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Popular Science Cafés Offer Even More This Year

Swine flu and other infectious diseases, the design of everyday things, traffic jams and crowds, nanotechnology, optical illusions, environmental law, black holes and permafrost. Grab a beer or a slice of pizza at one of Northwestern University's popular science cafés, soak up some science and maybe challenge a theory or two.

The free science cafés, held throughout the academic year in various Evanston locations, offer something for everyone. Science Café Evanston is held monthly and geared toward adults; Junior Science Café is held twice a month for middle and high school students and their parents. New this year are four special science cafés on environmental topics, which tie into the One Book One Northwestern project and Thomas Friedman's book "Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution -- and How It Can Renew America."

The cafés provide a casual forum for the general public to explore and debate the latest ideas in science and technology. A scientist -- using plain and accessible language -- delivers a short presentation on a topic, followed by plenty of time for questions and answers and general discussion. Speakers include Northwestern faculty members as well as scientists from the Chicago metropolitan area.

The third season launches this Wednesday, Sept. 23, with Science Café Evanston featuring Daniel Johnson, M.D., of the University of Chicago Medical Center talking about infectious diseases, including swine flu. The event will be held from 6:15 to 7:45 p.m. at the Firehouse Grill, 750 Chicago Ave. Food and beverages may be purchased.

The first Junior Science Cafés will be held from 4 to 5:15 p.m. Friday, Sept. 25, at the Evanston Public Library (third floor), 1703 Orrington Ave., and from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 26, at Boocoo, 1823 Church St. The Friday café will focus on alien visitors, and Saturday's café will examine the big ideas in nanotechnology. Snacks will be provided.

The One Book One Northwestern cafés begin Wednesday, Oct. 7, with Northwestern environmental engineering professor Kimberly Gray talking about what it will take to finally spark a "green revolution." This café will be held from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Celtic Knot, 626 Church St.

The science cafés are organized and sponsored by Northwestern's chapter of Sigma Xi, the scientific research society. The University's Office of Information Technology and Office for Research also are sponsors.

Upcoming cafés include:

Oct. 21 - Untwinkling the Stars: Using anti-missile technology to improve the views of telescopes
Professor Mike Smutko, Dept of Physics & Astronomy

Nov. 18 - The Design of Everyday Things
Professor Don Norman, co-director of Northwestern University's MMM program, McCormick School of Engineering

Jan. 20 - Evanston History: Conserving the Oldest Printed Map ... and the Story It Tells
Kevin Leonard and Susan Messick, NU Library Archives

Feb. 17 - Traffic Jams, Crowds, and Human Behavior: What Can Technology Do?
Professor Hani Mahmassani, Dept of Civil and Environmental Engineering

March 17 - From Plants to Consciousness
Professor Malcolm MacIver, Assistant Professor Dept of Biomedical and Mechanical Engineering and Adjunct Professor Dept of Neurobiology and Physiology

For more information, contact Suzanne Auburn at (847) 491-2902 or visit the science cafés online for up-to-date schedules and information.

- Megan Fellman