Thursday, 29 August 2013

Confessions of a conference attendee

Day 5: 27th August (posted retrospectively)

Truth be told I found yesterday rather dull. Today I had a better plan. I got up bright and early and queued outside the Uffizi gallery to buy a ticket. The Uffizi gallery is listed as a “Must see” in all the guidebooks, having a whole load of pictures collected by the Medici’s including various Botticellis. The ticket office opens at 8.15 and I got there at about 7.40, there were only 15 or so people ahead of me. I could have gone in straight away but I bought a ticket for 12.30 then headed off to the conference. I had my eye on two sessions - one on soils (known as "the critical zone" at geochemistry conferences to try and sex them up) and another on the formation of calcium carbonate. I heard some good talks by which I mean talks that make you think about your own data, think of new experiments or see ways in which you could do experiments differently. In my case there were some good thoughts about how soil particles stick together and also how to try and spot proteins in calcium carbonate. Then it was off to the Uffizi.
The Uffizi was excellent. There were some stunning paintings by various Italian masters. Many were originally hung in churches / formed the backs of altars. It made me wonder what the churches felt like - a bit like the Greeks (justifiably) wanting the Elgin marbles back perhaps. There was one painting that had been in a nunnery and apparently the nuns got a copy of the painting and a full upgrade of the nunnery plumbing in exchange for the original. Seems like a fair deal. The other interesting thing to note was that the original Botticellis looked far better than the posters you can buy. I guess this is vaguely reassuring!

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