Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Scientific Beer on Neil DeGrasse Tyson

We all like food – well, I assume we do. But the best kind of meal is when you can eat, drink and ask a scientist questions. All this (and more!) can be found in the comfort of a science café.

[Dr. James Gates (UMD) casually explains strings in the Science Café.
Photo Credit: Courtney Lemon]

Held in a restaurant, bar, or coffee shop, science cafés are meant for everyone: whether you are a veteran physicist, an amateur science enthusiast or an individual interested in what is new out there. Or, more commonly, if you are interested in what is totally 'out there'.

This is what it was like last Thursday night at the NOVA ScienceNow café in Washington DC's RFD pub in Chinatown. Speaking casually on the general subject of string theory, Dr. James Gates (University of Maryland) blew our minds explaining the principles of relative size in the universe and how small we can (and cannot) measure. He finished his short lecture by telling us how he found computer codes inside natural mathematical functions. Matrix, anyone?

While I was sitting in the pub and listening to Dr. Gates, I noticed that my glass of chilled beer was placed on a rather unique coaster. NOVA produced special "ScienceNow" coasters showing Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson with a speech bubble asking us "Want food for thought?" This was very cute, and quite cool, but I was a bit distressed to put my beer glass on top of the amazing Dr. Tyson, and I shared my distress with the twitterverse:

Of course, I figured Dr. Tyson would see this tweet at some point and get a laugh out of it. He is using twitter regularly to update his followers with his thoughts about astronomy and science news. To my delight, he answered my tweet with his usual wittiness:

Ha! Thank you, Dr. Tyson. You definitely made my already-awesome science evening an even awesom'er one. Of course, I didn't lag behind; after my second beer, I asked Dr Gates a question and won a ScienceNow hat. After checking the hat itself for possible hidden computer codes (and trying to decide if modeling it would involve a paraboloid or hemisphere) I decided it will serve its purpose best if it was worn, keeping my brain inside my skull.

Thanks to NOVA, SPS Intern Anish Chakrabarti, AIP's Kendra Redmond and Dr James Gates for an incredible evening. Visit ScienceCafes.org to find a Science Café near you! And remember: The beer you are having while absorbing theoretical physics? It's on Neil DeGrasse Tyson.

I will leave you with my final tweeted thoughts for that night for your consideration:


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