Astronomers working on Nasa’s Kepler mission—launched in 2009 to spot habitable planets in our galaxy—will take stock at a meeting from 5th-9th December at the Ames Research Centre in California. The orbiting telescope, which has already prompted astronomers to widen the variety of stars thought capable of supporting life, caused a sensation earlier this year by detecting a planet orbiting two suns. A cosmic revelation or two would round off the year nicely, as well as being handy for soliciting federal funds to extend Kepler’s three-and-a-half year lifespan.
An unusually sleek bunch of geeks will be in New York on 8th-9th December: it’s the annual science meeting and technology showcase of the Society of Cosmetic Scientists. It’s not all silky shampoos and anti-ageing creams—one team is developing camouflage face paint to protect soldiers against flash burns, and you wouldn’t believe the effort required to make a handwash that hospital workers want to use 50 times a day.
The Natural Environment Research Council launches its Marine Vision and Priorities programme at the Institute of Physics in London on 13th December. The oceans form a watery backdrop to some of science’s most pressing global policy concerns, such as rising sea levels, vanishing fish stocks and the fear that the planet’s water may not be able to soak up as much carbon dioxide as climate scientists hope.
Having once spied the likeness of Jimmy Greaves in a naan, I am intrigued by this year’s Royal Institution’s Christmas Lectures, delivered by psychologist and SuperSense author Bruce Hood. Why do we spot patterns where there is randomness, and why do we ascribe personalities and names to things such as soft toys and cars? Tickets sell fast so you’ll need to move quickly (various dates in December; see www.rigb.org).