How bats defy aging, how the next “Spanish Flu” will be handled and how plants can be designed to suit our ever-evolving needs were all issues tackled at the second day of the Schrödinger at 75 conference. Taking place in the National Concert Hall, the collection of scientists, students and speakers meandered in to see through the day further examining the future of science.
The quiet morning soon took off under the guidance of Philip Campbell, the editor of Nature and Springer. Boldly claiming that “If you don’t publish your science, you haven’t really done it.”, the importance of effective science communication with transparent research methods were the primary thrusts of the talk. Pointing to recent research of the Social Sciences Replication Project, the current levels of irreproducibility currently in the academic community is unacceptable. Unafraid of challenging the status quo, Campbell’s promise of the positive direction of science was continued throughout the afternoon.
Extending our own lifespan and health into old age featured prominently. Both Linda Partridge, who discussed the future of aging, and Emma Teeling, who explored the future of zoology, highlighted the incredible lifespan of bats and how living longer and better were two achievable goals. While citing the importance of sleep and dietary control, so too was research shown at a genomic level. Designing a world where cancer is a thing of the past left an atmosphere of cautious wonder in the auditorium.
No speaker captured this sense of unbound possibility as Nobel prize winner Bernard Feringa, who delved into the future of chemistry. Opening his talk by challenging the maxim “If God wanted man to fly, he’d have given us wings”, his talk deconstructed the divide between non-living materials and those that nature provided. Promising self-repairing materials and light-receptive pharmacology within 10 years, the ability of humankind as creator was equally terrifying and inspiring. It was evident that to inspire the students in the audience to take on the mantle of creative science was a clear priority of the speakers.
Wrapping up, Eucharia Meehan from the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (DIAS) spoke of the importance of research and the continued contributions of DIAS to scientific thought before introducing Christof Koch’s concluding talk on “What is Consciousness?”. A close colleague of the late Francis Crick, who along with James Watson is credited for the discovery of the structure of DNA, Koch delivered a humbling explanation of the complexity of conscious experience while paying homage to the contributions of scientists past (even sporting a purple DNA tie, a gift from Crick). Closing the conference, Director of DIAS Werner Nahm remark “Schrödinger is very present, and during these two days we have all felt the presence of that. Lets thank Trinity for keeping his spirit alive, and [pursuing] enquiry into the unknown.”