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Science in the cafe

Science in the cafe

Photographer:Fotograaf: Stella Theocharidou

Launch event Pint of Science

It is around seven in the evening and the Lumiere café is teeming with people who are here to celebrate the launch of the Pint of Science festival, which will take place in May. This was one of the four venues where the events were happening simultaneously in different café’s around Maastricht. The festival started in 2012 by two research scientists in the UK and is now going to be happening across 24 countries. The aim of these events is to make science findings accessible to the audience in a more fun setting and for the first time ever it is going to be in Maastricht. 

The warm and bright night progressed with two presentations which stirred up a lot of conversation amongst the audience but also with the presenters. First up was Elsje Fourie, assistant professor of Globalisation and Development Studies at UM. Her 15-minute talk answered the question whether foreign aid to Africa in fact promotes sustainability, human rights and economic growth.

The examples she gave were the Japanese production methods in the continent, the “Kaizen” as it is named after the Japanese word for “Improvement”, but mainly Ethiopia, which is her country of expertise as she told the crowd. These are examples of foreign aid focusing on economic growth by showing the companies different, sometimes more effective, ways of manufacturing.

Another example that was discussed was the Dutch development bank (FMO) and its role in promoting sustainable investment outside of the country. One way the FMO does that is by establishing businesses in African countries, but also building infrastructure and schools for the workers’ children.

The second presenter was Pim Martens, director of the UM Graduate School of Sustainability Science. The topic of his presentation was how understanding animals’ emotions can help humans bring about sustainable change.

After the presentation, there was time for questions from the audience, in public or in private during the break. An opportunity many took, while drinking and having fun, all agreeing “this had a nicer vibe than a lecture”.

The festival is primarily the work of volunteers who want to share their knowledge with a wider crowd but also have constructive and fruitful conversations. As Elsje Fourie pointed out: “These findings are not only for me, I want to share them with as many people as possible and what better place than a place like this, when you can have a drink and a conversation afterwards.”

Of course, in a scientific environment like this, a test would definitely be a part of the night. After all the presentations, the audience was invited to play a game of knowledge (or memory) of the presentations themselves. This resulted in many more laughs and excitement from the crowd, especially after some adorable pictures of angry or jealous cats and dogs, which was appreciative of the comfortable environment. Some people lost in the game but in retrospect, every single one of the attendees definitely won a night of science and fun.

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