By Alaina G. Levine
If there is a nerd heaven on Earth, it’s in Lindau, Germany. That’s where I am this week, honored to participate in the 62nd Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting, with 27 Nobel Laureates in physics and 596 young researchers from all over the world. This annual week-long love affair with science, takes place on the tiny island of Lindau in the southwest corner of Germany on Lake Constance. From the harbor, we have views of the Alps into Austria and Switzerland. But enough about geography.
The Lindau Meetings are the largest gathering of Nobels outside of Sweden. Every year, the congress focuses on one particular subject and this year, physics is taking its turn. The purpose of the enterprise is to Educate, Inspire, and Connect, and it gives young scholars who compete to attend the rare opportunity to meet with individual Nobels and discuss the craft of science in small groups in semi-private -no press allowed! Later in the week the Young Researchers, as they are called, have Master Classes with Laureates as well, in which the emerging scholars present their research for the established scientific leaders for critique. There are also public lectures given by the Laureates everyday as well as panel discussions and other networking events.
I must admit that the mere thought of standing in a room, let alone interacting with 27 Nobel Laureates has caused me to salivate for the last month as I have prepared for this event. I was fortunate enough to be one of only two American journalists to receive travel fellowships to attend, which are sponsored by the Council for the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings and the National Association of Science Writers. But enough about me.
The opening ceremony, held on Sunday 1 July, was a celebratory endeavor. Besides the scientists, there are quite a few dignitaries in attendance. Every speaker addressed the audience “Your Excellencies.” Were they referring to me and the other journalists in the back row? I suspect not, given that the President of the Republic of Singapore, Tony Tan, was present to be formally inducted into the Honorary Senate of the Foundation Lindau Nobelprizewinners Meetings at Lake Constance. But enough about kings and queens and politicians.
Holy Nobel, Batman. The best part of this first day was watching the Laureates enter the main chamber. “And now, please welcome the Laureates!” boomed an announcer, and from our corner of the room and via various camera angles, we watched as more than a score of Physics Nobels filed into the hall, as their pictures were projected onto a screen in the front. It was literally the March of the Nobels:
How many can you ID?
Stay tuned for the week’s full report, which includes personal interviews with selected Nobels and an inside look at this amazing gathering.
And dear readers this conference is not without controversy. This is to be expected, given that many of the Laureates are speaking not just about their own research and findings that led to their grand award, but additionally they are addressing issues of great societal importance like climate change and where the heck the Higgs is. But I digress. Enough about the society. Until Tomorrow!
Alaina G. Levine is a freelance science writer, professional speaker, corporate comedian, and President of Quantum Success Solutions, a leadership and career consulting enterprise. She can be contacted through her website at www.alainalevine.com.