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Dan Gillmor is very optimistic about the future of journalism — whether it includes journalists or not. At the opening plenary session of ScienceWriters 2009 Oct. 17 in Austin, Texas, and just a few days away from observing the 10-year anniversary of his first journalist-blog posting, Gillmor talked about mining the great potential he sees in the rapidly morphing ways that people can get and use information.

Three days after the U.S. House of Representatives renewed a 2003 bill that promotes exploration into the adverse health effects of nanoparticles, scientists convened to debate what form that assessment should take. The symposium, "Driving Beyond Our Nano-Headlights?", took place on 14 February at the AAAS meeting in Chicago.

Scott Gaudi has a simple answer when asked about the number of Earth-like planets in the universe. "They're everywhere. Common as dirt," says Gaudi, an astronomer at Ohio State University. He spoke on 15 February at the AAAS meeting in Chicago during a session titled "From Enlightenment to Lunar Theories to Extrasolar Planets."

Charles Darwin received ample tribute at the AAAS meeting in Chicago, which opened 200 years after the scientist's birth and 150 years after the publication of his watershed work On the Origin of Species. One speaker took the talk of origins back to a more primal stage, spotlighting the formation of the first organic molecules in the dusty neighborhoods of young stars.

In a 13 February symposium on "The Cosmic Cradle of Life," Anthony Remijan of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) unveiled a new resource that may help astrochemists trace the genesis of the ingredients for life on Earth -- and possibly life elsewhere in the universe.

Scientists need to look beyond their laboratories to include not just microscopes and beakers but lawmakers on Capitol Hill, said a panel of professors and policy experts on 14 February at the AAAS meeting in Chicago.

Across the country, institutions of higher learning are implementing science policy courses for undergraduate and graduate students. Despite this trend, more programs of study are needed. Together, the panelists encouraged science students, and their institutions, to supplement biological, chemical, or physical science preparation with exploration into the process of policymaking, drafting legislation, and lobbying for a cause.

It's time to expect the unexpected. Leading environmental researchers issued that warning on 13 February at the AAAS meeting in Chicago, during a symposium to address how Earth's ecology is responding to climate change. According to the scientists, the debate on why the world is warming has ended. Now that researchers have established that humans are at least partially responsible, they said, it's critical to focus on how climate change might affect life in the 21st century and what can be done to manage the impacts.

Biomedical researchers are getting personal. That, at least, is the trend foreseen by geneticist T. Conrad Gilliam of the University of Chicago, who spoke on 13 February at the AAAS meeting in Chicago. In a provocative address titled "Human Genetics, Genomics, and the Future of Medicine," Gilliam explored personalized medicine — and his efforts to trace some diseases to many sets of interacting genes.