Science & Cocktails. Jácome Armas

JácomeI like to work out some of the mysteries of black hole physics in many dimensions but I also like to make interactive art installations that try to communicate with human beings. I am a big fan of science, culture and arts and I think that knowledge should be shared freely with everyone. Before I die, I would like to see the Facebook page of a serious researcher in science having more “Likes” than the Facebook page of the football player Cristiano Ronaldo. My website.

Photo by: Marie-Elisabeth Colin

Science & Cocktails is the name of the series of public lectures that brings science and society closer together. It takes place at a cosy theatre in Freetown Christiania, a self-proclaimed autonomous neighbourhood in Copenhagen. Volunteer bartenders dressed in lab coats serve cocktails with solid carbon dioxide (dry ice), creating white vapour and a very sciency appearance.

S&C1.9

Photo by: Marie-Elisabeth Colin

Science & Cocktails began in 2011, the brainchild of the physicist Jácome Armas. It is a non-profit organization, fully run on a volunteer basis and the small amount of generated profits are employed to make improvements. Jácome Armas was awarded the Genius Prize for science communication for this amazing initiative that started with 40 attendees and has nowadays an audience of 700.

Cocktail in hand, many are the subjects one can learn about. Robots, coming to stay; The latest news on climate change; Rosetta: chasing and catching a comet; and Science of deliciousness are only some of the names of the talks that were on in the past few years.

Every talk is preceded by a “live transmission from planet X31”. The days before and through social media, the subject is presented with a teaser, such as this one. The day of the event, the talk is introduced using a recorded customized performance involving dance, nudity, and some very weird stuff, such as this one. Jácome Armas explains that this breaks the ice, sets an informal tone, and creates a fun and relaxed atmosphere.

Why do you think Science & Cocktails has become so popular? What are the key ingredients besides dry ice? Science has become increasingly popular in modern societies. People are interested in hearing about new discoveries and cities need to create the platforms for knowledge sharing. Science & Cocktails became popular because it contains several elements that allow it to integrate in the cultural sphere of the city. These elements range from music, art, technology and, of course, due to fact that it takes place during the evening, cocktails in a very relaxed and informal environment. In short, it is a series of events that revolve around science but it has the flavour of a cultural event like a music concert or a comedy show. Besides, it follows a strict policy of excellent researchers and communicators and, in an era where quick sound bites seem to dominate, it is more important to focus on serious scientific content and on a learning experience, which can simultaneously be interesting and entertaining. I believe this makes it into a very attractive series of events.

Do you help the speakers attune with the informal style of Science & CocktailsIn several ways we do and is more or less efficient depending on the circumstances. Besides a “warning: this is very informal” in early stage e-mail communication, several of the scientists that we invite from abroad stay either in Christiania guest houses or are invited for a tour the day before. Moreover, all events start with a very informal dinner together with all volunteers, musicians and scientists and this slowly contributes to the acceptance of the unusual setting that speakers will experience.

What are the experiences of the speakers like? So far, speakers are extremely fascinated by the unusual setting, the large numbers of young people that attend the event, the very relaxed atmosphere and the fun that they have while participating in it. Many of the speakers end up eating pizza with all the volunteers at 12/1am. Our culture is one that does not consider the speakers to be “guests” but instead aims at making them “part” of the initiative. What usually happens is that they end up suggesting many of their scientist friends to come and speak at one of the events.

Science & Cocktails expanded to Johannesburg last year, what other cities do you have in mind, and what makes the expansion possible? We have the entire World in mind. In this particular period, we are thinking about Brussels, where I live. What makes the expansion possible is the opportunity to teach people in Copenhagen on how to do it and that they move to other cities and have the motivation to create it there. This requires that people become part of the initiative for at least a year and that they gain an overview and learn some of the skills in the many of the several tasks involved, (graphic design, advertising, hosting, text writing, cocktail craftsmanship, etc…) Above all, people should be tuned with what the initiative stands for: a platform for free and high quality knowledge sharing with a dash of entertainment, available to whoever seeks it.

You can follow Science & Cocktails on Facebook.