Scientific conferences intimidated me when I was a graduate student. Even under the wing of my thesis adviser, a well-known scientist and a good mentor, my awful insignificance and inexperience were readily apparent to all.

As my own professional wings spread, conferences became less formidable. My steadily growing credentials gave my words weight. I grew to express the unexpected and controversial, and even to help plan some of the meetings that had once awed me. Meetings became fun.



Not long ago, I spent two hours in the library in pursuit of a single fact: a certain astronomer's first name. I was writing about Alpha Centauri, the nearest star to the sun. Alpha Centauri is ]actually triple; it consists of two bright stars and one faint one. The faint star is called Proxima Centauri, because it is the closest of the three. The two bright stars...

Interested in reading more?

Become a Member of

Receive full access to digital editions of The Scientist, as well as TS Digest, feature stories, more than 35 years of archives, and much more!
Already a member?