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,

SAN FRANCISCO, CA: Ask a Scientist,

DENVER, CO: Café Scientifique,

ATLANTA, GA: Atlanta Science Tavern,

IOWA CITY, IA: Café Scientifique,

MUSKEGON, MI: Café Scientifique,

ST. LOUIS, MO: Science on Tap,

NEW YORK, NY: Secret Science Club,

STILLWATER, OK: Born to Do Science,


PHILADELPHIA, PA: Penn Science Café,; Science on Tap,

BROOKINGS, SD: Science Visions,



For a more complete directory, visit

Eleanor Goldberg is the editor of Chemical Heritage.