Inaugural "science cafe"

Inaugural "science cafe" (Photo by MagicalPhotos.com / Courtesy / September 20, 2013)

When Dr. William Bosking, of the august Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience, stands up from his table at O’Shea’s Irish Pub in West Palm Beach Thursday night to discuss the topic “Visual perception: How our brains create the world we see,” you can ask him anything you want.

For instance, a question that might come in handy during a night on Clematis Street: Can you learn how to create a visual that might mislead the viewer’s brain into thinking you’re Brad Pitt?

“You can certainly ask him that question and see what his response is,” says Kate Arrizza, of the South Florida Science Center and Aquarium, which will host Bosking at its inaugural “science cafe” (slogan: “Drink up, get smart”) at 6 p.m. Thursday. “[The event] will be entertaining and engaging, with questions, visual aids, demonstrations. It will be an interactive, fun experience. Not stodgy at all.”

Science cafes, which began in college towns and other hubs of scientific study before multiplying around the country, offer visitors a casual, layman’s-level discussion with an expert while kicking back with a craft beer, wine or coffee. Arrizza says a visiting colleague told her he attended one in North Carolina’s Research Triangle that drew 400 guests.

South Florida Science Center’s science café, called “Science on Tap,” will be the only one from Miami to Vero Beach registered at ScienceCafes.org, operated by PBS’s “NOVA” science series as a clearinghouse for creating and finding these events. The center is planning another Palm Beach County gathering in May.

“The tide is shifting from people not wanting to know what’s going on in the world, and not really caring about science, and the science café movement … is the first aspect of that,” Arrizza says. “People like to go and hear about these things without thinking they’re not intellectual enough.”

Arrizza says the center’s science café themes will be chosen for their non-nerd appeal, and she expects a diverse crowd. Admission is free and, apparently, they’ll let anybody in.

“You can be an English major if you want. The topics will be relatable no matter what field you’re in,” she says.

Bosking, who will be joined by a phalanx of associates adorned with buttons that say “I’m a scientist. Ask me a question,” has done these types of events before, Arrizza says, and is adept at turning science into entertainment.

“It takes a special type of really engaging scientist, a Ph.d, to talk down to the level of a normal person, like you and I,” she says. “That’s Dr. Bosking. He’s fantastic. I’ve seen his presentation before, and I can’t wait to see it in this setting.”

IF YOU GO
“Science on Tap,” hosted by the South Florida Science Center and Aquarium, is 6-7:30 p.m. Thursday at O’Shea’s Irish Pub (531 Clematis St., West Palm Beach). Admission is free. Call 561-832-1988 or go to SFScienceCenter.org.

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