I had been planning, for quite some time, on getting a few friends together and somehow gearing conversations towards issues, queries, philosophical conundrums if you will, over cocktails under the guidance of an expert in one of the scientific disciplines... but would inevitably procrastinate on finding the perfect venue or format or what-have-you. Then, a little over five months ago, thanks to friend Phil "Bad Astronomer" Plait, I met cosmologist Sean M. Carroll and his lovely wife; science-writer Jennifer Ouellette. Our mutual thirst for knowledge and for expanding scientific engagement within the community, led us to create a monthly event called "Science Soirée", where scientific leaders in their fields come speak about their work, in a rather informal setting: our living room. You can think of these, almost as private Ted Talks.
I had no idea if they would be successful. Jennifer, Sean and I began pooling our contacts within the scientific community to line-up speakers. We set up some wine and cheese, and hoped for the best... and my-oh-my, the best happened! Our "audience" ; comprised of scientists, sci-fi writers, film-industry professionals, science communicators, and most importantly friends, all with an interest in cultivating scientific thinking, were beyond engaged! The speakers held their own against a barrage of questions after each talk. People were so hungry to learn about all these topics. It was, and still is each and every time, beautiful to watch.
Our group has now grown to a considerable size (about 25 to 30 on average) and the enthusiasm grows with it. Its remarkably inspiring to see the encouragement and support each attendee brings to each get-together. People have offered to host, to speak, to contribute in any way possible in order to make these nights a permanent fixture...but more so than the gatherings, I have witnessed something significant disseminate: the thirst I mentioned at the beginning of the post. The unwavering pursuit of intellectual stimulation that goes beyond our monthly events. Two groups I am honored to be a part of: the Scirens and the Nerd Brigade (this one being more of a lovable pet-name for our sci-comm friend group) for example, are joining forces and forming a science book-club. Genuine friendships between actor, writer and scientist attendees are blossoming within the Soirée. Its become infectious and it has made life in LA, not only "less threatening to my sanity", but also a powerful hub for autodidacts. Definitely something most people would NOT think of initially when hearing "Los Angeles Culture".
This post is to express my own appreciation for the people involved in helping me make Science Soirée a reality. I relish every second of the conversations had with this group of highly opinionated individuals. They challenge my way of thinking, my knowledge, or my position on fundamental issues and I always leave with many more new questions than I had answers...and I couldn't be more grateful. It also carries hope that those of you reading it, may encourage that same inquisitive dynamic within your new, or existing relationships and that our small LA science soirées perhaps inspire you to start a movement of your own in your area.
Catalyze curiosity. ;)
If you arent yet familiar with Jennifer and Sean here is a wonderful talk on "Black hole Firewalls" they recently gave at the Royal Institution of Great Britain, and as they jokingly mention, the last couple to ever give a talk in that room were Pierre and Marie Curie!