04 August 2008

Science Cafe Experience

Thursday I had my first experience with a Science Cafe. I chatted with the folks in Annapolis about ice ages. Much fun!

The idea in a science cafe is to bring in a scientist to talk about his work -- a little, not a lecture, just enough to provide fodder for questions and discussion. And then field questions and encourage discussions about that area. My set piece was about 15 minutes, and 45 minutes for discussion after. The audience was excellent since they did start asking questions promptly and they were sincere questions. We met at a cafe, so I also had a chance to eat and have a beer first.

My wife and son enjoyed the event too. Though they've heard me go on about ice ages before, it was just such a good group engaging in the questioning and fitting ideas together.

If you have a chance to talk at one, do! If you have a chance to attend one, do that too. We'll be going, ourselves, whether I'm the main speaker or not.


thingsbreak said...

This is only somewhat tangentially related (if at all), but Fred Singer is giving a class for adults in Arlington, VA on the topic of global warming on 9/27/08. Assuming you are still in the DC area, would you have any interest in attending and sharing your thoughts? It's only 90 minutes long, but that could a loooong 90 minutes depending on how he plays it.

In any event, the above is just an excuse for me to say that I greatly enjoy your site and am glad to see it getting good link from Deltoid and Open Mind.

Keep up the great work!

Tenney Naumer said...

Oh dear, you are being spammed with Fred Singer things. I will just say that Fred Singer does not represent good science.

But, the main point of my comment was to mention that scientists can be either he or she. These days, quite a large number are female, including physicists.

Best of luck with your blog.

Penguindreams said...

Thanks for the luck Tenney. Never hurts to have more. Thanks also thingsbreak.

Tenney, I'm aware of scientists also being women, but went through English in ancient days when the 'his' was the grammatically preferred usage. I have compromised by alternating some on the generic uses, his, or her. I just dislike 'his or her' being inserted at every single use of an indeterminate pronoun.

I think thingsbreak's idea was for me to visit and report, say in the vein of my visit to 'icecap', or the petition project. If you check out their blog, you'll see that it's unlikely to be a fan of Singer. (The writing also sounds familiar, but I haven't placed the person yet.)

In any case, I'm familiar with Singer's ... work, and am still in the DC area. Whether a 90 minute session of that would be a good use of my time ... doesn't seem likely at the moment. Depends.

Maybe we can get some comments here about whether and why I should go, and what folks would like to see in a report of the experience.

tamino said...

My mother was an English teacher, and the worst word you could say in our house was "ain't". She too drilled into us that the default pronoun is the masculine form -- nothing else was acceptable at our dinner table.

But one of the characteristics of the English language is that it changes so rapidly. I try to "go with the flow," but old habits die hard.

P. Lewis said...

What is it with you Americans? (Mind you, to be honest it's not just you Western Atlantic cousins.) There's a perfectly good, acceptable alternative to the "he/she", "him/her" state of affairs. And it's been in use from Caxton to Shakespeare to Austen to Thackeray to Twain ... to me: (the singular) "they/them/their".

And with all due deference to tamino's mum, "ain't" has been in use since the 17C, at least on the eastern side of the pond. It's a (bastardized) contraction of "am not". True, you wouldn't want to use "ain't" in a scientific publication ... ordinarily. It's as correct as "isn't", "wasn't", etc. are, though with regard to usage in scientific publications ...

BTW, having followed the link from Deltoid and RC, and now from Open Mind, it won't be too long before the anti-science hordes will have you reminiscing for these halcyon days of few comments. There won't be enough hours in the day to deal with it. I don't know how some of the one-man-band (oops, one-person-band) bloggers cope.

You have now been bookmarked. Keep up the good work.

tamino said...

My mum emphasized that "he/him/his" is singular while "they/them/their" is plural, and therefore incorrect.

And penguin, I like your idea to enforce an enhanced code of civility in comments. The blogosphere has plenty of sites that allow a free-for-all, and that's fine, but we need a civil discussion too. Stick to your guns.

Penguindreams said...

Capital climate wrote in with
Thanks for taking the time to analyze this. Ice**** (can I say that here? [moderator: er, no. Plus no need for it; you have some substantial things to say.]) was already on my wall of shame because it has so much bad science. What's most disturbing about this to me as a meteorologist is that it's run by a credentialed meteorologist, so it's become very popular with broadcast meteorologists who should know better. One of the local Washington, DC TV weather guys recently promoted the site in a comment to the Washington Post weather blog.

Technical aside: How can I accept a comment, but with modifications like I made above? blogger seems to want whole hog or not at all.

Blog note: I'm aiming to keep this readable by, say, my sister's junior high science classes. Now I know that they know all the words. Still, I'm a guy who coached a 12-13 year old baseball team without once using a four letter word in front of them.

p. lewis, tamino: Language usage is a fun topic of its own right. I do sometimes use the singular 'they' forms. ain't is interestingly strange. Where I grew up, it was used by almost none of the adults, but almost all of the children, particularly the youngest (6 and under). Interesting that they all contracted 'am not' in the same irregular way.

P. Lewis said...

Re your technical aside. Officially you can no longer edit comments in Blogger. However, you might wish to look at this page.

Cahya said...

An interesting article.