Wednesday morning at Lindau

I’m here for another long session of talks. Unfortunately, this is Big Chemistry day, and I’m struggling to keep up with the unfamiliar. I need more biology for it all to make sense!

Rudolph Marcus: From ‘On Water’ and enzyme caalysis to single molecules and quantum dots. Theory and experiment.

I was afraid of this. This Lindau conference has a primary focus on chemistry, and I am not a chemist…and I just knew there would be a talk or two at which I would be all at sea, and that was the case in Marcus’s talk, which was all hardcore chemistry. I got the general gist — he’s making an argument that you need both a solid grounding in theory in order to carry out computational chemistry, which seemed fairly obvious to me — but I confess that his discussion of the details of on-water catalysis, single molecule enzyme catalysis, and quantum dots lost me, through no fault of his. I don’t have the background to follow the context of the discussion.

Kurt Wüthrich: Structural genomics — exploring the protein universe

This was more of that tricky chemistry stuff, but at least it was related to biology. Wüthrich studies 3D protein structures, specializing in using NMR of proteins in solution. He fave a little background, and talked especially about his particular interest in hemoglobin, an interest that continues — he currently works at catching EPO doping in athletes. The more interesting part of the work is his current contributions to analyzing the structure of proteins in the genome. He made the point that there are currently over 6 million gene sequences tucked away in databases, but we know the the 3D structure of only about 50,000 of them. He’s part of a very large research consortium that is trying to fill in the gaps with high throughput, automated techniques.

Harold Kroto: Science, society and sustainability

If you’ve ever heard a Kroto talk, you know it is pretty much indescribable.

He did present all of chemistry in 30 seconds, but much of it was about about science education, science’s role in society, and how science is going to be necessary to save the world. There was a good strong bit of promotion of atheism (he’s one of us!), and an amusing tour of the Creation “Museum”, which he visited recently. All I can recommend is that you keep an eye on the Lindau site — they will make the lectures available online at some time.