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January 24, 2009

Cafe Scientifique Critique

I didn't make it to ECHO's Café Scientifique last night. I went home after a long day, had a beer, put the kids to bed, watched a couple episodes of "The Office" with my partner and fell asleep by 9 p.m.

But blogger Bill Simmon was there, and he's got an informative post up about the event over on Candleblog. Here's what he has to say about it:

Last night’s Café Scientifique was fun. It was surprisingly well-attended too. Seats were hard to find as the presentation began. It’s great that a pure science topic can bring out so many folks on a cold January weeknight.

Dr. Dennis Clougherty gave a fascinating 30 minute talk on the history and current state of nanotechnology, invoking cool ideas like nanotube-constructed space elevators and cloaks of invisibility. Following the talk, the audience was invited to jot down some questions for the professor while everyone visited the bar and had a stretch.

Here’s where things got a little frustrating. Now, readers of this blog will know that A: I am a bleeding heart liberal, and B: I love Vermont a lot. Despite my left-leaning Vermont pride however, I am often annoyed by the fact that I cannot go to any sort of public gathering focused on science, technology or culture in this state without the discussion getting sidetracked or overtly hijacked by armchair activists with an agenda.

Indeed. For more about the armchair activists, click here.

Sounds like a frustrating experience Bill had. There should be (and are) ways to question scientists about possible negative consequences of the technological advances they are promoting without issuing blanket denunciations of science and technology. But I guess if you issue those denunciations, you don't see the matter as worth debating anyway.

Check out The Straight Dope (this week, I think) for an amusing letter from someone who's letting his imagination about nano-tech run away with him. Just because Walter Skinner got infected with nanobots on The X-Files doesn't mean it's going to happen in real life (any time soon)... or is it?

Yeah... it sounds like some of the people who went weren't interested in listening at all. Just sitting there waiting for the Q&A to give it to The Man.

They probably went forth and told their friends, "You should have seen his face when I nailed him!". That wasn't fear or discomfort you saw, friend. It was an incredibly gracious and intelligent man struggling to conceal the incredulity your invincible stupidity had provoked.

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