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Cafe Scientifique

The Center for Science in Society is hosting a series of discussions, every other Monday evening from 7-8pm beginning January 26, 2009 in the Multicultural Center. These discussions, called Cafe Scientifique, are designed to foster an informal discussion on important issues where science and culture meet head on. Refreshments will be provided by the Center for Science in Society.

What is Cafe Scientifique?

The concept of the Cafe Scientifique goes back to the turn of the century. The first cafes were held in Leeds, UK in 1998. From there, cafes gradually spread across the UK. Currently, some forty or so cafes meet regularly to hear scientists or writers on science talk about their work and discuss it with diverse audiences around the world.

Cafe Scientifique is a place where anyone can come to explore the latest ideas in science and technology over a cup of coffee or glass of wine. Meetings take place in cafes, bars, restaurants and even theatres, but always outside a traditional academic context. Cafe Scientifique is a forum for debating science issues, not a shop window for science. The idea is based on the commitment to promoting public engagement with science and to making science accountable.

Cafes Scientifiques often start with a short talk from the speaker, who is usually a scientist or a writer on science to introduce the topic. After this, there is usually a short break to allow glasses to be refilled and conversations to start. This is followed by an hour or so of questions and answers and general discussion. Anyone can ask a question, and we positively welcome those which begin "This might be a stupid question, but ..." These questions are invariably not stupid
and often rather insightful.

Cafes Scientifiques cover a wide range of issues relating to science and technology. Topics covered have included AIDS, the Big Bang, biodiversity, cancer, code-breaking, consciousnes sports science, superconductors and more. All Cafes Scientifiques welcome suggestions
from the audience about their programs.

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Week 1: Presenter - Doug Blank, Computer Science, Bryn Mawr College

Week 2:  Presenters - Betsy Reese (GIS instructor and Library Assistant, Map Curator,Bryn Mawr College) and Andy Reese (Computer Science, Swarthmore)

  • Can you hear or speak the name of a place without tapping a preconceived
    notion of that place? What do you think of when someone says "up north"
    or "down south," and why does it matter? What is "place bias" or
    "geographic bias," how does it shape our view or judgment of the world,
    and is it possible to not have it?  What stories do maps tell, and whose
    stories?  Who or what is mapped, by whom, and for what purpose?  Let's
    discuss these and other key questions in Geographic Information Science
    to see how they connect with social justice, and what we can do about it.

Week 3:  Presenters -Anne Dalke (English, ,Bryn Mawr College) and Paul Grobstein (Biology, Bryn Mawr Colleg)

  • Why is evolution so controversial? An exploration of why Darwin and evolution are such controversial subjects in the U.S. today. In anticipation of our conversation, you might want to look at the recent NPR program about the legal proceedings in Dover., PA. - (see especially chapters 4 and 12).