I have been enjoying a wonderful time at the Materials for Tomorrow 2014 conference at Chalmers University of Technology in Göteborg, Sweden. The conference opened on Tuesday, 4 November with a great session of talks that focused on materials science and applications to renewable energy. By far, the best speaker of the day was Ada Yonath, who gave an inspiring talk about her seminal work with ribosomes.
My first contribution to the conference come today as I gave a talk during the session on Education in Sports Engineering. I was thrilled to be invited to talk about the sports physics research work I've done at Lynchburg College. My second invited talk will be tomorrow. It focuses on the aerodynamics research I performed with Japanese colleagues at the end of 2013 and in the early part of 2014. We were fortunate to see our work go viral just before the start of last summer's World Cup in Brazil. My colleague in Japan, Takeshi Asai, helped on that front when he compared Brazuca's panel design to a ninja star or shuriken (click here for an example of that silliness).
What I love most about attending an international conference is the fact that science unites people from all over the world. We are all insatiably curious about how the universe works. Many of us are also interested in using a research area like sports to get young people interested in science. Though not quite the problem it is in the US, many of my European colleagues are concerned about a lack of scientific literacy among the general populations in their countries. There are too many issues needing urgent attention, like climate change and alternative energy options, that people need at least a basic understanding of what scientists do and how we learn about nature.
Finally, I am in awe of my new Swedish colleagues and their ability to speak English. Even non-scientists in Sweden are capable of conversing with me in English. How great would it be if we in the US thought it important enough to learn a second language, beginning in elementary school? Sadly, we have a large fraction of our population that complains if Spanish appears on street signs. I am so grateful to see English when I travel outside the US. To the Swedes, I say, Tack!