Mr. Wizard Goes Urban

Mr. Wizard Goes Urban

Dayton gets logical with Pub Science

By Katie Modras-Anible

Kalani McDermott, a bartender/server at Blind Bob’s really gets into the act at a recent Pub Science event.

The atmosphere in Blind Bob’s every second Tuesday night of the month is warm and friendly, to say the least. As you enter, you’re met with the donation container: a giant graduated cylinder that sits among a welcoming science display. You’ll see a group of naturalist-looking folks off to the right. They’re thick in conversation and the table is crowded with pints and plates of fried pineapple rings and burgers. A group of 20-something hipsters at the bar are all smiles and hugs. It’s a familiar crowd for Pub Science; all types can get into this. Think Mr. Wizard, but urban. You’ll see an overhead screen propped next to the stage near the dartboards. There are handouts and supplies for activities arranged on the tables next to the ketchup bottles and beer lists. Dayton’s Pub Science, which opened in December 2009, has been known to pack the bar to capacity, with people standing between tables and in the back. It’s something that many people have come to anticipate each month.
Lucky for us, the Pub Science meme first began across the ocean in Europe as the Café Scientifiques, or Science Cafes, and the concept has since crossed the Atlantic. It’s an infectious and exciting idea that brings the forefront of modern science into places a wide variety of people frequent. The general opinion in scientific and educational circles is that science should be part of our everyday culture. The goal of Science Cafes is to bring scientists and professors into regular community meeting places, creating a platform for dialogue and awareness. There are thousands of such groups that have formed across the world, and now in our city.
Mark J. Meister, a local Pub Science participant and presenter, describes the positive impact such a movement can offer our city. “Science centers have grappled with the challenge of attracting new adult audiences, and in some instances that means providing programs at alternative venues,” he said. “In the past few years, many science centers have adopted the Café Scientifique concept of public, informal forums for the discussion of science issues of the day, and the Boonshoft Museum’s Pub Science is an outgrowth of that movement.”
The Boonshoft Museum of Discovery, and locally owned and operated Blind Bob’s, have played host to an array of professionals and educators from our local universities and science facilities. Such topics of discussion have included the Physiology of Taste, the Art and Science of Beer Brewing, Prehistoric Pottery, Changing Ohio’s Forests, Nanotechnology, Exoplanets, and Forensic Science. Each topic is presented by a leading professional or expert and is relayed in a way that encourages questions and dialogue between the audience and presenters.
Marcie Wendeln, a tropical ecologist from Wright State University, appreciates her experience presenting at the Dayton Pub Science.
“I found this to be a unique and rewarding experience and a great opportunity to present my research interests to the general public,” she said. “It was fun and is a great way to reach a diverse group of people on a variety of scientific topics.”
Elizabeth Landis, Boonshoft educator and local Pub Science organizer, continues to be amazed by the extent of audience support and interest, as well as the abundant outpouring of local science professionals who come out of the woodwork with a keen interest in the opportunity to share their life’s work. “I am so impressed with our local scientists, who are passionate and eager to share their work in this kind of setting,” she said. Landis has closely followed audience response with monthly surveys at each event as a comprehensive way to create a unique experience catering to the common interests and curiosities of the Dayton Pub Science crowd.  This process is one of the factors that draws people back to Pub Science each month- they become part of a relevant and progressive event.
On April 12, Pub Science will briefly change locations and invite guests to experience a special free event: Science Night at the Boonshoft. Mingle with other guests before a discussion led by Dr. Sharmila M. Mukhopadhyay, about conductors of the future in the museum’s new temporary exhibit, “It’s Electric.” The museum then invites attendees to “get charged up about energy” at an exhibition featuring the science behind electricity and how its discovery changed the world. This Pub Science event will take place in the Tait Auditorium, which features a giant, 6-foot spherical display in the center of the room. Science on a Sphere will show images of Earth, space and science.
The “It’s Electric” exhibit opens in honor of Dayton Power and Light’s 100-year anniversary, with relics on display from the company’s past, along with many hands-on activities and electrical oddities and inventions. Create a giant human circuit and test your skills at “mind ball,” a game that pits the EEG waves of visitors against each other. The event as a whole is sure to spark the senses.

The Pub Science “It’s Electric” event will be held April 12 at 7 p.m. (doors open at 6:30 p.m.) at the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery at 2929 Ridge Ave. in Dayton. Parking at the rear of the museum. 21 & up with complimentary pizza, beer and wine.

Reach DCP freelance writer Katie Modras-Anible at contactus@daytoncitypaper.com.

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