Science Cafés: Have a Drink, Learn About Stuff
Local scientists are giving presentations in cafés, bars, and other hangouts as part of an emerging trend... interactive adult education in a non-classroom environment. This reminds me of the Dorkbot lectures that I'd attend in NYC, but with a wider array of topics. As these lectures are held in a public venue, the attendance can shift with viewers' attention spans: if someone out for the evening catches some of the discussion and wants to hear more, she can tune in. If an audience member gets bored of particle physics, he can tune out.
"It gets me exposed to more areas of science," said Jodie Kasmir, a health care communications specialist, during a break at the big-waves lecture. "Where else am I going to learn about things like sea urchins, or astronomy? How else am I going to find these scientists? Am I going to e-mail them, or go to their lab?"
These cafés seem to have hit a sweet spot in adult science education, offering access to cutting-edge discoveries and the scientists who make them, minus the notes and tests required in school (plus wine, coffee or beer flowing freely from the bar).
About 60 science cafés have cropped up across the United States. The first café was held in England in 1998, and the movement is spreading elsewhere in Europe, as well as South America and Australia. Most are held free of charge and are loosely affiliated through an international umbrella organization called Café Scientifique.
Café coordinators say that crowds come with minimal advertising and represent a wide demographic, from teenagers to thirty-somethings to retired folks.