If you ever get a chance to attend an AAAS meeting, by all means, go. It's basically a greatest hits of science conference. The scientists are under orders to make their talks comprehensible to a non-specialist audience (some are better at this than others), and the organizers pick some of the most charismatic, entertaining, and even sometimes hammy speakers. Smithsonian readers will be familiar with some of this year's rock stars: Svante Paabo, Sean B. Carroll,
The meeting draws hundreds of science writers from around the world. One of the highlights for us is the AAAS Science Journalism Awards ceremony. It's always held at a great venue: when the meeting was in Seattle, they rented out the Music Experience Project; in St. Louis we partied at the Gateway Arch. This year's event was held at the Art Institute of Chicago. (Well, in a tent out back--a heated tent. We did get to see their new Edvard Munch exhibit, though. That guy had some issues.)
Congratulations to this year's winners! I highly recommend the broadcast winner, Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial, about the Dover School Board "if we call creationism a 'science,' we can teach it in science class" case.
And do check out the online winner, Megafishes, even though it was produced by Smithsonian.com's arch-nemesis, National Geographic News. (I'm not complaining--I was on the judging panel that recommended this package for the award.) It's about some of the biggest and most utterly absurd fish in the world.