Science geeks add chemistry to midtown nightlife

Sick of hearing amateur karaoke at your local dive bar? Go on the right night and you might catch an astronomy or anatomy lecture instead.

Sac Science Distilled, founded by two local biology students, is a “science cafe” series that aims to bring casual, educational talks to social venues around midtown. Their first installment, “Wine, Walnuts and Wildlife,” will debut at Old Ironsides on Wednesday night.

The format is simple: Two experts get 25 minutes apiece to present on the same topic, or two overlapping topics. Afterward, attendees can ask questions or just hang around for drinks. The events are free and will be held the third Wednesday of every month.

The series is a collaboration between UC Davis doctoral candidate Nicole Soltis and Sacramento City College student Bobby Castagna, with support from local groups such as Capital Science Communicators and Powerhouse Science Center. It’s modeled after similar science cafes in Davis and Lodi.

Castagna, who shares science through photography and other multimedia, envisions a fun, quirky vibe – something like what Bill Nye the Science Guy used to do on TV.

Overly academic jargon is not welcome, he said.

“Science lately has seemed hard to understand; it’s very unapproachable,” Castagna said. “And there’s a lot of misinformation out there regarding vaccinations, GMOs (genetically modified organisms). You name it, it’s probably out there.”

Science cafes help keep people informed, but they’re also great practice for the scientists, said Rita Mukherjee Hoffstadt, deputy director of Powerhouse Science Center.

“For people who don’t know anything about that day-to-day work and don’t have those vocabularies, how can we create easier access points?” Hoffstadt said. “It’s happening in a place where everybody’s guard is down a little and everyone is willing to relax and enjoy and you can have a dialogue together, which is a lot harder to do in an academic setting.”

Sammy Caiola: 916-321-1636, @SammyCaiola