SAO PAULO – Science is the topic of learning these days in dozens of bars around Brazil, which for the moment have shelved discussions about the FIFA World Cup in Russia to make room for the mysteries of life in a program of lectures and discussions in which some 20 countries are taking part.
Swapping laboratories for bars and switching microscopes and test tubes for a couple of beers is the idea behind the international Pint of Science festival, which got started this Monday and will continue until Wednesday for the purpose of bringing science closer to regular people.
The initiative, which began in 2012 in the United Kingdom, is being held this year in 21 countries, among which Brazil is one of the few Latin American participants together with Mexico, Costa Rica and Paraguay.
In Tubaina, a bar located in downtown Sao Paulo, dozens of people listened attentively to the conference about “time and physics” by Gastao Krein, professor at the Theoretical Physics Institute of the Paulista State University (Unesp).
Waiters hunched down to take orders in the dimly lit bar where the only sounds were the professor’s voice, the clinking of glasses and the opening and closing of the refrigerator full of beer.
Krein began by saying “I’ll try to explain to you why we get old and why we don’t get young again.”
In simple terms, he began with a simple definition of “what a law of physics is,” and then went on to demonstrate that the equations applied to atoms “are reversible in time.”
“The possibility exists that a system of many particles can show an inverse movement in time. But why don’t we observe that movement in our daily lives? That is explained by physics,” Krein said.
Besides Sao Paulo, another 55 Brazilian cities are hosting until Wednesday these scientific talks on such subjects as intelligent drugs, viruses, artificial intelligence, string theory, nutrition and other subjects as interest-piquing as “Sex, Antibiotics, Rock ‘n’ Roll.”
In all, there are 500 classes in bars and restaurants with some 900 volunteer lecturers. And the only ones making money out of the project are the bars’ owners.
One of the volunteers, Alberto Saa, a professor of mathematical physics at Campinas State University (Unicamp), is preparing to speak about “the infinite in physics and mathematics.”
The idea these days is to explain complex problems in simple language, though for Saa there remain questions that have no answers, like the existence of “flat earthers.”
“There are still people who believe the Earth is flat. It’s a mixture of scientific illiteracy and a sociological phenomenon that is really worth studying,” the professor said.