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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Science Cafe NH moves to Nashua; next topic is 3-D printing

By DAVID BROOKS

Staff Writer

After a year and a half in Concord, Science Cafe New Hampshire is moving to Killarney’s Irish Pub in Nashua – so you don’t have any more excuses to not attend.

“(Concord) was a great place for us to begin, but we think that we can have more impact in the Nashua area because of our partnership with The Telegraph,” said Dan Marcek, of Brookline. ...

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After a year and a half in Concord, Science Cafe New Hampshire is moving to Killarney’s Irish Pub in Nashua – so you don’t have any more excuses to not attend.

“(Concord) was a great place for us to begin, but we think that we can have more impact in the Nashua area because of our partnership with The Telegraph,” said Dan Marcek, of Brookline.

Marcek, a tech guy, co-founded the series with biochemist Sarah Eck, of Hopkinton, because the two thought it would be fun to learn stuff while eating and drinking in a bar, and they thought plenty of other people would agree.

When they asked me to moderate (hence “partnership with The Telegraph”) I had some doubts, but how right they have proven to be. We haven’t had a dud yet.

Science Cafe New Hampshire features two hours of wide-
ranging question-and-answer
sessions with a few expert panelists and the audience, who have been a delightful mix of the informed, the skeptical and the curious.

Topics for the 14 monthly events we’ve held at The Barley House restaurant, right across from the Statehouse, have been all over the place.

They have included the future of food, nanotechnology, the mathematics and psychology of political polling, Lyme disease, light pollution and invasive species.

For our Nashua debut, next week’s topic is 3-D printing, which is either a geeky do-it-yourself fad or the start of the next industrial revolution, depending on your point of view.

It will feature folks from Merrimack-based Solid-Scape, which makes 3-D printers for various business purposes, and Nashua’s own MakeIt Labs hackerspace, which plays with them in delightful ways.

A demonstration is promised – woo-hoo!

The cafe will be Wednesday, Jan. 16, from 6-8 p.m. It’s free as always, but I think it will be crowded, so show up early. The February topic will be the science of brewing (no free samples, alas), and March will discuss the science of mosquito-borne diseases in New Hampshire, like West Nile and EEE.

Jesse Devitte, the state’s
best-known technology venture capitalist, says events like Science Cafe are more useful than they may seem because they attract the sort of people who help create the entrepreneurial
“ecosystem” that New Hampshire needs if our economy’s going to thrive.

“The ecosystem really doesn’t come to life unless there’s activities that can drive the level of socialization of ideas, let people challenge ideas, advance ideas, encourage ideas,” he said. “You need formal events, formalized business plan competitions, but you also need the informal.”

Devitte is particularly interested in Marcek and Eck’s push to link their Science Cafe with similar events that have started up on the Seacoast, under the aegis of some University of New Hampshire professors, and in Hanover, linked to Dartmouth College.

He’s so interested, in fact, that he or Borealis Ventures, the New Hampshire investment fund that he co-founded, are going to cough up a few bucks to help with this ultra-low-budget – zero budget, really – operation.

Science cafes exist around the world, but the majority are linked to universities and tend to feature a researcher or two discussing their work with beer in hand.

Nothing wrong with that, of course. But I like Marcek and Eck’s vision better.

They start with a topic of interest to New Hampshire, then find people who actually know something about the topic so we can discuss it from a scientific or technical point of view.

It’s a nice change from the uninformed ranting that usually dominates public discourse.

“We started Science Cafe to inform the public and create awareness about issues from a science point of view. It’s all about having an impact,” said Marcek.

Well – having an impact and having fun. And having a beer, of course.

David Brooks can be reached at 594-6531 or dbrooks@nashuatelegraph.com. Follow Brooks’ blog on Twitter (@GraniteGeek).