Science, Lightbulb cafés return for fall semester

The start of the fall semester brings an abundance of opportunities for the public to hear from preeminent members of Penn’s faculty. Popular among these diverse lecture series are the Penn Lightbulb Café and the Penn Science Café, hosted jointly by the School of Arts & Sciences and the Office of University Communications.

Both cafés take place in a relaxed, casual atmosphere every other Tuesday evening at World Cafe Live Upstairs, 3025 Walnut St. Science Café presenters share their cutting-edge research while Lightbulb Café speakers discuss their groundbreaking work in the social sciences, arts, and humanities. All talks begin at 6 p.m., with happy hour specials offered from 5-7 p.m.

Peter Decherney, a professor of English and cinema studies, opened the Lightbulb Café series on Sept. 9 with the talk, “Freedom to Innovate: The Global Spread of Fair Use.”

Two faculty members from the School of Engineering and Applied Science get the Science Café rolling on Sept. 23. Katherine Kuchenbecker, an associate professor of mechanical engineering and applied mechanics, and Nick Parrotta, coordinator of instructional laboratories, will discuss the mind-bending world of 3-D printing in “The AddLab: 3-D Printing in Research.” 

On Oct. 7, the Science Café welcomes Johannes Eichstaedt, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Psychology and
 founding research scientist of the Positive Psychology Center’s World Well-Being Project. Part of an interdisciplinary team that measures the well-being of large populations through social media, Eichstaedt will discuss “Predicting Heart Disease With Twitter,” which takes tweets to a whole new level.

The Oct. 21 Lightbulb Café features Peter Struck, an associate professor of classical studies, who will discuss “Ancient Divination and Modern Intuition: A Cognitive History.” Struck will compare ancient accounts of augury with recent research findings about our sometimes mysterious “powers of knowing,” offering insights that promise to intrigue.

On Nov. 11, Science Café-goers can hear James Serpell, Penn Vet’s Marie A. Moore Professor of Ethics & Animal Welfare, discuss “Why Did Early Humans Domesticate Wolves and Wildcats? A Novel Look at a Very Old Question.” Serpell’s talk will upend the prevailing view that the wild dogs and cats domesticated themselves, suggesting instead that domestication resulted from misdirected human behavior.

The final Lightbulb Café of the fall will take place on Dec. 2. Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw, an associate professor and undergraduate chair of the Department of the History of Art, discusses “What is American Art?” in which she will examine various approaches to interpreting contemporary art through the lenses of gender, race, sexuality, and regionalism in the context of an increasingly pluralistic society.

The Science and Lightbulb cafés are free and open to the public. Each hour-long talk will be followed by an audience Q&A session. Seating is limited.

Lightbulb Science Cafe