“True terror is to wake up one morning and discover that your high school class is running the country.” — Kurt Vonnegut
THE RETURN OF THE SCIENCE CAFE
Yep, the Bloomington Science Cafe is back. The shebang petered out when its home at the time, Borders, closed down here a couple of years ago.
Now it’s got new digs: Rachael’s Cafe.
Cerebellum tinkerer Alex Straiker of the IU Psychological and Brain Sciences Department is the driving force behind the local Cafe’s resurrection.
Science cafes, Straiker explains, exist all over the world in big cities and college towns. They bring researchers and scientists together with less cranially endowed folk. Typically, they’re at coffeehouses and bookstores.
He’d hoped to start a Science Cafe when he arrived in town some five years ago but found one already underway. Graduate School Communications Director Erika Biga Lee was the mad scientist behind that incarnation. She’d started the thing in September, 2006, and welcomed Straiker aboard.
Erika Biga Lee’s baby was sponsored in part by Borders until the bookstore chain sputtered to its demise. “It sort of went down with the ship,” Straiker says.
While Science Cafe I was up and running, the general public could stop by and listen to lectures on the science of marijuana, say, or the geology of Mars. One night, peak oil was the topic.
“Typically, 30 or 40 people would come,” Straiker says, “but attendance could range from 25 to 65.”
Erika Biga Lee is too busy these days to direct the get-togethers so Straiker and his lab colleague, Jim Wager-Miller, will run the show. They’re looking to present talks on the science of coffee, addictions, and dark matter within the first few weeks.
Straiker says he comes up with the topics, based mostly on ideas that intrigue him. Then he and Wager-Miller go around the IU campus looking for experts in those fields who’d like to make presentations.
“There’s an emphasis on openness and participation,” Straiker says. “We welcome questions. It’s meant to be a bridge between scientists and people.”
Straiker is hoping the first Bloomington Science Cafe II session will be either Wednesday, March 21st or 28th, 2012. Admission is free and open to the public. Rachael’s is at 300 E. 3rd St. Phone: 812.330.1882. Science Cafe sessions will be every Wednesday from 6:30-8pm.
CERTIFIED ORGANIC POISON
Interesting little piece on NPR this morning. Dartmouth College researchers have found high levels of arsenic in rice around the world.
The horror. Surely our local food faddists will be up in arms about this. Just another example of the fascist-corporate agri-business tyrants poisoning us for fun and profit, no?
“It turns out that arsenic is naturally occurring in soil and water and rice plants seem to have this special ability to soak up more arsenic from the environment than other plants,” says reporter Nancy Shute.
Brown rice actually contains more arsenic than white rice because it hasn’t been stripped of its constituent substances. And, no, buying organic rice won’t make any difference because, well, arsenic is there, folks, right in the holy dirt we plant our crops in.
Mother Earth is a killer.
THE SANTORUM SCHOOL
Now we know Rick Santorum and his wife have homeschooled their seven children.
I imagine they didn’t want the young’uns to be tainted by too many things like facts and knowledge. Man, I shudder to think what, for instance, the daily math lesson must have been like in the Santorum boot camp.
Mrs. Santorum: “Children, god created all the numbers. Let us remember that six times two equals twelve. We know this because that’s how many apostles Jesus had. Who can name all the apostles?”
Young Patrick Santorum: “Peter, James the Greater, James the Lesser, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, Thaddeus, Simon, and Judas.”
Mrs. Santorum: “Very good. And which apostle betrayed our lord and savior, Jesus Christ?”
Peter Santorum: “Judas.”
Mrs. Santorum: “Now, Peter. Pronounce his name correctly.”
Peter: “Um…, uh….”
Mrs. Santorum: “Say it like this: JEW-diss.”
Mrs. Santorum: “Very good. How much did Judas sell out our lord and savior for?”
Sarah Maria Santorum: “Ooh, ooh, ooh!”
Mrs. Santorum: “Yes, Sarah.”
Sarah: “Thirty pieces of silver.”
Judas Loved Money, Had a Sharp Nose, And Was Sneaky — You Do The Math
Mrs. Santorum: “Very good. And did the apostles accept food stamps?”
Daniel Santorum: “No.”
Mrs. Santorum: “So should Americans accept food stamps?”
All (in unsion): “No, ma’am.”
And so on. Math.
I’m still of two minds regarding the question of homeschooling. I subscribe wholeheartedly to Mark Twain’s line, “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.”
Meaning, among other things, that making kids sit in a classroom all day is about as ridiculous a way to impart knowledge to hungry young minds as can be conjured by the most cruel sadist.
I’ve met so many homeschooled kids who speak remarkably well and can relate to adults confidently. Most of the school-schooled kids I know are pretty much rotten little bastards who I’ll be happy to spend time with only after they reach the age of 30.
“Do Me A Favor, Kids — Go Away For A Few Years, OK?”
I know of homeschooled kids who devour books on the Moomins and Tintin and then graduate to Neil Gaiman. Again, most of the school-schooled kids I meet have never once in their lives heard the sound of a vocalist that wasn’t Auto-Tuned and pitch-corrected. I mean, they actually believe Katy Perry sounds that way.
One of the things that concern me about homeschooling is the desire on the part of parents to isolate their kids from the world. Of course, when you take the aforementioned contrasts into account, isolating the kids from the world doesn’t sound like the worst thing you could do to them.
But if you’re hoping to isolate your kids from liberals, agnostics, Muslims, Hallowe’en witches, Harry Potter, “In the Night Kitchen,” and M&Ms, homeschooling seems more a sentence than a choice.
Perhaps worst of all, Rick and his wife, Karen, compelled their children to spend the vast majority of their days with, well, them. The poor kids.
But there is a bright side to all this. At least neighborhood schoolkids were isolated from Santorum-think.
TOO BUSY THINKIN’ ‘BOUT MY BABY
Marvin Gaye didn’t have time for school — he had girls on his mind.
He became one of this holy land’s most beloved recording artists. Later, he tumbled into substance addiction and then his old man pumped him full of lead, snuffing his life out at the age of 44.
Too busy thinking ’bout my baby’s birthday this Sunday. Happy birthday Electron Pencil Prez!