Two weeks ago I came back from the AGU fall conference, which is held annually in the Moscone Center in San Francisco. The whole event was pretty impressive, with roughly ~14,000 attendees. Anywhere you’d turn, you would bump into a scientist. Lots of stuff going on, impossible to keep track of everything, but it was still possible to get a rough feeling of what is currently going on in the busy field of geophysics.
Due to the sheer size of this event, the organizers are pretty cheap compared to most (read:smaller) conferences – for the $325 admission fee you get an entry badge, three books with the schedule of presentations and posters, and that’s it. No abstracts CD, not even a nice AGU sticker to smack on your forehead. Fortunately it was still possible to get some freebies by hanging around in the exhibitors area. The NASA booth was the biggest, and always busy.
Of course, one of the main attractions of the AGU Fall meeting (apart from the science itself) is the location. As a colleague briefly puts it, everyone loves San Francisco. The weather was not great but still better than Paris in december (not very hard).
One of the most publicized events was the talk given by Al Gore, which took place in a huge, huge reception room at the Marriott hotel (one block from the Moscone). The talk itself was nice and entertaining, if rather innocuous: Al basically encouraged scientists to stand up and be more vocal about their findings. He also mentioned recent tries by the Bush administration to silence some scientific results, referring specifically to this story about how USGS scientists should now report their findings to the administration before they can publish them (with the obvious implication that it is to silence results which are “unconvenient” to current policymakers). This is a huge can of worms that needs a whole book to understand, but it’s always good to give more coverage to the issue. My only gripe was that he let out “the American People” a couple of times, when “the People” would have been more accurate (climate change is not a US-only problem) and more in tune with the international nature of the event. He exited rather quickly at the end, without taking any question — I blame the on-stage strong lighting. I couldn’t take any picture since my camera battery died seconds before. Fortunately, you can find almost anything on Flickr (also, this guy was either much closer than I, or has a camera with a much better zoom). All in all, it was a nice pep talk, and a welcome rest from all the science going on.
I have uploaded some of my own AGU pictures as a Flickr photoset.