The Science Café

ABERYSTWYTH Science Café has been running since 2005, and is based on the idea of Café Scientifique, a concept which swept through Europe before arriving in the UK in 1998. The basic principle of the Café comprises of academics’ two favourite things: coffee and discussion.

The Aberystwyth Science Café is held in the Arts Centre theatre bar every month. Previous topics of discussion have involved agriculture, food, public health, ‘Mendelian genetics’ and ‘Volcanic Hazards’. The latter of these discussion topics were presented in late October by Dr Carina Fearnley, an IGERS lecturer who specialises in Disaster Risk Reduction, science communication and the philosophy of scientific knowledge to name a few fields.

The lecture entitled “Volcanoes: from the extreme to the everyday” gave a fascinating insight into the dangers of volcanic hazards, using various famous case studies from around the world, including the 1991 eruption of Mt Pinatubo and the infamous story of Nevado del Ruiz, which lead to the death of 23,000 Columbians in 1985.

The Science Café prides itself on making scientific knowledge easily accessible to the public, and its success can be measured by the amount of people who attended. The theatre bar was full, and even arriving a few minutes early we struggled to find seats. The audience was a healthy mixture of older members of the community, as well as lecturers and students.

For me, the idea of Science Cafés is a brilliant one. “Science” is often criticised for its tendency to be closed off, conducting research in labs or in the ivory towers of university institutions. I think the Café, in this instance, provides a rare insight for science enthusiasts in Aberystwyth, of any age, to see behind the scenes and look at what is actually being researched on campus.

To anyone who is interested in contemporary issues in science, I couldn’t recommend it more; the atmosphere is very relaxed and everyone is welcome. If I haven’t convinced you yet, the discussions are compered by the legend that is Professor Alex Maltman (ALL Geography students’ favourite lecturer).  If that is not reason enough, I don’t know what is!