September 10, 2007

Great brew of science is in the making at science café

Public welcome tonight at Great Lakes Brewing Company

Akerib and Mihos

Along with imbibing the Great Lakes Brewing Company's Eliot Ness and other beer and dinner specialties, Clevelanders can get a taste of science on the second Monday of each month through Science Café Cleveland at the brewery.

Members of the Case Western Reserve University Chapter of Sigma Xi (a national association of scientific researchers) have organized the cafés from 6-8 p.m., at the Great Lakes Brewing Company to give the public an opportunity to learn more about science in a fun and relaxed atmosphere.

The Case-led Science Café Cleveland has been revving up since April with discussions about human evolution, stem cell research, global warming and biodiversity.

It continues its fall offerings today, September 10, with Chris Mihos, professor of astronomy, and Dan Akerib, professor and chair of physics, who will discuss dark matter; Joe Keiper, a SAGES fellow in biology from the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, on cool Cleveland insects, October 8; Mark Singer, professor of social work from the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences, with a talk on violence and behavior, November 12; and researchers in the field of nanotechnology, December 10.

Case Western Reserve researchers are pushing forward a grassroots movement of American scientists interested in raising the awareness of scientific research through public discussions at local bars, restaurants and other popular gathering spaces. This type of informal event is based on the idea of an old European salon: a gathering of people for both social and intellectual pursuits. It was recently revived in France and England and has subsequently spread to the United States and other countries.

Darin Croft, assistant professor of anatomy at the School of Medicine, took on the task of organizing the cafés and contacting the brewery as a venue to launch the talks. He works with a committee that includes Cynthia Beall, professor of anthropology; J. Thomas Mortimer, professor emeritus from biomedical engineering; and David Saja, a clinical assistant professor of geological sciences from the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. The endeavor is supported by the Sigma Xi, WGBH Boston, and Great Lakes Brewing Company.

Croft said the committee has defined science in its broadest terms.

"I see us as a group trying to dispel misinformation, educating the public by presenting the latest scientific research and providing access to leading investigators," Croft said.

He added that the series focuses on the facts, leaving any decisions to the individual about what they want to believe, especially on politically charged topics such as global warming, stem cell research and evolution.

The general format for the café is the inverse of a public lecture where someone talks for 50 minutes and then answers a few questions, said Croft, a field researcher who has discovered a number of new fossil species from South America and the Philippines. "The scientists give a brief overview of the topic for five minutes—sometimes using a short video or presentation—and then open it up to questions and discussions."

"Our target audience is young professionals who do not have easy access to lectures," Croft said, adding that people are becoming enthusiastic about the gatherings.

The committee has witnessed the number of attendees grow steadily from about 20 in April to more than 120 in August. "Although such large audiences make it more difficult to have personal interactions between the scientists and the public, it is exciting to see that we are attracting so many people in so short a time," Croft said.

"They didn’t have to twist my arm to do this café” said Mihos, who studies galaxy collisions and the star streams left in the tidal wake of the collision.

He says he believes he has a responsibility to share scientific information from his research as a way of returning something to the public, which has funded his work through the National Science Foundation.

The upcoming dark matter discussion will provide the perspectives of both an astronomer and a physicist; working together, these two fields will unravel the mysteries of the universe by understanding what dark matter is, said Mihos.

Science CaféCleveland is free and open to the public. The Great Lakes Brewing Company is at 2516 Market Ave., off West 25th Street. Learn more about Science Café Cleveland online by referring to the Case Chapter of Sigma Xi Web site.

For more information contact Susan Griffith, 216.368.1004.

Posted by: Kimyette Finley, September 10, 2007 10:41 AM | News Topics: Arts & Entertainment, Collaborations/Partnerships, Community Outreach, Events, Faculty, HeadlinesMain, Provost Initiatives

Case Western Reserve University is committed to the free exchange of ideas, reasoned debate and intellectual dialogue. Speakers and scholars with a diversity of opinions and perspectives are invited to the campus to provide the community with important points of view, some of which may be deemed controversial. The views and opinions of those invited to speak on the campus do not necessarily reflect the views of the university administration or any other segment of the university community.