RUTLAND — Folks in one area of Vermont with an inquisitive nature and thirst for knowledge will again be reserving the first Sunday of the month for Science Pubs.
At a Science Pub, an expert gives a short presentation of about 20 to 25 minutes, followed by a question-and-answer period or discussion about the topic.
The series was launched by the Castleton Free Library in 2011. It has since expanded to Rutland and Fair Haven.
Martha Molnar, of the Friends of Castleton Library, said the idea isn’t to lecture to the room but to give intelligent people the basis for a conversation.
“The goal is to start a discussion,” Molnar said. “If they wanted to hear a lecture, they’d go to a college class. They want to hear a short lecture, and then it’s a matter of starting a dialogue.”
Fortunately, Molnar said, the people who show up are interested in learning details about something that interests them, or about which they are not experts.
“These are people who are smart,” Molnar said. “They’re interested and they’re well informed. They ask intelligent questions.”
The name Science Pub comes about because the events are held in restaurants or pubs, and people are encouraged to have a drink during the discussion and then stay for dinner afterward.
“They sit around with a glass of wine or a glass of beer, and we encourage people to sit down with someone they don’t know and have dinner,” Molnar said. “They have a ready-made topic of conversation. Connections have been made this way.”
Molnar said Science Pubs take place all over the world.
“I didn’t invent it,” Molnar said. “I’m not that smart.”
But they are taking off, with an average of 80 to 100 people attending the local gatherings and more than half of those folks sticking around for dinner.
The next Science Pub will be 4 p.m. Sunday when John Van Hoesen, a geoscientist from Green Mountain College, will lead a discussion titled “Big Brother or Big Data.”
Van Hoesen will talk about privacy in the wake of the Edward Snowden scandal and the revelation that the U.S. government has snooped on a wide swath of Americans’ communications and Internet usage.
“What are the upsides and what are the downsides, and what does it mean for our privacy?” Molnar said, describing the key questions the event will cover. “I think it is going to be very popular. It addresses current issues that people are thinking about and worrying about. Or maybe not.”
The discussion will also cover the huge amount of instant data available to consumers, how much of this information we really need, and the possible consequences of this wide availability.
Van Hoesen will lead the discussion beginning at 4 p.m. at the Iron Lantern Restaurant on Route 4A in Castleton.
In January, Richard Wolfson, a professor of psychics at Middlebury College, will lead, “Physics in Your Life and Your Universe.”
February’s topic is “Your Brain at Work,” and will be led by Dr. Julie Poulin of Rutland Regional Medical Center.
In March, Kenneth Mulder of Green Mountain College will tackle, “Eating Oil: The Ecological Impacts of Agriculture.”
And the last Science Pub will be in April. Gary Meffe, a retired editor of Conservation Biology Journal, will discuss, “The Surprising Ecology of Cork.”
Molnar said these events are perfect for Vermont in the winter.
“We have all these resources around,” Molnar said. “Also, we have this awfully long, gray season. All the summer concerts and farmers markets are over. People need something to do.”
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