Wednesday 19 July 2017

Science Book Swap

Science Book Swap SBS is an original idea whose time has clearly not come . . . yet. Every month for the last two and a half years on the third Tuesday, Science Café goes down in a pub The Sky and The Ground, South Main Street, Wexford. Born from a gap in 'the market', Science Café is a bit like a book club, or a quilting bee, where people who have something in common embrace a structure to meet more often. The people who rock up to Sci Caf Wex SCW each month are all interested in science and live near Wexford and feel they don't talk science often enough . . . or didn't until Science Café came along. We have N=~30 students, technologists, teachers, foresters, entrepreneurs, farmers, brewers and a pharmacist on the books but the average turn out is a handful. What we do is pick a topic and a presenter and use that as a launch-pad for a couple of hours of networking [at least one of us has gotten a job out of it] and talking in-and-around science.  It's mighty, good for my morale, and I always learn something new.  But it's often difficult to find a volunteer, fired up about some tech-topic, to be ringleader for the evening. For my sins, I am the list-manager and secretary and probably, by default and bystander effect, find myself gabbing about My Baggage more than I should. With The Blob and all, it's prolly easier for me to dredge up some copy than the other members of the Café.

July is the midst of the Silly Season, when folk are on vacation, or mowing the lawn, or taking the kids to soccer, at 8pm on a Tuesday. But I had a Brilliant Idea for a Sci Caff Concept.  It was born from an unconscious memory of Ignite Talks which were all the rage a few years ago in venues like Dublin's Science Gallery [prev]. The conceit there is "a whole conference in an evening" where speakers are strictly limited to 5 minutes and 20 slides to present their ideas. Here's one on Lafcadio Hearn Irish / Greek / American / Japanese story-teller. They're great: you can get a taster-teaser quicker than it takes you to look something up in Wikipedia. Here's another on The Future of Food by Nora Khaldi . . . so you see: super-diverse.  You could get sniffy about Ignite being a product of the attention-deficit sound-byte generation but that's where we live now and it's better than watching commercials on the TV. You'll see commonality with the Pint of Science concept.

I was casting about for something to do for July's Science Café [no volunteers having beaten down the secretary's door to present their stuff] and my eye fell on my most recently read book RRB Chasing Venus by Andrea Wulf, from which I filleted a blob about Mason and Dixon. I picked that book up while shopping with my book-buying daughter [peer pressure] last month. Because it was recently acquired I have no particular attachment to the book and am actively de-cluttering my life so SBS was born. Everyone was requested-and-required to turn up to SCW with a science book, which they would talk up for three (3!) minutes to promote its many virtues and then swap it for a different, but similarly promoted, science book and everyone would go home happy. I cast it as a cross between Ignite, book-crossing and speed-dating. I was well excited and hoped to off-load Venus and acquire [temporarily! I'm not building a library again] some new Summer reading.

Well, among Wexford Cafistas, I'm the only person who seems to be stoked by this idea because when I bounced into The Sky and the Ground yesterday evening I found I doubled the audience and Mike had to leave early to wear his thespian hat. Furthermore Mike hadn't read the announcement and so he had no book to swap.  And so, my friends, I offer up the SBS concept and hope it may fall on more fertile ground in Nantes or Montpellier.

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