These days, science professionals and science-geeks in other professions are congregating in the evenings at a growing number of nerdy events – complete with wine and networking young city-dwellers. Recently in Boston alone, several events have brought together those with an interest in science and its intersection with society (be it intersections with the art world or the culinary world). Many of these events are not well publicized in advance (you really have to keep your ear to the ground), but some draw huge crowds. Here are some of my favorite recent events in the Boston area, and hopefully events like this will continue to grow in popularity not only in Boston, but in communities around the world.
The Cambridge Science Festival (annual week long event with many different activities –the 2011 festival is currently in the planning stages):
Harvard Laboratory – this project seeks to unite artists and scientists with various interactive exhibits. I recently attended Three States of Hors d’Oeuvres which combined spatial sciences and design to serve three different hors d’oeuvre experiences (think: sight, sound, smell, taste, texture…all wrapped into one sensory experience). My favorite was a red room which smelled of liquid smoke, while I drank a test tube of corn soup and ate a small bite of herbed potato. Harvard Laboratory continues to hold frequent events, many of which are free to the public.
The Science Club for Girls has recently launched a 3-part series on the Science of Taste. These evening cocktail receptions feature interactive science demonstrations, and plenty of mingling. This week, the theme was the Science of Temperature in Cooking, with materials scientist Debbie Chachra and author of Cooking for Geeks, Jeff Potter. The $36 ticket proceeds go to the educational initiatives of the Science Club for Girls, whose aim is to make science available to everyone. Their mission is to provide a “program that brings women scientists and girls together in free after-school science clubs that focus on scientific and technical skills and education.” Visit their website for more information on volunteering or getting your daughters involved.
The Fireplace restaurant in Brookline holds a series of fireside chats, including a recent presentation and tasting on one of history’s most famed and infamous libations: absinthe. Presented by Jerome Cloche, this history lesson (with a bit of chemistry thrown in), will be enticing even if the anise-flavor of absinthe isn’t. Cloche regularly delivers these Absinthe events throughout New England.
The Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences has launched a series of free public lectures on Science & Cooking, which accompany their for-credit course of the same name. Major names in the culinary world deliver lectures on topics such as sous vide cooking, oil and viscosity, and the maillard reaction (aka: browning of food). Celebrity chefs such as David Chang (of Momofuku) and Wylie Dufresne (of WD-40) are guest speakers. Lectures also stream live on their website.
Science Cafes originated in Europe (as Café Scientifique), but are flourishing in many U.S. cities these days. In Boston, the Science Cafes are infrequent, but when you find one that interests you, it is certainly worth attending. Usually cohosted with PBS/WGBH, topics have included the science of taste or the large hadron collider, and are usually held at the Middlesex Lounge in Cambridge (just down the street from the fantastic MIT museum and Miracle of Science pub). A Science Café has not been advertised in Boston since the spring, so hopefully WGBH will continue to provide this important community service.
And last but not least, the Museum of Science has also jumped on the food-crazed bandwagon, offering several series of events centered around culinary themes. Citizen Chefs meet Boston’s Best, and Let’s Talk About Food.
Image from http://www.ohio.edu/research/communications/science_cafe.cfm