Reader, my head is spinning. I sit typing to you from a hotel lobby in Dublin, Ireland, waiting to catch the taxi that will take me to the aeroplane that will take me to the shuttle that will take me to the car that will take me to the house in which I live. I’m not relishing the prospect of this voyage. It’s currently 12:29 and I expect to pull into my drive at about 20:00. And that is the only
negative thing that I can say about ESOF 2012 or
Dublin. Neither is located within walking distance of Forsbrook.*
When I think about all of the people that I have listened to, spoken to, photographed and bumped into, I can’t conceive of how I could have possibly spent any less than a month in Ireland. During my short stay, I have met world-renowned scientific figures, spoken to a bona fide Brew Master, and received a police escort back to my hotel.
It’s hard to believe that my colleagues and I only arrived here on Wednesday evening. When I think about all of the people that I have listened to, spoken to, photographed and bumped into,** I can’t conceive of how I could have possibly spent any less than a month in Ireland. During my short stay, I have met world-renowned scientific figures, spoken to a bona fide Brew Master, and received a police escort back to my hotel. So here it is; my special ESOF 2012 blog.Wednesday 11th July 2012
At approximately 16:00, Edgers
touched down at Dublin Airport. After collecting our baggage we were met by two friendly, green-shirted ESOF representatives who pointed us in the direction of a complementary coach. 25 minutes later, we pulled up outside the Convention Centre Dublin (CCD) and deposited our luggage before rushing upstairs to the auditorium. We sat down just in time to catch Ireland’s President, Michael D Higgins, address what can only be described as a packed room. The Opening Ceremony
, which was compèred by comedian Dara Ó Briain, also included speeches from Professor Patrick Cunningham, Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland, Professor Enric Banda, President of Euroscience, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, European Commissioner for Research, Innovation & Science, and Richard Bruton, Ireland’s Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation. Not a bad start.
After this impressive welcome, we collected our bags and took a taxi to our temporary base in Temple Bar. This was by far the most dangerous part of our stay. A cyclist was nearly introduced to the driver’s bonnet and Amy came fairly close to being crushed by a Land Rover Discovery. After moving our possessions into a rather plush but noisy hotel, we decided to sample some Gaelic cuisine. My pot of beef and Guinness stew was accompanied by a small tower of mashed potatoes with a pastry flat cap.*** We proceeded to explore the city by taking photographs of Edgers with a selection of Dublin’s many statues; the perfect end to a perfect day.Thursday 12th July 2012
Thursday began with a croissant and an 8:00 discussion of exoplanets
. Professor Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell chaired the seminar in which experts from the University of Warwick, the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) and Univerity College London (UCL), discussed the techniques used to identify extrasolar planets, the types of planetary systems that have been discovered, and what we can expect to see over the coming decades.
I also had the opportunity to listen to Professor Enrico Giusti talk about mathematics at the museum, and watch as Professor Marcus du Sautoy revealed some of history’s secret mathematicians via his discussion of art, music, architecture and literature. Later that evening, I managed to get spectacularly lost in the pouring rain without the luxury of either a coat or an umbrella. The walk from the CCD to our hotel, which should have taken approximately 20 minutes, lasted over three quarters of an hour as I roamed from street to street, hopelessly searching for familiar landmarks. In his keynote address, Professor du Sautoy used the computer game Asteroids
to explain how our universe might be simultaneously limited and infinite. In the game, objects moving off the screen on one side reappear in a corresponding position on the other, and my walk home seemed to replicate this hypothesis. I was walking in a straight line, yet I seemed to pass the same hotels and bars several times over.**** It was only because of a kind-hearted Garda – who took pity on my sodden, miserable visage and escorted me to the correct street – that I managed to reach my destination at all.
Managing Editor Lisa Carnwell
had joined us by this point, and we went to eat in a restaurant that, when compared with the previous night’s catering, was pretty dire; a poor end to an interesting day.Friday 13th July 2012
I am not a superstitious person, but Fridays falling on the thirteenth day of a month, worry me. I don’t for a minute think that the probability of bad things happening on such days is any higher than usual, but anything bad that does
happen seems to be magnified by people commenting that it’s Friday 13th
. Despite this, any concerns that I might have had were completely unfounded, as yesterday was superb in almost every respect.
It began at 8:00 with a discussion of innovation policy, in which representatives from Dublin City University, the European Commission, the OECD, Forfás and the Government of Ireland, considered how best to take policy decisions in uncertain times. Later on, I had the pleasure of watching string theorist, Professor Brian Greene, explain extra dimensions, the multiverse, dark matter and the possibility of one day verifying these hypotheses. At 17:30, Lauren and I went to a roundtable discussion of science communication, at which Professor Anne Glover, Chief Scientific Adviser to the European Commission, detailed why effective communication between researchers and the public is not only desirable but also essential.
As strange as it may seem, that was just a small part of why Friday was great. What happened next was even better. Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) had organised a media party at the GUINNESS STOREHOUSE®. After walking through a three-floor museum dedicated to the history of the drink and the method via which it is produced, we arrived at a bar and received our first complementary pints. Later that evening we were treated to some traditional Irish music, speeches from members of the SFI and Master Brewer Fergal Murray, and I got to sample beef and Guinness stew for the second time in three days. We ended the night by imbibing more of the famous stout in the Gravity Bar; a seventh floor space that delivered a spectacular, panoramic view of a twinkling Dublin. Words cannot convey…Saturday 14th July 2012
And so, I have arrived at the last day of my ESOF 2012 experience. This morning, I have been wandering the exhibition hall speaking to a plethora of figures from ESB Networks, IBM, COST, the NDRC, Eirgrid and Enterprise Ireland, for a special podcast that is to follow. I then wandered back to the hotel,***** checked out of my room, sat in the lobby and started typing.
Unbelievably, there are many things that I haven’t touched upon. I haven’t mentioned interviews, science thumbs or even cake. I haven’t spoken about the experiences of my colleagues. Take this blog, multiply it by five, add a bit more for good measure, and you might have some idea of what it has been like to cover this event; exhilarating, intriguing and exhausting. For more ESOF-related content, stay tuned to ScienceOmega.com
over the coming weeks.
Slán go fóill Dublin.
* Dublin’s fault, not Forsbrook’s
** Literally, not figuratively
*** Nice touch
**** The Scooby-Doo paradox
***** Without getting lost, I might add