Brainstorming. Discussions at Cafe Scientifique, Dubai range from space odysseys to neuroscience Image Credit: Supplied/Zarina Fernandes/XPRESS

DUBAI If talking science is your idea of chilling out, here is something for you.

A group of residents that calls itself Café Sci Dubai regularly meets up at different cafes to brainstorming anything science with anyone who has an appetite for it.

“Café Sci is not a conference. The aim is to have conversations, meet people and talk about issues related to science. We have people of all ages from teenagers to pensioners and from all walks of life, including university students, models, performers, school principals, businessmen and scientists. They come from other emirates too,” said Rohan Roberts, head of professional development at a British school in Dubai, who founded the open forum with student Raya Bidshahri.

Launched last April, the popular homegrown group boasts a following of 18,000 people on Facebook with every face-to-face meet being attended by around 80-100 inquiring minds.

More accountable

Roberts said: “For most people, science is an intimidating subject. The very mention of the word takes them back to high school and they get overwhelmed by facts and figures. But science is a way of looking at the world, away from superstitions and irrational beliefs. So we wanted to engage people with the subject and make it more accountable,” said Roberts.

Group coordinator Lara Matossian said the first Café Scientifique was launched in Leeds in 1999 and spread to the rest of Europe and America. “We drew from the same concept to launch Café Sci Dubai, the first of its kind in the Middle East.”

The group has focused on many issues over the last few months. “We’ve discussed the Mars One Project, topics like neuroeducation, de-extinction and creation of new species, the top 10 mysteries in science, inventions that will change the world, the significance of renewable energy and so on. We’ve had special guest speakers like Mars One mission candidate Mikolaj Zielinski and Pouneh Roney of the Middle East’s first brain training centre address us as well,” said Roberts.

According to Laura, a performing artist, the discussions have sometimes gone beyond the realm of science as well. “We talked about the human brain-to-brain interface. Now that rat brains have been connected via the internet, it’s only a matter of time before human brains link up directly in cyberspace. So we wanted to discuss the meaning of consciousness, the consequences of uploading the mind and storing it digitally. The ideas exchanged have been very thought-provoking. We feel like we’ve been bitten by the wonder bug and constantly want to explore new ideas. We don’t take anything for granted.”

Myra Adnan, a civil engineering student, who recalled the first meet, said: “For me, the biggest takeaway was a technical discussion in a non-academic setting. It’s a great way to learn new things.”

Sach Holden, singer and songwriter, said: “For me, it is about focusing on the scientific method and interacting with different people. I find it’s a lot of fun.”

Every session which typically takes place every month begins with a 20-minute introduction to the topic, followed by a question and answer round and general discussion.

The next meet takes place on Saturday, November 1 at the Plantation Lounge in Sofitel JBR between 4.30–6.30pm. Guest speaker Dr Hasan Al Hariri, founder of the Dubai Astronomy Group, will talk about the UAE’s new $30 million Al Marsad Observatory, followed by an open discussion on the mysteries and marvels of the universe.