Science Pub RVA: Where learning and drinking come together

Step into The Camel the first Tuesday of every month and you just might learn something.

The atmosphere of The Camel was a little different this past Tuesday. Self-described as a “space for music, art, poetry, video, political forums, and conversation–anything that brings people together in the spirit of a free flow of ideas,” The Camel featured a strong spirit of curious minds coming together for the fourth meeting of Science Pub RVA.

Instead of a band setting up onstage and groups of Richmonders with black Xs on their hands, I was greeted with a table holding sticker name tags and a few Camel workers setting up a microphone and screen for a presentation. Those who registered for Science Pub were walking around, talking to others wearing name tags and enjoying their drinks.

Science Pub RVA is a branch of the popular “science cafes” that are found in various cities throughout the world, coming all the way from England. Thanks to the coordinator, Cynthia Gibbs, we now have one in Richmond! This past Tuesday was the organization’s fourth meeting, and due to word-of-mouth, Facebook, and other media, had the organization’s largest turnout yet.

Cynthia said that “science is definitely a part of our culture.” Her goal for the meetings is to present a wide variety of science to a wide variety of audiences. Basically, she wants people to get interested and talk about science. So, while listening to NPR, she learned of a study on voting behavior. To her, it seemed like the perfect topic of discussion with the upcoming presidential election next month. Research of a bright political mind to present on the topic ensued, and Gibbs found Dr. Ernest B. McGowen, assistant professor of political science at the University of Richmond.

Dr. McGowen, upon presenting, handed out a quiz consisting of five two-part questions taken from various studies on why people vote. The rundown of the entire presentation goes as follows: political ads don’t have much of an effect; professional callers and door-to-door canvassing are preferred; text message reminders are increasing and matter most to those in their 20s; the propensity of citizens to vote and salience of the election do NOT matter. So basically, many types of citizens vote every four years, we read a lot of texts and don’t mind a few more about politics, and we enjoy the personal touch of professional callers and door-to-door contact.

Another fun fact I learned was that many states require bars to close down on Election Day. Virginia, the beautiful place that it is, does not.

A beneficiary of the absence of such a law is Ali Bullano, one of the friendly bartenders at The Camel. She was able to talk to me after the presentation ended, but it took awhile to close tabs and clean up after the larger-than-expected group of Science Pub goers left. She remarked on how this was without a doubt, the biggest turnout the meeting has ever had. The mix, according to Ali, is of scientist-esque people to “suave” VCU students, and there have even been some who have originally come to drink at The Camel, but ended up sitting in on the presentation. People like to know things, and with science cafes, those who choose to come can learn about the subject, talk about it, and get to know some decent people along the way.

Although they meet the first Tuesday of every month, there will be no Science Pub RVA in November because of Election Day (11/6). However, there is a Facebook event encouraging those who are interested to go to The Camel, have a drink, and watch the election results. The next official meeting will be December 4. The subject of conversation has not yet been decided, but it will, without fail, prove to be just as enticing as the previous four.

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Science Pub RVA is looking for volunteers! Those who’d like to help out with this creative endeavor should meet this Tuesday, October 9, at The Camel.

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Scotti Cutlip

Scotti is an aspiring stunt driver, trophy cat mom, and stand-up comedian. But for now she writes and drinks a lot of coffee.

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