If you waste as much of your life on Facebook as I do, clicking ‘interested’ on countless suggested events with no real intention of attending them?
You may well have seen ‘Science and Cocktails’ pop up on your local Copenhagen feed.
Having stared inanely at this title for a few seconds, you would probably then have wondered a few things: Firstly, what exactly does the science bit mean? (sounds worryingly educational for a leisure activity).
Secondly, is it actually worth leaving your flat for? (the evenings are cold and dark after all and it is on a weekday).
And finally, and perhaps most importantly…are the cocktails any good?
I decided to go along to a couple of talks to find out…
What is ‘Science and Cocktails’ & Byens Lys?
So let’s get the context bit out of the way first: ‘Science and Cocktails’ is a program which tries to marry free and relaxed scientific lectures with cocktails, art and music in one evening, creating a cultural experience and opportunities for discussion.
The evenings happen every couple of weeks at Byens Lys, a dimly lit, atmospheric and wooden floored cinema in Christiania.
The the talk itself I found a fascinating introduction to the subject of network science. Albert-Lászl´Barabási was charming and funny.
His main claim, that ‘Networks are Everywhere‘, he demonstrated fairly well and did an excellent job of using straightforward examples to explain general concepts, such as the parallel kinds of networks found in our cells, social interactions, internet usage and space.
We were promised a ‘language‘ to talk about networks and there was a pleasantly surprising focus on the actual maths and mechanics of the science (all suitably dumbed down for the newbie audience, I‘m sure!).
The Kevin Bacon Game
The other highlight was a game he introduced us to called the ‘Kevin Bacon Game, the aim of which is to get from any film or actor to Kevin Bacon in six steps or fewer ‘ (a variant on the ‘Wikipedia-random-article-to-Hitler-in-six-clicks game‘).
He used this to demonstrate the small nature of professional networks.
The talk ended with him highlighting the weakness of the systems in real life situations, like that of server problems on the internet or company middle-management. I won‘t bore you the details (you can look up his work online) but suffice to say that all this was more than enough to entertain and distract from the less than ideal seating arrangements.
As I was on my lonesome for the second talk, my experience of cocktails and music are from the previous lecture when I had some company…
An impressive range of dry-ice based cocktails are offered. I sampled the tasty and fruity ‘Pashin’ wagon’, which I enjoyed considerably more due to the novel, and pretty cool looking, smoking cocktail effect provided by the dry-ice.
The minor snag is that these delicious mystic cocktails come at a cost: 80kr to be precise. The charge makes sense given the free/voluntary nature of the event and the prices are not more than you would expect to pay at a dedicated cocktail bar. But for the cash strapped student they are perhaps better thought of as an optional treat rather than the main draw of the evening.
Whilst we sipped our cocktail, we watched ‘Debre Dam Dining Orchestra’ perform, a mix of wind instruments and drums happening on stage in a seemingly endless fashion. It felt like some kind of extended jam session, a pleasant enough backdrop to the cocktail and post-talk chat.
Stay for the music if you want to make a night of it or you’re interested in finding a new local act. Like the cocktails, not the main pull for me.
So, was it worth it?
Overall, the talks are absolutely worth the trip out on a weeknight; being able to sample the research and ideas of prominent and engaging figures in their fields for free is a great opportunity. And you may well get interested in something unexpected – I never thought that I would be enthralled for an hour on a talk about networks!
If this has whetted your appetite and you fancy heading on down to a talk, the next takes place on Tuesday 8th November, titled ‘Involuntary Autobiographical Memories’.
If nothing else, it would serve as a couple hours of distraction from the US presidential election results…
Find more information on the whole lecture series and upcoming talks here: http://www.scienceandcocktails.org/