Science cafes offer a sip of learning

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Americans may be turning away from the hard sciences at universities, but they are increasingly showing up at “science cafes” in local bars and restaurants to listen to scientific talks over a drink or a meal.

Want a beer with that biology? Or perhaps a burger with the works to complement the theory of everything?

Science cafes have sprouted in almost every state including a tapas restaurant near downtown Orlando where Sean Walsh, 27, a graphic designer, describes himself and his friends as some of the laymen in the crowd.

“We just want to learn and whatever we take in, we take in. But we’re also socializing and having a nice time,” said Walsh, who a drank beer, ate Tater Tots and learned a little about asteroids and radiation at two recent events.

Others in the crowd come with scientific credentials to hear particular scientists lecture on a narrowly focused field of interest.

But the typical participant brings at least some college-level education or at least a lively curiosity, said Edward Haddad, executive director of the Florida Academy of Sciences, which helped start up Orlando’s original cafe and organizes the events.

“You’re going to engage the (National Public Radio) crowd very easily here,” said Linda Walters, a marine conservation biologist from the University of Central Florida who has lectured twice at the Orlando-area science cafes.

Written By: Barbara Liston
continue to source article at reuters.com

16 COMMENTS

  1. When I was in Grad school I’d head to the bar with a fellow student. We both were studying molecular genetics and loved to talk. We would go to the bar, have a beer, and sit and chat. Soon, we had an audience of a handful of undergrads who would sit and listen and ask questions. It became a bit of a weekly tradition and we became minor celebrities on campus (very very very minor)…

    Anyway, this article brought me back to those “good old days”. Thanks for posting it.

  2. I think that meeting in cafes for intellectual debate and discussion, is a long standing historical tradition.

    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coffee _culture

    The formation of culture around coffee and coffeehouses dates back to 14th century Turkey.

    Coffeehouses in Western Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean were traditionally social hubs, as well as artistic and intellectual centers.

    For example, Les Deux Magots in Paris, now a popular tourist attraction, was once associated with the intellectuals Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir.

    In the late 17th and 18th centuries, coffeehouses in London became popular meeting places for artists, writers, and socialites and were also the center for much political and commercial activity.

    Elements of today’s coffeehouses (slower paced gourmet service, tastefully decorated environments, or social outlets such as open mic nights) have their origins in early coffeehouses, and continue to form part of the concept of coffee culture.

  3. Brilliant, the return of the Penny University!

    I’ve always been a cafe scenester. Before the days of WiFi, one would gain a reputation as a source of good info and be the local ‘professor’, like what crookedshoes describes. Now fact checking goes on via phones, but we still have plenty to argue about. This is the true function of cafes. Cafes are also stages of revolution, from the French cafe scene in the 1700s, to Cafe Slavia in the (now) Czech Republic. Cafe culture suffered a lot with the advent of Starbucks, but I’ve been seeing signs of a revival, such as this.

  4. In reply to #6 by This Is Not A Meme:

    Brilliant, the return of the Penny University!

    I’ve always been a cafe scenester. Before the days of WiFi, one would gain a reputation as a source of good info and be the local ‘professor’, like what crookedshoes describes. Now fact checking goes on via phones, but we still have plenty to argue about. This is the true function of cafes. Cafes are also stages of revolution, from the French cafe scene in the 1700s, to Cafe Slavia in the (now) Czech Republic. Cafe culture suffered a lot with the advent of Starbucks, but I’ve been seeing signs of a revival, such as this.

    Ah, Starbucks- the Ronald McDonald of coffee!

  5. love it! Personally, I think public libraries need to have a cafe and a mini twenty seater movie theater. They could show a movie for people in one room and have lectures in another area.

  6. Why not? Hitch lectured and answered audience questions in a bookshop over both coffee, and in his case even a cigarette! I can see similar gatherings of atheist nature even in libraries, many of which have coffee machines nowadays, my local one among them. After all, wherever there are a few of you gathered….

    In reply to #8 by Nodhimmi:_

    Can’t see the atheist equivalent taking off, though. Pity.

  7. My personal favorite is the Science on Tap series of lectures at the National Mechanics bar in Philadelphia. What’s better than a beer, a burger (veggie), and a talk on growing replacement organs from t-cells on sugar scaffolding produced using 3D printers? Far better than any Super Bowl or World Cup…

  8. oh, i can just see it now, “cafe vatican”; a priest telling customers that they’re all sinners; and tom lehrer’s ‘vatican rag’ playing in the background! – the competition is going to be fierce.

  9. In reply to #3 by Sjoerd Westenborg:

    Love it. The cynic in me anticipates the avoidance of ‘controversial’ subjects in most cafés to draw the biggest crowds, but I hope to be wrong.

    Then again, controversial subjects might draw the biggest crouwds.

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