Nightliving at the CalAcademy

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You know how hard it can be organizing a group of friend’s, right? I hate it; I loathe trying to herd my friends. It either ends up a disorganized mess where nothing gets done or I become the drill sergeant insisting on regimented fun set to a specific schedule. I feel like I lose either way, and as War Games has taught me, the only way to win is not to play. So what’s a guy to do when presented with an opportunity to show large chunks of his friends a good time?  The only option is to wrangle all your friends. *Sigh* This is the story of Nightlife.

It really is all Charlie’s fault. We were both at AGU last December. If you were unaware, and frankly if you listen to the show you won’t be, geologists enjoy a drink. AGU is the only conference I’ve ever been to that starts handing out free beer at 4pm every day. Imagine a 60 year old geologist double-fisting plastic cups of brew while reading a poster and try not to laugh. It really happens; I’ll take pictures next time, but this is a digression and likely a subject of a future post. The point is Charlie and I were having a drink and he mentioned this thing called Nightlife we should check out. At that time we had no plans for Thursday evening and it was the last event of the year so we did it. And it was fun.

Flash forward a few months, now Patrick is to blame. “Hey, Ryan, you should apply for this nightlife insider’s thing!” He’s always doing this to me, presenting me with cool opportunities he can’t necessarily do cause he has “responsibilities” and a “life” whatever the hell those are. So I applied and gave it my all. Well it worked, now I had all this cool access and I’m a spread the wealth kind of guy so I brought in the people I like to bask in the glory. We roll is as a crew as often as possible, decked out in suits when time permits, and just enjoy the science, the drinks, the people and the general atmosphere. The group of friends is diverse, almost none of them fellow scientists, but they’re excited and engaged which is a totally infectious attitude to be around.

A lot of discussion is had among the scientific outreach community about how to draw in the public. The general consensus is to get them while they’re young. I think that’s a great way to get people to want to become scientists, because most scientists I know have had a more than passing interest in it for as long as they can remember. But I think this is a bit simple-minded, which is rare for science-types. Sure, it’d be ideal if we could snag kids by their brains while they’re young enough to be malleable, but are we in turn supposed to turn our backs on those that slip through the cracks?

I say nay! (One really has so few opportunities to use “nay.”) And I have a feeling the good folks running Nightlife agree. These are exactly the kinds of programs we need to get people into science as adults. It’s hard to drag friends along to a podcast episode. I’ve tried it, it’s awkward. At a certain point you end up with a bunch of people sitting around a mp3
player being annoyed with you for making them listen to more of you on tinny speakers. You’ll get a much better response bringing them to something like Nightlife. However, this brings us right back to our original problem of wrangling groups of friends while at these events. My advice? Don’t bother. Get them all there. Grab a drink. Start talking science to whomever will listen and see who sticks with ya. The ones who don’t may just be intrigued by some other aspect of a museum that is essentially 100% science, let them be. Or they don’t care and are mad at your for bringing them to a drunken nerd-fest. Those friends don’t know fun when it bites them in the Nightlife. Leave them to the penguins.

Now for your assignment (yup, there’s homework). I wanna know about your area. Do you have something cool like this to go to after the kids have gone to bed? Tell us about it! We travel a lot so we may be able to hit them up. If your area is lacking, is there a science museum you think would benefit from a similar event? Telling people in the know that you want something like this may be a vital first step. Just DO NOT let them talk you into wrangling people for it. Save yourself!

Updates on the story of Nightlife can be found by searching for the hashtag #NLinsiders and also by following the Nightlifers list generously created by the Brachiolope.

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One Response to Nightliving at the CalAcademy

  1. CHUNKNo Gravatar 2 June, 2010 at 11:58 am #

    The penguin wants me. Penguins are hell a gangsta, so don’t try and front!

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