Spring 2010: Of Note

Illustration of beer with chemical formula for alcohol in it

Illustration by Erica Endicott

Buffalo wings and . . . astrochemistry?

Science Tavern is a more casual classroom

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To find out more about Atlanta Science Tavern, go to www.atlantasciencetavern.com. For more about science cafes across the country, go to www.sciencecafes.org.

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By Mary J. Loftus

A crowd is packed into the back room of Manuel’s Tavern in Atlanta, an old-school watering hole known for its clientele of politicians and law enforcement. They are sharing pitchers of beer, noshing on nachos and wings, and waiting to see Emory neuroscientist Todd Preuss talk about brains.

Preuss, an associate research professor at Yerkes National Primate Research Center, is momentarily taken aback by how many people have shown up on a chilly Saturday to watch him give a PowerPoint on the evolutionary connections between human brains and those of other members of our extended primate family. “My mother would never believe it,” he says with a smile.

The Atlanta Science Tavern, modeled after science cafes that have sprung up in metro areas around the country, began in summer 2008. “We gather in a casual environment, like a cafe, restaurant, bar, or home, to share a bite to eat and pint to drink, and to discuss interesting news and views about scientific advancements and discoveries and how they affect our daily lives,” says cofounder Josh Gough, a technology professional in Atlanta. “The idea came from PBS and NOVA’s Science Cafe movement.”

The Science Tavern’s other cofounder, Carol Potter, is a high school biology teacher and an Emory parent to Cindy Potter 05C. Emory scientists are regularly featured at Science Tavern gatherings, talking about topics from inaccurate movie “science” to the clash between dolphin intelligence and human ethics.

Marc Merlin 75C, who works for an Atlanta nonprofit and writes the blog Thoughts Arise, joined the group about a year ago and enjoys discussing issues like climate change, vaccination safety, and the teaching of evolution. “The Science Tavern,” says Merlin, “has reaffirmed for me the existence of a community of people who hold well-reasoned, dispassionate argument in high regard.”

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