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Public release date: 13-Jan-2009

2009 AAAS Annual Meeting Headlines to Cover: Climate Change, Science Literacy, Health News, Neanderthal DNA, Animal Evolution, Hip-Hop Math, Dancing Scientists, Science of Kissing, and more

CHICAGO "Today, the warming of our planet is unequivocal, and human activities are a primary cause," says James J. McCarthy, president of the non-profit American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). "Within the next few human generations, the effect of these climate changes could put the survival of many species at risk."

If today's students are going to help solve such problems in the future, says McCarthy, the Alexander Agassiz Professor of Biological Oceanography at Harvard University: "We must provide a high-quality science and mathematics education for all children. That means teaching evolution and other science basics, and protecting the integrity of science education."

When McCarthy presides 12-16 February over America's largest general scientific conference, strategies for leveraging science and technology to help solve pressing world problems will take center stage. Often described as "the Olympics of science conferences," the 175th annual conference of AAAS, publisher of the journal Science, may draw as many as 10,000 attendees from 60 countries to Chicago.

McCarthy's Annual Meeting theme, "Our Planet and Its Life: Origins and Futures," recognizes the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin's birth, as well as the 150th anniversary of three other events the publication of On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, the first commercial oil well, and Sir John Tyndall's discovery of carbon dioxide's greenhouse effect.

Sadly, McCarthy contends: "The natural processes so astutely intuited by Darwin can now be swamped by the actions of a single species." The global financial crisis continues, meanwhile, and a recent multi-nation report card revealed that American science and math education must be reformed to shore up the workforce of tomorrow: Young people in many less developed countries now outperform their U.S. counterparts in both science and math, according to the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study.

But McCarthy hastens to point out that science, technology, and science education promise solutions to many critical challenges including new jobs and prosperity, health insights to improve human welfare, and more sustainable, productive agricultural strategies.

The 2009 AAAS Annual Meeting offers an array of free public-engagement opportunities, including an interactive "Meet the Scientists" series aimed at middle- and high-school students Saturday and Sunday, 14-15 February. Free lectures by some of the world's leading scientists and engineers such as evolution expert Sean B. Carroll, planetary scientist Susan W. Kieffer, and Neanderthal DNA investigator Svante Pbo also are on the agenda. For registered conference attendees, the AAAS Annual Meeting offers a smorgasbord of 175 scientific symposia, seminars, and career development workshops on topics ranging from astrophysics to molecular biology, and from neuroscience to mathematics.

"It is therefore exciting that this year's AAAS Annual Meeting coincides with Science Chicago, which is aimed at making science more accessible for the public and encouraging science education," says McCarthy.

Highlights from the 2009 AAAS Meeting are expected to include these and other headlines:

  • Bright light for better health synchrotron light sources;
  • Climate change and malaria;
  • Cosmic cradle of life space news;
  • Dining habits of early versus modern humans;
  • Evolution of women;
  • Languages without ancestors;
  • Math for origami, hip-hop music, and computer games;
  • Neanderthal DNA;
  • Race, ethnicity, and violent crime;
  • Science policy and the new U.S. Administration;
  • Science of kissing;
  • Smart animals, and what they can teach us;
  • Synthetic life building blocks;
  • Success stories for saving endangered ocean life;
  • U.S. cities responding to climate change;
  • And much more.

Meet the Scientists during Family Science Days

Free Family Science Days scheduled for 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, 14-15 February in the Hyatt Regency Chicago's Riverside Center Exhibition Hall will include hands-on activities and stage shows for families, children and young adults. The Field Museum will bring an exact replica of a T. Rex dinosaur, for instance. The "Physics Van" from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, will offer exciting demonstrations, and experts such as chemist Lee Marek of the University of Illinois, Chicago will be on hand to answer children's questions. Argonne National Laboratory will feature winning entries from its annual Rube Goldberg Machine Contest for high school students, and Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory will provide a "Mr. Freeze!" show. Among other activities, children will be able to make and fly kites indoors, use balloons to investigate how a multi-stage rocket works, peddle an energy bike that transfers power to light bulbs, fans and electronic appliances; and observe and predict hermit crab movement. To attend, the public should plan to pick up a free badge first in the Hyatt's exhibition hall.

Middle- and high-school students also are being encouraged to participate in a series of short, interactive presentations by leading scientists during Family Science Days. The 2009 Meet the Scientists series will include fossil-hunter Paul Sereno, insect scientist May Berenbaum, and peregrine falcon specialist Mary Hennen. Computer scientist Juan Gilbert will talk about hip-hop music and math, while physicist Uwe Bergmann plans a presentation on "x-ray vision," and astronomer Mark Hammergren will explore "Asteroids, Alien Life, and UFOs."

This year's AAAS Family Science Days are being offered in cooperation with Science Chicago, an initiative of more than 140 leading institutions planning thousands of programs to provide hands-on learning; spur thoughtful debate; enhance classroom learning; and build enthusiasm for the pursuit of cutting-edge science. For a complete 2009 AAAS Family Science Days schedule, see, → "Family Science Days."

Public Science Day:
Middle School Science Summit on Evolution

AAAS reaches out to local schools, too, as part of the AAAS Annual Meeting and the Association's cradle-to-grave support for science careers. The 2009 AAAS Public Science Day billed as the "Middle School Science Summit on Evolution" is being co-sponsored by AAAS and The Field Museum. The event, open to all and promoted to schools, celebrates the 200th anniversary of Darwin's birth. Some 300 sixth- through eighth-graders and their teachers are expected to experience Darwin's legacy first-hand through a special presentation by a Darwin impersonator; games on natural section and other evolution essentials; small-group tours of museum exhibits; and more.

The event will take place Wednesday, 11 February from 9:45 a.m. until 1:45 p.m. at The Field Museum. The kickoff presentation by "Darwin," set for 10:00 a.m. in the museum's James Simpson Theater, may be especially suitable for TV coverage. All attendees are asked to RSVP to Kirk Anne Taylor, (312) 665-7442,, by 2 February.

Free Public Lectures

James J. McCarthy will provide his AAAS Presidential Address, a free public event, on Thursday, 12 February at 6:30 p.m. in The Fairmont Chicago, Imperial Ballroom. Joining McCarthy for opening ceremonies will be local co-chairs Robert J. Zimmer, president of the University of Chicago; and France Crdova, president of Purdue University. To attend this and other free AAAS lectures, the public should plan to pick up a badge first at the conference registration area, located in the Hyatt Regency Chicago.

Additional free plenary lectures are scheduled in the Fairmont Chicago on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings. On Friday, 13 February at 4:30 p.m., Sean B. Carroll, professor of molecular biology and genetics at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, will discuss "Remarkable Creatures: Epic Adventures in the Search for the Origins of Species." On Saturday, 14 February at 6:30 p.m., Susan W. Kieffer, the Walgreen endowed chair of geology and physics at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, plans a presentation on "Celebrating the Earth: Its Past, Our Present, a Future?" On Sunday, 15 February at 6:30 p.m., a plenary lecture on "A Neanderthal Perspective on Human Origins" will be offered by Svante Pbo, director of the Department of Genetics at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.

A host of topical lectures also will take place Friday, Saturday and Sunday, from 12:00 p.m. until 1:15 p.m. in the Hyatt Regency's Crystal Ballrooms and Regency Ballroom A. For details on all lectures, see, then "Program," and "Plenary and Topical Lectures."

Al Gore: Special Invited Address

Registrants of the AAAS and AAPT meetings also will be eligible to hear a special invited address Friday, 13 February, from 6:30 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. CST by former U.S. Vice President and Nobel Peace Prize winner, the Honorable Albert Arnold Gore, Jr. The address will be open to all registrants, excluding those with "Exhibit Only" badges. Room capacity is limited, however, and seating will be available on a first-come, first-served basis beginning one hour prior to the presentation. Badges are required and must be worn. More information is available online at the AAAS Meetings site.

Dance Your Ph.D. Contest

Four winning teams from the 2009 AAAS and Science "Dance Your Ph.D." competition will demonstrate style, ingenuity, and humor as they interpret their doctoral research through choreographed dances. The contest, created by Science magazine's Gonzo Scientist blogger, John Bohannon, shatters stereotypes of scientists as stuffy, lab-bound investigators. The winners in the four categories were announced 20 November 2008. Applicants were asked to make a video of their own Ph.D. dance and post it online at YouTube. A panel of nine judges, consisting of the three winners of the previous Dance Your Ph.D. contest, three scientists at Harvard University, and the three artistic directors of the dance company Pilobolus, selected the four winners. Now, the winning scientists will work with professional choreographers to develop their published research into a full-scale dance that will debut at the 2009 AAAS Annual Meeting. The performance will take place the evening of Friday, 13 February.

Reporters, please note that the public cannot attend this performance without paying the Annual Meeting registration fee. Advance rates range from $60 (for student members), to $295 (for professional AAAS members), to $399 (for non-member professionals); on-site fees are slightly higher. To register, the public can log onto, then select "Registration." Badges must be picked up on site at the Hyatt Regency Chicago, Grand Ballroom Foyer by 6:00 p.m. on Friday, 13 February. Reporters interested in covering the Dance Your Ph.D. event should RSVP to one of the media contacts listed below.


MEDIA NOTE: Additional information on AAAS Annual Meeting news can be provided in advance to reporters who ensure adherence to the embargo policy. Reporters, please contact Earl Lane or Molly McElroy, (202) 326-6440, or; or Ginger Pinholster, (202) 326-6421,, before 12 February. After 12 February, call (312) 239-4811 to reach the AAAS Annual Meeting Newsroom on-site in the Hyatt Regency Chicago, Acapulco Room, West Tower. Embargoed news will be available to reporters via the AAAS virtual newsroom online at EurekAlert!,, beginning Monday, 9 February. To register as press, credentialed journalists can log onto

HISTORY: The first AAAS Annual Meeting took place in 1848 in Philadelphia, Pa. Past meetings have featured such notables as U.S. Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton; Microsoft's Bill Gates; the science ministers of the European Commission, Germany, the United Kingdom and Hungary; Nobelists Sherwood Rowland, Leon Lederman, Wolfgang Ketterle and many others.

This news release contains only general, publicly available information about this year's program, and is therefore appropriate for immediate release.

About AAAS

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is the world's largest general scientific society, and publisher of the journal, Science ( AAAS was founded in 1848, and serves 262 affiliated societies and academies of science, reaching 10 million individuals. Science has the largest paid circulation of any peer-reviewed general science journal in the world, with an estimated total readership of 1 million. The non-profit AAAS ( is open to all and fulfills its mission to "advance science and serve society" through initiatives in science policy, international programs, science education and more. For the latest research news, log onto EurekAlert!,, the premier science-news Web site, a service of AAAS.

About Science Chicago

Spearheaded by the Museum of Science and Industry, Science Chicago is a collaboration of more than 100 public and private institutions that have come together to present the world's largest science celebration. Designed to awaken the inner scientist in each and every one of us, thousands of dynamic and interactive activities will provide hands-on learning; spur thoughtful debate; enhance classroom learning; and build enthusiasm for the pursuit of cutting-edge science while establishing the critical value of science and math education.

For more information, visit