Lindau09: And now for something completely different

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Wednesday morning at the Lindau meeting saw a full slate of talks from half-a-dozen Chemistry Laureates: Marcus (1992), Wüthrich (2002), Kroto (1996), Huber (1988), Kohn (1998), Agre (2003) – and some of the highlights are covered below…

Marcus joked that he was going to speak for a couple of hours, but finished exactly on time after 35 minutes, giving us a tour of catalysis in many different forms, such as the ‘on-water’ work by Sharpless through to single-molecule enzyme catalysis. The next lecture was from Wüthrich, who started off by telling us that ‘NMR’ does not stand for ‘no meaningful results’ and then proceeded to take off his belt – and fortunately he stopped there! He then went on to use his belt to illustrate the human genome.

The final talk of the first session was from Kroto, who spoke on themes of science, society and sustainability. His lecture was a barrage on the senses (albeit a very entertaining one), with slides popping up at a high rate of knots, with occasional sound effects to boot. We were shown examples of artwork that Kroto had produced, including stamps, and even a new design for the flag of Japan. He then moved on to topics such as creationism and religion in general, Web 2.0 opportunities for science and scientific education, and the fact that he may have to give his prize back if no one finds a use for C60 in the near future! Kroto left the stage to the longest and loudest applause of the meeting so far.

After the coffee break, Huber was the first speaker, although the computer on which the presentations were loaded would not play ball. Problems finally solved, he went on to tell us about protein degradation. Kohn was next up and apart from a brief intro and wrap up, his ‘lecture’ consisted of showing a film he had made, called ‘The power of the sun’ – narrated by John Cleese of Monty Python fame. No ex-parrots in sight unfortunately! The final talk of the day was given by Agre, who told us about his canoeing trips in the arctic and sub-arctic. Although he tied his talk to environmental themes and climate issues, such as the changing migration paths of caribou and the impact on native hunters, it was hard not to think that we were just seeing his holiday snaps (very pretty ones, nonetheless!).

Lectures over for the day, I went to help out the film crew once more. The first shoot was a conversation between one of the young researchers (Tyler) and Ernst. As the storm clouds gathered in the distance and the thunder got louder, lightning crackled across the sky and the heavens opened – making filming impossible. With lots of camera equipment and a Nobel Laureate in tow, we tried to take the most direct (and driest) route back inside the conference venue. Our way was barred by the conference stewards, who probably assumed we wanted to film the afternoon discussions (which is not allowed – in fact, no press are allowed in those sessions at all) – whereas all we wanted to do was get inside to then go and find a new location. Tyler came to the rescue — his German being better than any of ours — and finally persuaded the stewards to let us in… he pointed out that we had a Laureate with us, who probably shouldn’t get soaked in a thunderstorm. So, there you have it, getting the call from Stockholm can open doors for you!

Two shoots later, with Ciechanover and Tsien, it was time to wind down for the day and plan our activities for Thursday – just one shoot I need to be at today, so may have a little free time later this afternoon to explore Lindau. There may not be a post tomorrow, as we’re off to the island of Mainau and away from the wireless access here in the Inselhalle, but they’ll be a couple of more Lindau posts at some point.


Stuart Cantrill (Chief Editor, Nature Chemistry)

Stu Cantrill

Chief Editor, Nature Chemistry, Springer Nature