I’d like to tell you about the “Categorically Not!” project that the excellent science writer KC Cole started in Los Angeles in January. Every month there’s a loose theme chosen (examples so far being “holes”, “strings”, “fluid dynamics”, “uncertainty”) and people present little talks or discussions on the theme. KC draws from scientists, artists, musicians, writers, actors, poets, dancers, playwrights, etc. The variety of people you can get in LA is of course huge, and so there’s plenty of local talent, but sometimes speakers from further afield too. (Note some of the resonance with Cafe Scientifique, mentioned by Mark in another post.)
Who are the people who show up to take part? Quite a cross-section from the community of the general public from Santa Monica, Venice, and West LA, but also elsewhere around the city and beyond. (There are also academics in the audience from USC, UCLA, Caltech and other educational institutions too). It takes place once a month on a Sunday evening in a space in the Santa Monica Art Studios which is a great space – a converted aircraft hangar down at Santa Monica Airport.
It’s a great opportunity to do a little to bring together people from many different disciplines and walks of life to have a fun discussion lubricated by coffee, juice, or wine, and which usually carries over to several groups going out to dinner. Sometimes the food gets ordered in and we just eat in the studios and look at the art.
From my perspective, (I played a part in the “Strings” one, as you might have guessed) it was a great chance to explain some key aspects of what science is about to people who want to listen, and to learn about how others think about about the world; for example how ideas/issues can be framed if one does not have a science-first perspective. It’s a tremendous amount of fun, and if you’re in the area, please drop in and sit with us.
There’s a website here with information on past programs, and it will announce future ones too, along with meet times and directions for getting there.