Ever since I learned about the birds and the bees, I asked myself: Why would a woman want to bear a second child? Over the years, I also began to wonder why anyone would want to organize the meeting of a scientific society for a second time. After all, there are similarities between the two processes: an exciting idea leading to foreplay (development of the preliminary program), joyful activity with a climax (meeting), morning sickness (retrieval of manuscripts), birth (publication of the proceedings), and the comments of family and neighbors on the child (reviews). Lately, though, the comparison may not hold. Modern medicine has made childbirth less painful and safer, while scientific meetings seem to have an increasing abortion rate.

Now, doesn't this sound paradoxical? After all, the big meetings are getting bigger, some being attended by more than 10,000 people. Well, the answer depends on who you are. For...

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