Physics has dominated the past year in science – keywords being Einstein, gravitational waves and black holes. For the next five days, it’s all the young scientists and Nobel Laureates in Lindau will talk about.
The 66th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting has opened with all the tradition and ceremony of previous years, albeit in a state of some flux. And it’s perhaps fitting as this year’s gathering of young scientists and Nobel Laureates is dedicated to physics.
It’s had to move to a temporary home at Lindau’s Stadttheater, as its usual lodgings, the Inselhalle, remain under reconstruction. That is despite all the confidence last year that it would be ready. But they have found the perfect substitute. The very first Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting was held at the Stadttheater in 1951.
Physics, for its part, has given the international science community much to celebrate and think about over the past 12 months. The detection of gravitational waves for the first time since Albert Einstein predicted them has been a real kick. But it also opens the doors to his being wrong on other things.
But if anybody has ideas about the next steps for physics, it’s got to be the Nobel Laureates and young scientists who are gathered in Lindau until Friday, July 1.
Lindau often straddles the past and future. Speaking at the opening ceremony on Sunday, Countess Bettina Bernadotte hoped to inspire the young scientists by reminding them that “when we look back at the last century, we see a century of breakthroughs” from Penicillin to quantum computers.
Her father, Count Lennart Bernadotte, helped launch the meetings to rehabilitate science in Germany after the Second World War.
Germany’s Federal Minister for Education and Research, Johanna Wanka, came with a similar message, hoping to encourage the young scientists to be ambassadors of dialogue at a time of much conflict in the world.
“But science can’t fight prejudice alone,” said Wanka, “it takes people to show how dialogue works. People like you.”
In all, there are 400 young scientists from 80 countries.
There are 29 Nobel Laureates. Not all are from the field of physics – nine won their Nobel Prizes for Chemistry, such as the Max Planck Institute’s Professor Stefan Hell and the one female Nobel Laureate attending, Ada Yonath. Professor Bert Sakmann represents Physiology or Medicine.
But the sciences do overlap, especially as physics strives to explain the nature of our universe, it includes almost everything.
There will be talks on the standard model of the universe, astronomy, gravitational waves, and quantum technology, with Laureates like Steven Chu, George Smoot, Brian Schmidt, and the two newest physics winners, Arthur B. McDonald and Takaaki Kajita.
This year’s meeting also features a few new highlights, including a poster session for the young scientists to present their research, with three prizes on offer. And there is the first Heidelberg Lecture to be held by internet pioneer, Vinton Cerf.
On the sidelines there will be three “Press Talks,” including one hosted by DW on the issue of Women in Science.
The fact that there’s only one woman Nobel Laureate at Lindau shows just how serious the situation is.
Klas Kärre, a member of the Nobel Assembly for Physiology and Medicine, said “there is no such thing as a typical Nobel Laureate, they are male and female,” and come from all around the world.
They may well be both male and female, but so far they are overwhelmingly male.