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Pint of Science festival brings experts to the pubs for free talks

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Published May 16, 2014

If you want people to listen to the hottest scientific research, lure them with beer. That's the strategy of the Pint of Science festival next week at several bay area bars.

It's one way the scientific community is pushing back. Scientists are tired of being vilified in political circles or doubted by a general public who is not educated in basic facts, organizers said.

There are similar Pint of Science festivals planned this year in Chicago, Philadelphia, New York and San Diego and also in five other countries: France, Australia, Switzerland, Ireland and the U.K.

In Tampa, more than 20 professors, researchers and industry scientists, mostly from the University of South Florida and Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, eagerly signed up to give talks in local pubs Monday through Wednesday. They'll talk on everything from climate science to brain research, said festival organizer Parmvir Bahia, a research associate at USF's College of Medicine who specializes in neuroscience.

"We've been discussing for awhile how science can be made more accessible and how can we make scientists more available to the public," Bahia said.

They fret over things like a recent Associated Press poll, which found a majority of Americans question some basic scientific principles like the Big Bang theory and are skeptical of vaccines and climate change.

"A new generation of scientists are going through careers where blogs, Twitter and Facebook call their work into question," she said. "And we need a way to explain exactly what we do and why there is a need for things like animal research or (genetically modified organisms used in research)."

It's part of a trend on TV, too.

Stephen Hawking recently announced he's developing an animated cartoon series, George Greenby, that examines science and physics through the adventures of an 11 year old

And on Fox, the critically acclaimed reboot of Cosmos is drawing rave reviews for astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, who was inspired by the PBS series of the same name hosted by late astronomer Carl Sagan. The show, produced by Family Guy's Seth MacFarlane, uses Hollywood-style bells and whistles to make complicated scientific discoveries as easy to watch as Avengers films.

Of course, the movement is not without controversy. It didn't take long before creationists tried to demand equal airtime on Cosmos to discuss their beliefs.

Tampa's Pint of Science festival kicks off Monday at the Amsterdam, 1049 Central Ave. in St. Petersburg, with a talk by USF professor Deby Cassill. She wrote the book Survival of the Misfits: The Evolution of Family, about how her studies of fire ants have provided her a window into the evolution of cooperation and altruism.

There will also be talks at the Amsterdam on Tuesday (marine science professor Don P. Chambers on sea levels rising) and Wednesday (Alejandro Brice on the bilingual brain). Those same nights there will be programs at Dough, the bistro and bakery by Datz at 2602 S MacDill Ave. in Tampa; PJ Dolan's pub, 2836 E Bearss Ave. in Tampa; and Florida Avenue Brewing Co., 4101 N Florida Ave., Tampa.

The talks are free but you have to reserve your spot at pintofscience.us. Click on Tampa for the lineup. Some of them have already filled up.

Pint of Science was created by London research scientists Michael Motskin and Praveen Paul, who in 2012 had "Meet the Scientist," inviting people interested in their Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and motor neurone disease research into their labs. "They thought if people wanted to come into labs to meet scientists, why not bring the scientists out to the people?" the festival's website says.

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