The annual American Association for the Advancement of Science conference covers arguably the greatest variety of subjects of any science conference in the world. This year's gathering, held in St. Louis, Missouri, hosted symposia on everything from astrobiology to veterinary ethics. And although it's impossible for one reporter to cover more than a small fraction of the 200-plus scientific sessions held over five days, here are a few highlights of the most exciting research happening now. You can find further information at the http://www.aaas.org target="_blank"> AAAS Web site.
Scott Gallagher, a biologist with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, talked about the coming paradigm shift in experimental ocean science. Whereas before marine biologists had to make brief expeditions, taking a snapshot of a small part of the ocean, new semi-permanent sensor networks will continuously monitor the world's oceans for years at a time. Gallagher also mentioned that these networks will send real-time data and video to anyone who wishes to view it. One project can be found http://4dgeo.whoi.edu/vpr/ target="_blank">here
During a press conference about the future potential of stem-cell research in the U.S., the strain on the field caused by the political debate surrounding the subject was clear. While most researchers spoke excitedly about the wide-reaching therapeutic potential of their work, William Hurlbut, a member of the http://www.bioethics.gov/ target="_blank">President´s Council on Bioethics
There are now three broad varieties of scientists, or so I learned at a symposium on the application of computer science to the rest of science: theorists, experimentalists and computationalists. The last group comprises the large and growing numbers of scientists who use computer power to help solve mysteries in a given scientific field (for example, the scientists who create computer models of supernovae to understand how they ignite). As http://www.cs.princeton.edu/~chazelle/ target="_blank">computer scientist Bernard Chazelle
Nobody Phone Home?
Astronomer Margaret Trumbull of the Carnegie Institute of Washington came up with two lists: one consisting of the nearby stars most likely to hold intelligent life, the other of the nearby stars most likely to harbor an Earth-like planet. She believes we should study the first with SETI radio telescopes, the second with next-generation space telescopes powerful enough to see those planets through the glare of their parent stars. Unfortunately, though, funding for the http://tpf.jpl.nasa.gov/ target="_blank">Terrestrial Planet Finder
Hot in Herre
The Day after Tomorrow's exaggerations aside, global warming could really cause a disruption in the North Atlantic current, the flow that brings heat up from the tropics-and that could have potentially disastrous consequences. This was the message from Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany. If enough ice melts in Greenland, we could see a shutdown of the current in the next century. And although it wouldn't plunge us into an ice age, Atlantic sea levels could rise by up to a meter in its wake. Unfortunately, this might already be happening: A http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2006-023 target="_blank">NASA report
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.