You may have read celebrated and successful bloggers such as Mark and PZ Myers enthusing about the “Cafe Scientifique” idea. It’s an attempt, international in scope but local in focus, to promote discussion about exciting scientific ideas between experts and non-experts in an informal environment. By “in an informal environment” we typically mean “in a bar,” although I suppose an actual cafe or similar venue would do just as well. The original Cafes were located in England, but the idea has subsequently taken off and spread around the world. It’s similar in spirit to KC Cole’s Categorically Not series that Clifford has mentioned.
So now it’s our turn. Randy Landsberg at the University of Chicago has taken up the challenge of organizing a Cafe Scientifique in the Windy City, and the first meeting will be this Wednesday at the Map Room, a neighborhood bar famous for its dizzyingly diverse beer list. I’ll be the speaker, although the speaking is not the focus of the event. I’ll talk for about twenty minutes, followed by a break to give everyone a chance to refill their drinks, culminating in an extensive discussion/Q&A session where everyone gets a chance to talk the ideas through. The particular idea to be discussed is one of my favorites: Why is the past different from the future? We’ll talk about entropy and the arrow of time in our everyday lives, and connect it to big speculative ideas about the origin of the universe. Should be fun! And if everyone gets along, this will undoubtedly be the first of many events, and before too long the El will be alive with intense discussions about dispatches from the frontiers of science.