“The farther you look inside of living nature, the more miraculous one experiences her. — Je tiefer man in die lebendige Natur hineinsieht, desto wunderbarer erlebt man sie.” Albert Hofmann, chemist and discoverer of LSD

Yesterday was a terrific Saturday, full of wonderous things such as clouds, genes and LSD. The festival for scientific documentaries “Pariscience” was up und running in the Jardin de Plantes in Paris. Among yesterday’s movies were a documentary on the Himalaya Mountains “Un nuage sur le toit du monde” and a film about the scientist who discovered LSD: “The Substance – Albert Hofmann’s LSD“. After the screening of The Substance, there was a small question & answer session with the sociologist François Beck and the pharmacologist Nicolas Bonnet, who are both working on drug usage. Interestingly, the research about LSD was not very intense after the 1980 and only recently reemerged in the years 2000. As the two described, there is still very little scientific knowledge about the effects of LSD.

After screening discussion with Nicolas Bonnet and François Beck

After screening discussion with Nicolas Bonnet and François Beck

(I missed the documentary on the Himalayan clouds, what a pity! I am still writing about it because it reminded me of an incredible article describing how sand from Africa nurishes the Amazon forest.)

In the afternoon I headed for another event:  a public discussion about the power of genes “Que peuvent les gènes ?” between the physiologist Denis Noble and the geneticist Pierre-Henri Gouyon. I remembered once having read a good article about Denis Noble in the Guardian. Denis Noble repeated his arguments against a reduction of life to genes and more in particular against Richard Dawkin’s idea of individuals steered by “selfish genes”. Pierre-Henri Gouyon pointed out how important the notion of information is to him as a geneticist – and how badly defined this term is. Both of the scientists agreed that epigenetics is an effects which has to be studied in more  detail and which will probably bring a big change to biology.

Discussion between Denis Noble and Pierre-Henri Gouyon

Discussion between Denis Noble and Pierre-Henri Gouyon

Later, in the evening and independent from the day’s events, there was the annual Nuit Blanche, for which most of the Parisian Buildings are open for visitors. I joined the crowds and found my way into the Faculté des Sciences, where a performance was going on. It was time to listen to some psychodelic music, entirely unscientific, and yet influenced by chemistry.

Performance in the "Nuit blanche" at the Faculté des Sciences

Performance at the Faculté des Sciences