It’s been a while since my last blog; hopefully the following blog would do justice to
the long gap. Here, I hope to highlight a very unique initiative by Dr Arnab
Bhattacharya and his team for popularizing science.
Promoting Science is as important as doing quality research. The moment anyone says a scientific talk or a lecture will be delivered, the general idea one gets is that of a sophisticated environment with the speaker bombarding the audience with his complex recitals. The curiosity aspect is generally killed in these lectures. This is true for at least students who are at the under graduate level, and maybe to a certain extent even for students at the masters level. Now imagine a totally different scenario i.e if a speaker walks in and says “I love questions!!! Especially the ones starting with – I feel it’s stupid…but…” This has essentially been the motto of the CHAI and WHY team (http://chaiandwhy.org/). Chai & Why is an initiative started by Prof Arnab Bhattacharya who handles the public outreach programme of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR, Mumbai). Chai is the Indian word for tea, so basically the idea is to discuss science over a casual cup of tea!!!
It all started in 2009, inspired by Science Café in the US and Café Scientifique in Europe, Prof Bhattacharya started organizing popular lectures on science. The first lecture was held on 2nd Jan, 2009 (coincidently the birthday of Issac Newton) and since then its popularity has grown immensely. The topics are chosen carefully and are of general interest to the listeners. So far, Chai and Why has seen a remarkable and diverse set of interesting topics (for more details see link- http://www.tifr.res.in/~outreach/outreach/chaiandwhy.html). From science in the kitchen to science in the bathroom, from science in the playground to scientific ballooning, from Darwins evolution theories to traffic jams, from nanotechnology to music, Chai & Why has managed to touch almost every aspect of science. The speakers range from PhD Students to established researchers. Moreover, researchers outside India have also been a part of this initiative.
The typical format starts with an introductory talk from the speaker and followed by an informal discussion over chai (tea). The speaker then takes questions from the audience. While one may think it could be intimidating to ask a scientist questions from a lay man point of view the atmosphere is so informal that the only feeling lingering is that of curiosity. This infact is the USP of these lectures. The audience comprises of school students, graduate students and even the general public (who feel science is not their cup of tea).
With such a unique setup the ideas flow freely and the discussions become inciting and stimulating. Here science unravels itself in its very raw form and yet easily digested. The bottomline is science need not be discussed only in the laboratories or conventional lecture theatres, if presented in the right way and with the right enthusiasm (like Chai & Why) scientific ideas can be shared and discussed almost anywhere.