Science extravaganza offers glimpse of future 5,000 specialists, teachers to discuss everything from coral reefs to space flight


A schedule in Thursday's editions gave the wrong day for a planned day of free admissions to the Maryland Science Center. The free day will be Tuesday, Feb. 13.

The Sun regrets the error.

If you have a thirst for science, Baltimore will be the place to slake it over the next five days. But be warned: It's a cash bar.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science this week brings more than 5,000 scientists, educators, reporters and policy-makers to the Baltimore Convention Center for its annual meeting. It has opened all of the 1,000-plus scientific presentations to the public.

It's a chance to see science news in the making, with announcements of advances and discoveries in fields as diverse as coral reef biology and human space flight.

"One of our major goals is to help increase the public's understanding of science, and we use this meeting as a way of bringing science to the public," said AAAS spokeswoman Ellen Cooper. "That's what makes this meeting different. It's not a meeting just for the membership."

The catch is that only one series of talks -- the plenary lectures each evening through Monday -- will be free. To attend other sessions, someone who is not a member of AAAS will have to pay $295 to register for the entire meeting.

An $85 discount is available for retired scientists, postdoctoral researchers and kindergarten through 12th-grade teachers. Students can get in for $150.

For $210, a nonmember can register for one day or the entire Science Innovation series -- 21 meetings and seven lectures exploring many of the latest advances in neuroscience, cardiovascular science, computing, biology, genetics and AIDS. The one-day pass also gets you into Vice President Al Gore's talk at 8:30 a.m. Monday in the Convention Center.

Thirty dollars will get you into the exhibit hall, which opens at 4 p.m. tomorrow and 10 a.m. each day through Monday. But the exhibits will be dominated by government agencies, science-related corporations and publishers trying to sell their equipment and services to laboratory scientists.

One more thing: Listening to these talks can be hard work. "Most are geared to an advanced-degreed but general audience," said Dr. Michael Strauss, the AAAS meetings director. So if you dodged science in college, the content is likely to sail over your head.

Baltimore-area students may get the best deal from the AAAS meeting. More than 1,500 pupils are participating today in Public Science Day, exploring science and technology at area museums, universities and science and medical institutions.

Several other related activities for adults and children, including a free day at the Maryland Science Center, are planned (see box).

The best bet for adults may be the free plenary lecture series. Here's the lineup:

* Tonight: "Allocating Federal Funds for Research," a panel exploring the fate of federal research money in a shrinking budget. Participants include John H. Gibbons, science aide to President Clinton, and Donald N. Langenberg, chancellor of the University of Maryland System. At 6 p.m., Room 308, Convention Center.

* Tomorrow: "Science and the American Dream: Healthy or History?" It's a talk about the need for scientists to explain the value of what they do to the public and Congress, by Neal Lane, director of the National Science Foundation. At 6:30 p.m., Room 308, Convention Center.

* Saturday: "Global Climate: Emerging Diseases and New Epidemics." Rita R. Colwell, president of the AAAS and of the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute, discusses the health threat posed by a warming climate. At 6:30 p.m., Constellation Ballrooms, Hyatt Hotel.

* Sunday: "Chemistry of DNA: Recognition and Reaction." Jacqueline K. Barton of the California Institute of Technology. At 6:30 p.m., Constellation Ballroom, Hyatt Hotel.

* Monday: "Toward a Global Strategy for Emerging Infections." Dr. David Satcher, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At 6:30 p.m., Constellation Ballroom, Hyatt Hotel.

The meeting's inch-thick schedule is available at the AAAS registration desk. You can peruse it there or on the World Wide Web:

If there's something you want to attend, you must register and pay by cash, personal check or major credit card. Information: 244-1075.

Related events


Tours of University of Maryland School of Medicine, Dental School and Maryland Shock Trauma Center. 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Blood-pressure and vision screenings, cardiopulmonary resuscitation demonstrations, lectures on drug abuse. Free. Bressler Research Building lobby, 655 W. Baltimore St. Information: 706-3026.


"It's a Gas" lets children play the role of scientist in identifying three mystery gases, with "Newton's Apple" TV show host. 7:30 to 9 p.m. University of Maryland Baltimore County, Lecture Hall V. (Follow signs to Parking Lot 16.) Free. Information: 455-3699.


UMBC Science Open House. Hands-on tour of Internet, preview of "Find It! Science" CD-ROM, access to largest collection of children's science books in Maryland, visits to working laboratories. 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Activities begin at Albin O. Kuhn Library and Gallery. Information: 455-3699

Winter Wonderland. Jug Bay Wetland Sanctuary, 1361 Wrighton Road, Lothian. Exploration of woods and wetlands. 10 a.m. to noon. Reservations required. Information: (410) 741-9330.


Maryland Science Center. Free day includes no-cost entry to Science Center, Davis Planetarium and IMAX Theater, interactive exhibits on all floors. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Information: 545-5950.

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