I quite enjoyed my Cafe Scientifique talk

Enigma rotors by Foo

Photo by Bob Lord via Wikipedia

Of course I never actually mentioned here (at least not recently) that I was giving a Cafe Scientifique talk, but I did and it went fine. I gave a presentation last night at the Common Cup coffee house entitled “An overview of cryptography: What happens to your credit card number on-line, and is that e-mail really from your boss?”. The audience was small (20-ish?), but attentive and interested, and I think it went nicely. The truly shiftless can download a PDF copy of my slides for their amusement.

Many thanks to PeeZeed for bringing this wonderful Cafe Scientifique idea to Morris and organizing the events. The quality of both the talks and the audiences has been very high, and I know I’ve learned a lot from attending.

The one slightly unfortunate thing has been the degree to which the audiences have been primarily University folk, and science folk at that. Nothing wrong with that (I got lots of very cool questions last night, for example), but if one of the goals of C.S. is to bring science to the “general public”, having the audience be largely university science faculty isn’t quite the game plan.

Cafe Scientifique logo
I think that there are some historical and cultural issues at work. Also, despite the oft-heard mantra that “There’s nothing to do in Morris”, there were quite a few competing events last night that I know pulled quite a few people away. Ultimately, though, we haven’t done a terribly great job of advertising/promoting these things. Sadly, I’m as guilty as anyone here. I had grand plans to promote last night’s talk (radio interviews, newspaper promotion, posters, etc., etc.), but in the end life pushed this right on down the list of important things to do. Sigh.

We’ve got one more this school year, with Mark Logan discussing origami and mathematics, which should be a fun evening. We’re great at the science – now we just need to work on our PR. :-)

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2 Responses to I quite enjoyed my Cafe Scientifique talk

  1. pablo says:

    You are exactly right about the need for outreach. Until the greater population is included, you’re simply preaching to the choir. In the meantime, most of America gets regular doses of indoctrination at church, sunday school, and from a poorly informed or overly cautious media.

    I must say, as well, that Cafe Scientifique sounds more than a little exclusive. Maybe Science Buffet might cast a wider net.

  2. Phi says:

    Certainly our experience here has had a significant “preaching to the choir” component, which definitely is unfortunate. I hadn’t really thought about the name, but it does sound pretty hoity-toity, especially for Americans inclined to order “freedom fries”. I’ll have to think about that some more…

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