How About a Pint of Science

The Brew Bus, Knox Brew Tours, Knoxville, December 2014
The Brew Bus, Knox Brew Tours, Knoxville, December 2014 (Your  Shuttle for the Evening)

Sadly, for me, my enjoyment of science went south sometime in my middle school years. It was probably me, but I remember harsh, uninspired teachers. It probably wasn’t the subject and it’s likely I didn’t give the teachers much of a chance. But who knows? If only they’d offered it with adult beverages, the entire concept might have seemed more appealing to me and my eighth grade friends.

And that’s exactly what you get to experience this week with the Pint of Science Festival. It’s a movement that emanates out of London where, in 2012, a couple of researchers thought  to bridge the gap between scientist and us commoners by inviting regular people into their lab to actually interact with a scientist. Called, “Meet the Researchers,” it was enough a success that the duo decided to expand the idea in 2013 by taking it to the people in pubs and calling it “Pint of Science.” Big improvement.

Crafty Bastard Brewery, 6 Emory Place, Knoxville, October 2015
Crafty Bastard Brewery, 6 Emory Place, Knoxville, October 2015

The idea has grown to the point that Pint of Science is a three-day festival which will be celebrated starting today in twelve different countries around the world. The events spread around the world starting in Australia each day. Thirteen metropolitan areas in the US will host the event, with Knoxville joining San Francisco, L.A., New York, Boston and six others.

What exactly can you expect? Three nights of two-hour sessions at three local breweries. Saw Works, Crafty Bastard and Last Days of Autumn will each host two scientists each night. A shuttle will leave Casual Pint downtown, if you’d like a ride. Five dollars gets you in the door each night and the same amount will get you on the shuttle. The lectures will be about twenty-to-thirty minutes with another half-hour or so left for conversation. Over beer, of course. The shuttle runs from 5:00 PM to 6:30 for outbound travelers and the lectures run from 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM.

You’ll find a map and a list of the topical options here. Honestly, while I’ve evolved to a more open stance toward the subject and now recognize many areas of science are potentially fascinating, I think these topics might have captured my interest even at my most reluctant. It may be hard to choose a location for each night.

I wondered how the topics and speakers were selected and contacted Elizabeth Gillenwaters, the local coordinator for the event. I started by noting the cool fact that each session is named after a song. That was her idea and she should be given great accolades for her creativity. Even the nightly bus rides have names like, “Magic Bus,” and “On the Road Again.”

Adam Palmer, Saw Works Brewing Company, Knoxville, September 2015
Adam Palmer, Saw Works Brewing Company, Knoxville, September 2015

I appreciated the inclusion of the Traveling Wilbury’s “Got My Mind Set On You,” which Monday night’s theme at Last Days of Autumn. Lara Edington, a relationship coach, talking about neurolinguistic processing in relation to communications, while Rhonda Morgan, Associate Dean of Graduate Studies, School of Nursing, King University, discusses what can go wrong when the brain stops functioning properly.

“Mercy, Mercy Me (The Ecology),” at Saw Works Brewing on Tuesday night, deals, as you might expect with ecological issues, specifically climate change, as it turns out. Melissa Allen, Climate Change & Critical Infrastructure Researcher and Scott Painter, Computational Hydrologist, discuss the implications of climate change on . . . wait for it . . . domestic beer production.

Environmental issues are also on tap Wednesday night at Last Days of Autumn when Virginia Dale, an ORNL coporate fellow discusses the Mt. St. Helens eruption and the changes it precipitated, while Neal Stewart, Professor of Plant Molecular Genetics at UTK delivers a lecture titled, “Plant Genetic Engineering: GMO, OMG or GMB (Give Me Beer) in which he will delve into the topic of “the science, rumors, legends, and how GE plays into the future of food (and beer).” He’ll also sing and play a few songs accompanying himself on guitar, just for good measure.

Meanwhile the various sessions at Crafty Bastard will cover Geography (“Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes”), Geophysics and the chemistry behind making beer. “Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto” on Wednesday night takes participants into the world of super-computers and 3-D printing. There’s talk of explosions that night and, for my money, the idea of combining explosions with copious amounts of beer drinking sounds like a lot of fun. I mean, what could go wrong, right?

Owners Mike and Tracy Frede, Last Days of Autumn, 808 E. Magnolia, Knoxville, February 2016
Owners Mike and Tracy Frede, Last Days of Autumn, 808 E. Magnolia, Knoxville, February 2016

As you can see, while the topics are sometimes serious, and the presenters eminently qualified, the evenings are also designed to be great fun. Elizabeth who, as it turns out, has a BS in Physics and an MS in Radiological Health Sciences, says it’s pretty simple: “Give it a shot. Have a drink. Enjoy some science.” If only I could have gotten that message back in middle school.

So, you can buy your tickets for the shuttle or pick your session and purchase tickets here. It might be best to reserve your spot early – and since it starts tonight, that means now. You can, of course, roll the bones and purchase your tickets for cash at the door. That should work, though we’d need a mathematician to calculate the odds to be certain. I hope to make some of them, myself, so maybe I’ll see you there.