In a world of health scares, scaremongering headlines and increased interest in pseudo- sciences, rational thought seems to be less and less fashionable.

But there are groups across the country trying to reignite public interest in science and scientific methods – including the Cafe Scientifique.

The cafes were the brainchild of Duncan Dallas, who set up the first cafe in Leeds in 1998. Since then more than 40 have sprung up across the country, with the aim of making science interesting and getting non-scientists involved in what is often thought of as a closed world.

Physicist Jim Grozier has been the organiser of Brighton’s own Cafe Scientifique for the past five years. The monthly event began in 2003, and currently calls Latest Music Bar its home.

“The public understanding of science movement started in the 1980s,” he says. “It is now being recognised by the mainstream science community. When people get research money, part of it goes to outreach work so people can see part of their job.”

The format of the evening is usually a talk of no more than 30 minutes, followed by a short break so the audience can refill their glasses, before questions and discussions about the talk, and science in general. The scientists giving the talks are unpaid, with any donations on the night going towards their travel expenses.

“The most important thing is getting really interesting speakers,” says Jim, who steps down as local organiser in July to be replaced by a committee of four people.

“A lot of the people who give our talks are practicising scientists and experts in their field, and are usually very keen to come along.”

This month sees Phil Uttley, an astronomer from Southampton University, talking about the growing problem of bad science and how the scientific method is essential to everyday life – taking in cloud creatures and the connection between superstitious pigeons and stockmarket analysts.

“He’s trying to come up with an explanation as to why people are swayed by unscientific arguments,” says Jim. “There is so much bad science out there, not just from people trying to sell things by using scientific language to blind people.

“When you’re talking about scientific method, all you’re talking about is rational thought. It is under attack, even in things like the justice system, which should follow science closely. There is a move towards courts relying on hearsay and what they call intelligence.”

Although Simon Singh once visited the Brighton Cafe Scientifique back in October 2004, the monthly event eschews household names in favour of people who are at the top of their chosen fields.

Previous speakers have included Philip Burrows from Oxford University talking about particle acclerators, Simon Goodwin of The University Of Sheffield discussing life on other planets and Peter Atkins, also of Oxford University, talking about the nature of energy.

Future speakers include Francis Ratnieks, from The University Of Sussex, who will be talking about the honey bee in the last event of the season on Thursday, July 15.

The Cafe Scientifique will return on Thursday, October 21, with University College London’s Jim Cain discussing Jokes And Pranks In Science.

For more information about the national organisation, visit Alternativerly, visit the Brighton branch’s website at

*Starts 7.30pm, free but donations welcome, 01273 687171