A seat at the periodic table

There was an interesting story in the USA Today portion of the local paper on Sunday about a new trend in the food and beverage industry — science pubs or cafes.

What a great idea! To me, this sounds downright fascinating, especially if science-fiction presentations are also included. According to the story, 27 new science pubs were opened in the United States during 2010 from coast to coast. This weblink to the Cafe Scientifique organization includes a very useful interactive map to science pub/cafe locations around the world.

The science pub/cafe trend began in the Great Britain (where else) in the late 1990s and now there are science pubs in an estimated 150 cities around the world. Some of the pubs hold scientific events or discussions once or twice a month, while others have an ongoing scientific format or theme.

The Colorado Cafe Scientifique in Denver claims to be the oldest science pub in the United States at the ripe old age of eight. Due to its popularity, the club has recently opened a second location.

To be enjoyable for everyone, science pub events are not designed to overwhelm you with detailed theorem, reams of drab data, or undecipherable equations. Instead they are fashioned in a manner to reach out to the general populace, including those who may not consider themselves science savvy.

Whoever thought of this deserves a medal. Unlike many bars, pubs, or taverns whose focus is solely on the drinks, the dancers, or 24/7 sports on television screens, a science pub educates and entertains in a productive way. Likewise, in a cafe format young people and students can be interactive participants and exchange ideas.

A very important aspect of both the creative arts and of business entrepreneurship is to establish a social mechanism for the continuous free-flow and exchange of ideas and knowledge. A science pub/cafe is a perfect bricks and mortar example of such a conduit.

I was not aware of a science pub/cafe in Mid-Michigan until after reading the article. Upon browsing the Cafe Scientifique website, I discovered that the Schuler Books & Cafe in the Eastwood Towne Center hosts a regular science pub night on a monthly basis. I will definitely be attending an upcoming presentation and raise a frothy mug of beer or espresso to extend my best wishes and good cheer to those who brought a great idea to the local scene.

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