News / Science & Technology

Science Goes Down Easier With Food, Drinks

Science cafés bring researchers out of the lab and into conversation with regular folks

Organizer Cynthia Wichelman introduces a 'Science on Tap' speaker at the Schlafly Bottleworks.
Organizer Cynthia Wichelman introduces a 'Science on Tap' speaker at the Schlafly Bottleworks.

Multimedia

Audio

Sometimes, science can seem overwhelming.

There are complicated concepts, unimaginably large — or small — objects, and vast distances that most people have a hard time understanding. And scientists often have difficulty explaining what they do in language the public can understand.

But there is a movement to bring scientists out of the lab and into the community for a chat over dinner and drinks.

Most people learn about science in school, from the media, or on the internet. But at a science café, they get to learn about it straight from the scientists themselves.

Audience members enjoy a meal at Herbie's Restaurant before a Saint Louis Science Center Science Café.
Audience members enjoy a meal at Herbie's Restaurant before a Saint Louis Science Center Science Café.

Mixing food and science

For the past four years, Al Wiman has organized a monthly science café for the Saint Louis Science Center in Missouri.  

"A science café, it's a concept that actually started in Europe, and it was an idea to get scientists engaged in an informal conversation with the general public." Wiman says part of what makes science cafés successful is where that conversation takes place: "We have it in the lower level of Herbie's restaurant in the Central West End."

There are now more than 100 science cafés at bars and restaurants throughout the United States. They attract anywhere from a handful to over a 100 people, depending on the topic.

Washington University geophysicist Anne Hofmeister presents her work at 'Science on Tap.'
Washington University geophysicist Anne Hofmeister presents her work at 'Science on Tap.'

'Science on Tap'

St. Louis has two science cafés.

The second one — sponsored by Washington University — meets once a month during the academic year at a bar called the Schlafly Bottleworks.

Organizer Cynthia Wichelman says "Science on Tap" features Washington University professors talking about their research. The events draw a diverse audience.

"We have people who are professionals that range from engineers and physicians, to people that just have an interest in science and may be retired, may not be employed, may be students, and have just an interest in learning more," says Wichelman.

New way to learn

So what brings people out to a bar to talk about science?

Audience member Mike Stuart likes the atmosphere: "It's fun to learn things and enjoy a good beer."

"I was actually really lousy in science class," says audience member Carrie Smothers. "So now I'm picking up the information as I can get it." Smothers laughingly says being at a bar helps the science go down a little more easily.

Ron Rogers is another attendee. He calls science cafés "a civilized education."

"Why aren't more science talks in a bar, right?" asked audience member and former "Science on Tap" speaker Robert Pless. "Like this is the place where you learn and you ask and you understand things most quickly. Instead of a lecture where it's really just a one-way thing."

Audience questions make science cafés come to life

The topics discussed at these science cafés are as varied as scientific research itself: from black holes to biological clocks to botany. But the evening really kicks into high gear after the scientist's presentation ends, when the audience gets to start the conversation:

"Is it still a question as to whether there is a lot more plant diversity in the Andes versus the Amazon?"

"If you're right, what is the origin of the magnetic fields?"

"What is their number one objection to what you're saying?"

And the questions keep coming — sometimes going on for longer than the presentation itself. But the scientists don't seem to mind.

Scientists also enjoy the challenge of a science café

Ivan Jimenez of the Missouri Botanical Garden says he appreciates the chance to talk about his work with people outside the scientific community.

"Scientists often talk to scientists, not very often to non-scientists, so that's kind of exciting, fun." Jimenez says. "Challenging."

But at the science cafés in St. Louis, scientists and non-scientists alike seem up to the challenge.

You May Like

UN: 1 Million Somalis at Risk of Hunger

Group warns region is in dire need of humanitarian aid, with at least 200,000 children under age of five acutely malnourished as drought hits southern, central part of nation More

Human Rights Groups Allege Supression of Freedoms in Thailand

Thailand’s military, police have suppressed release of independent report assessing human rights in kingdom during first 100 days of latest coup More

Jennifer Lawrence Contacts FBI After Nude Photos Hacked

'Silver Linings Playbook' actress' photos were posted on image-sharing forum 4chan; Federal Bureau of Investigations is looking into matter More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forcesi
X
September 02, 2014 12:58 PM
A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Internet, Technology Offer New Tools for Journalists

The Internet and rapidly evolving technology is quickly changing how people receive news and how journalists deliver it. There are now more ways to tell a story than ever before. One school in Los Angeles is teaching the next generation of journalists with the help of a state-of-the-art newsroom. Elizabeth Lee has this report.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.

AppleAndroid