Archive for April, 2009

For some related readings on the “Understanding Darwin” session…

April 25, 2009

Check out past De Rerum Natura articles by Maria Isabel Garcia:
The man behind the powerful idea (published 5 February 2009)
Joe, an Oops in Y Minor (published 19 June 2003)

Or have a look at some of the great stuff online:
Darwin 200: Celebating Charles Darwin’s bicentenary
The Linnean Society
Nature news: Darwin special
Attenborough on evolution

For those who can’t make it to the session on the 25th, you can watch it live here starting at 4:30pm Manila time on Saturday, 25 April.


Understanding Darwin – a conversation with Steve Jones

April 25, 2009
Charles Darwin caricature by Harry Furniss

Charles Darwin caricature by Harry Furniss

Two hundred years after Charles Darwin’s birth, his idea of natural selection –that all life belongs to one family – has been widely accepted by the scientific community. So what’s the big deal behind all this?

Join us in a videoconference to ask Steve Jones: Why is Darwin’s idea so powerful? Does life really belong only to the strong? What does Darwin’s idea mean for us today?

Join us to understand. Saturday, 25 April 2009, 4:30 – 6:00 PM; The Forum, Fully Booked, Bonifacio High St. Bonifacio Global City, Taguig

Dr. Steve Jones is a Professor of Genetics at University College London and a Trustee of the British Council. He has published several science books for the public including Darwin’s Ghost (2000), Y The Descent of Men (2003) and his latest, Darwin’s Island (2009). He is also the recipient of many awards, including the Royal Society Faraday Medal for the public understanding of science.

This Cafe Scientifique event is presented by The Mind Museum, in cooperation with Fully Booked, supported by Krispy Kreme.

The Science of the Heavens – what’s really up there

April 25, 2009

Wherever we go, whatever we do, there’s a lot hanging over our heads. And we certainly can’t run or hide from them. Understanding them opens us up to new worlds of wonder.

What does it take to make a cloud? Perhaps you’ve wondered if rainbows are visions, or only illusions, but have you given much thought to what shape rainbows really are? What is the real color of the sky and the sea? Do stars really twinkle?

Fly high to the heavens with Cafe Scientifique at Hobbes and Landes, Bonifacio High Street on Saturday, 31 January 2009, 4:00 – 6:00 pm.

Physicist Ivan Culaba will lead us on a discovery of what exactly goes on up there, and how we can recreate them down here, through simple and fun experiments in atmospheric physics.
Get ready for an unforgettable afternoon of interactive demonstrations for the whole family!

Food Trip: Pasta Scientifique

April 25, 2009


If you thought you knew it all about pasta, think again!

Get ready for gastronomic and culinary delights as Café Scientifique takes on a pasterrific melange of food and science on Saturday, 22 November 2008, 3-5pm, at the 3 level (near Power Mac) of Trinoma, QC.

Restauranteur Margarita Fores teams up with science writer Maria Isabel Garcia to explore the fascinating role of science in kitchens and in nutrition, through pasta – where it comes from, what it’s made of, and how cooking transforms the ingredients into something delicious.

Find out the science secrets behind food mysteries like the best way to handle garlic, make the best pesto sauce, why salt is added to pasta water, and many more!

Mind Trip: The Power of Memory

April 25, 2009

Why is it that a certain scent, a place, a song, or images of the past can evoke such vivid, whole body sensations? If our memories make us who we are, does that mean that memories wield power over a person, or a person wields power over memories? What about those pesky memories we’d rather forget – can we erase unwanted memories forever?

Don’t miss out on Cafe Scientifique at mag:net cafe, Bonifacio High Street, on Saturday, 25 October 2008, 4:30pm, as neurologist Dr. Bong Casis leads us on a deep dig into the great depths of the
mind, as we explore the science of memory.

A coffee shop that breathes

April 25, 2009

(Note: This article was fist published in Maria Isabel Garcia’s Thursday De Rerum Natura column of The Philippine Star, science & technology section, on 11 September 2008.)

It was standing room only and there was not even a celebrity involved. People walked in and took their seats, eagerly listened to the fascinating lady sitting on a bar stool in front who spoke about the psychology of passion. Is everyone born with passion? Could one inherit it? Is it contagious? And for those who are desperate — can you buy it?

The lady occupying the “seat of passion” was Dr. Emy Liwag, a cognitive psychologist of the Ateneo de Manila University. Yes, last Saturday, at 4 p.m., exactly the time the mania over the ADMU vs DLSU match was to start, some people decided to give time to other passions — the passion for excellent conversation. I know Dr. Liwag and she is one of the most passionate and enlightened human beings I know — a combination which is the kind that makes the world go round.

This was Café Scientifique, an attempt to hold public conversations (not lectures!) about a topic and what science has to say about it. Café Scientifique is a global movement to bring science to the people. It is a reminder for both the scientists and the lay that science is way of knowing available to EVERYONE. Last Saturday, you could see how hungry people were for civilized, meaningful public conversation, sans that constant desire to please in variety shows or the angry confrontations in talk shows. Mitzi Borromeo, the focal person for Café Scientifique here in the Philippines, moderated the conversation. I also know Mitzi and she is one passionate and consummate learner.

Café Scientifique is intentionally held in cafés or other similar casual places and not in academic settings to keep the speakers from giving long winding lectures but instead just give a 10-minute savory talk about the topic. After those few minutes, the affair becomes a lively conversation among peers who share a common interest to understand and NOT grandstand. And that was exactly what happened last Saturday. People who could no longer come in because there was no longer any space, and sat outside and contented themselves to listen to the speakers placed there.

“Can Passion be Brewed” was the title of that Café Scientifique last Saturday held in Kape Isla/Echostore in Serendra in Bonifacio Global City and there was free coffee and pan de sal with adobo flakes for those who were there but for a science writer like me, it was more than that — it was a scrumptious feast for the mind, a way to help shape perspectives to understand things a little bit more. We all simply wanted to learn more and what better way than learning it along with others equally interested and having a conversation about it.

So how can we get passion? Dr. Liwag assured us that if you are human, you are wired to have passions since you are wired for emotions. Now that really makes me suspicious of some people I know who seem to be devoid of any passion for anything. Are they aliens? She admits that she also knows such people but it is not because they are not wired for it but because those people just do not express it and the reasons why they do not vary. But that will probably be a topic for another Café Scientifique. Dr. Liwag further explained to us that that human beings are all wired for passion since we are emotional beings and passion is indeed an emotion. I learned from her, too, that my forebrain, which houses my cerebrum, thalamus, hypothalamus and limbic system, is the seat of my passions. She explained that yes, indeed, passion can be brewed because as an emotion, it can be primed. Parents can expose their children to their own passions and so those passions could become part of the personality of those children.

Questions were also raised about “negative” passions — those that are taken to the extreme that these people cause harm to themselves, others or to the world. Just like passionate suicide bombers. To this, our expert cognitive psychologist said, that just like any emotion, you can take it to that extreme that is why you always have to strike a balance between your passions and your discipline. I think this is the difference between passions that are mere expressions of a surge of emotions and passions that become your craft. A passion becomes a craft when you have forged a choice (whether of a person or job or place) with the fire of your emotions but tested it, too, with the other aspects of your humanity, particularly reason which will give you a good grounding with the awareness of your talents, limitations and the consequences of the pursuit of this passion. I think it is with that awareness and discipline that passion becomes more than an emotion but a craft — the smithing home for the masterpieces of your life.

But are there passions that are temporary and passions that are permanent? Dr. Liwag said that since passion is an emotion, it may not be there constantly throughout your life. Your passions could have seasons, too, because you are not only a walking heap of passions but you are a whole human being who has to make sense of his or her emotions throughout the episodes of your entire lifetime.

Everyone felt that the time we had was not enough. Mitzi said that when she made a remark through the microphone about how thrilling it was to have such a delightful and intelligent conversation among strangers, everyone so emphatically nodded together in agreement that it looked like the room breathed!

That was really it, an experience in a Café Scientifique made people now living in the age of online chatting, blogging, rise to the surface of and renew the art of conversation about a way of knowing that has reliably worked to move us forward — science. This Café Scientifique was supported by the Bonifacio Global City’s Passion Rush 2008, but the good news is Café Scientifique will be regular from now on, at least in Kape Isla in Serendra. Once in a while, you will see a café there that seem to nod like it just breathed out a sigh of satisfaction from the experience that humans, particularly Filipinos, have not yet completely abandoned the civilized art of public conversation. And science which is how nature works — within and around us — is a deep well from which to draw excellent conversation.

Can passion be brewed?

April 25, 2009

What is it that gets your juices flowing? Are you born with that intense feeling to do something, to be that certain someone? Can the seeds of passion be planted and grown within?

Join Cafe Scientifique at Kape Isla, Serendra, on Saturday, 6 September 2008, 4pm, as cognitive psychologist Dr. Emy Liwag brews up a delicious blend of ideas behind the science of passion. Be part of the fun and share your thoughts, comments and questions in this passionate exploration of the mind.