Highlights from the 177th AAAS Annual Meeting

The 2011 Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) just wrapped up in Washington, DC.  Thousands of scientists, engineers, policymakers, educators, and journalists from close to 50 countries met for the 177th annual meeting to explore a broad range of recent discoveries and looming global challenges.

If you didn't make it to the meeting in person, you can watch, listen to, and read content from the 2011 Annual Meeting on the AAAS website

Topics covered include the advancement of women in science, scientists as politicians, the use of photographs to engage and instruct, the regulation and security of DNA sequencing, the decline in oceanic biomass, and a case study on one woman's exposure to environmental toxins.

There was an interesting lecture last year on the history of dealing with experimental error. Modern scientists try to account for variation and error by running an experiment or making a measurement multiple times. Often, the results will all be slightly different, and scientists deal with that by taking an average.  But they didn't always do it that way. The first scientist to use averages to address error was Isaac Newton, who privately started taking averages in his notebooks in 1671.  According to historian Jed Z. Buchwald, scientists viewed themselves as craftsmen: if one built a piece of fine furniture, one wouldn't pick the average to display, but would choose the finished version that was the best, and best displayed your woodworking skill. (Read more at Boing Boing and on the AAAS website.)

The 2012 meeting will be held at the Vancouver Convention Center, in Vancouver, British Columbia.  The focus of the 2012 meeting is on using the power of electronic communications and information resources to tackle the complex problems of the 21st century on a global scale through international, multidisciplinary efforts.  The call for symposium proposals is now open.  The deadline for submission is Tuesday, April 26, 2011, 11:59 pm PST.