Informal Science

Ask a Scientist

Speakers and Participants get involved at various Ask a Scientist events.

GN: What have been a few of your most popular topics?

JG: Some of the most popular topics have been in astronomy, physics, and the human brain and behavior. We rarely have unpopular topics—in fact, in five and a half years we’ve only had a negative reaction once. The vast majority of the time the speakers deliver above and beyond my expectations.

GN: What is the benefit of attending a science café over a traditional lecture or a class?

JG: The extra benefit of Ask a Scientist is that it’s fun and social. You can have dinner and drinks and see friends. Many regulars have made lasting friendships just from seeing each other month after month. It’s casual, so you can go and chat with the speaker during the break or after the talk. And it’s free to attend—for me this has been a labor of love, and all of the speakers generously donate their time as well.

GN: Do you take audience feedback into consideration when shaping your future events?\

JG: Yes. People come up to me all the time, or write to me, to suggest topics and speakers. Some of them have been really outside-the-box ideas, like Zeke Kossover, a physics teacher who offered to put on a “physics circus.” This has been a wildly popular event.

GN: How does audience participation shape each event?

JG: It’s always a big part of the event. Sometimes the questions and comments lead to some of the more interesting content. In the old days, when I first started Ask a Scientist and the crowds were smaller, I let people just interrupt with questions, so the whole night was more of a casual conversation. Now that the crowds are larger I have to structure it more, setting aside special time devoted to Q&A. But it’s still important to me to give the audience a chance to participate. After all, when I first thought up this idea, the whole point was to “ask a scientist!”

Find a Science Café in Your Neck of the Woods

LITTLE ROCK, AK: Science Café Little Rock, sciencecafelr.com

SAN FRANCISCO, CA: Ask a Scientist, askascientistsf.com

DENVER, CO: Café Scientifique, www.cafescicolorado.org

ATLANTA, GA: Atlanta Science Tavern, www.atlantasciencetavern.com

IOWA CITY, IA: Café Scientifique, www.physics.uiowa.edu/cafe

MUSKEGON, MI: Café Scientifique, muskegoncafescientifique.com

ST. LOUIS, MO: Science on Tap, scienceontap.wustl.edu

NEW YORK, NY: Secret Science Club, secretscienceclub.blogspot.com

STILLWATER, OK: Born to Do Science, borntodoscience.blogspot.com

EUGENE AND PORTLAND, OR: Science Pub, omsi.edu/sciencepub

PHILADELPHIA, PA: Penn Science Café, www.upenn.edu/pennnews/sciencecafe; Science on Tap, www.chemheritage.org/ScienceOnTap

BROOKINGS, SD: Science Visions, sciencevisions.net/SciCafe.html

AROUND THE UNITED KINGDOM: cafescientifique.org

 

For a more complete directory, visit sciencecafes.org.


Eleanor Goldberg is the editor of Chemical Heritage.