a corner, they scream, not in pain but with light.

Second best quote: Neutrinos are direct messengers from the center of the sun.

Best little-known fact: Earthworms excrete calcite balls comparable in size to humans excreting footballs.

Most surprising facts not recommended for small talk with strangers: Neutrinos can be right- and left-handed. They can also be sterile.

Best session name: Warriors Against Claptrap

Worst word used more than three times in one presentation: “De-statalization”

Most indignant American moment: Having my passport number recorded when asking for the free wi-fi password, a rule imposed by the Italian version of homeland security.

Biggest give-me-pause-moment: Wind turbines the size of the Eiffel Tower

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