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Speakers and participants get involved at various Ask a Scientist events.
JG: The talk starts at 7:00 and ends at 9:00, with a 10-minute break in the middle. The speaker gives two short presentations (around 15–20 minutes each), and the rest of the time is devoted to Q&A.
JG: Attendees’ backgrounds vary quite a bit. The age range is mostly 20s to 50s, but there are a couple of precocious little kids who show up regularly, a few teenagers, and also some seniors. About a third of the attendees work in the sciences (scientists, teachers, or science writers), and the rest come from any professional background you can imagine. Many are well informed about the topic of the night, and others have just walked in off the street because they thought the topic sounded interesting, but they aren’t especially familiar with it.
JG: We cover a broad range of topics, and the speakers’ backgrounds vary too. Some are researchers, some are university professors or high school teachers; there have also been science writers, doctors, and some people involved in science outreach and education, like Glenn Branch, deputy director of the National Center for Science Education, who spoke about the controversy over teaching evolution in public schools. Our speakers’ expertise runs the gamut, including astronomy, physics, computer engineering, meteorology, neurobiology, history of science, psychology, robotics, and others.
JG: Books, articles, and radio interviews provide me with ideas for topics and speakers. If I’m reading about or listening to something interesting and the scientist in question happens to be local, I’ll look him or her up and extend an invitation. Sometimes I just think about a topic I’ve been curious about and do a little research on it to find a local expert. Then a lot of recommendations come to me through word of mouth. Friends and acquaintances tell me about someone they know, or have heard about, who’s doing some sort of fascinating research. And sometimes potential speakers write to me offering to come speak about their research. This has actually provided some great evenings—things I wouldn’t have thought of or known about on my own.
Merck litmus paper, 1934
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