One Tuesday a month at Lot 10, Science Cabaret mixes science, art, and audience participation in an exquisite cocktail. In celebration of Cider Week, we joined Gavin Sacks, Associate Professor in the Food Science department at Cornell University, and Autumn Stoscheck, owner of Eve’s Cidery for “With Malus and Forethought: A Flavor Chemist’s Perspective on Hard Cider”.
A Q&A with Kitty Gifford, curator for Science Cabaret.
What do you do?
Science Cabaret is an informal science series. It takes place in a bar setting and it’s once a month. We bring in a variety of speakers from so many different disciplines and we give them a chance to talk to people about the work they’re doing in an informal environment.
Who is it good for?
It’s good for everybody! We usually have a pretty broad audience. It does depend on the subject matter, so if it’s robots we’ll get kids… if it’s climate change or more heavy issues, sometimes the audience will vary. It can be kid friendly or not, but generally we have quite a range. We have gained a lot of followers since we started in 2005, and they really look forward to coming. That’s their Tuesday evening downtown in Ithaca!
What kind of change are you trying to make?
I guess it’s pretty subtle, but in general in society we’re all trying to be more scientifically literate. Science Cabaret is clearly an attempt to provide science ideas and concepts in an informal environment for people who are not experts. In a way, that provides people the opportunity to learn about something they don’t know, or to be interdisciplinary and apply something they learn about in another scientific discipline to their own discipline, which we have had happen here. We really get a range of results or effects from this experience, but a lot of it is just curiosity and great edu-tainment experience.
What brought you here?
It’s part of the Cafe Scientifique movement. This started in the 90’s over in Europe and it was a really huge hit. People realized that we can bring scientists out of their labs and lecture halls into coffee houses and public spaces and informal environments and have them interact with the general public and with non-experts and share what they’re doing. It really breaks that barrier. So that was a huge hit, and that is exactly what this is modeled after. It’s really huge, this concept of bringing science to the people as opposed to requiring people to trek up the hill and try to catch a lecture.
What impact does this have on our community?
It’s one of the many things that bring this community together. There’s always a good solid crowd and a high level of interest so I would say people are coming because they want to learn more. A lifelong learning attitude contributes to so many positive health benefits and sanity benefits and all kinds of things… so I think it’s contributing on a lot of levels.
What struggles have you encountered?
We do it low-cost… it’s all volunteer time and that can be taxing!
What inspires you, or what should we be celebrating?
I see so much vibrancy in every corner of this community, it’s hard for me to not want to be part of each piece of it. I would suggest that anyone that has an interest in helping with our community organizations do so. Whether it’s Science Cabaret or Sustainable Tompkins or Ithaca Roller Derby or any one of Ithaca’s many many non-profit organizations that are serving needs in this community… all of these are part of the fabric of our community and it’s so easy to get involved because we need the help! We need new, young blood to come in and put their efforts in. It’s a great community to be in! It’s hard not to want to participate.
How can we participate?
People can present! That’s a great way to participate. We not only have scientists, but we also bring in the local purveyors, the makers, the doers, the experts on the ground. We can bring them in solo, or we pair them with a scientist. It’s really wide open, how we create a presentation. So tonight, for example, we paired a scientist with a cider maker. We bring the best of both worlds together to combine and share their wealth of talents and expertise.6
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