Wednesday 2 March 2011

Cafe Conversations: Starting with Infinity - Transition Themes #3

The conversations started at Infinity, moved on to Happiness and are considering Boredom next.

Cafe Conversations are informal talks and discussions with UEA researchers about their specialist subjects, happening most weeks in the lovely Aladdins Cafe on Magdalen Street. Masterminded by Stefi Barna, lecturer in the Faculty of Health, and one of the organisers of the very successful Magdalen Street Fair last October, the Cafe Conversations are about giving Norwich citizens opportunities to benefit from and appreciate the research going on at UEA.

I went along to one of the first conversations on the topic of 'What is Infinity?'. I haven't voluntarily subjected myself to discussing maths for quite a while, but I really enjoyed the session. Robert Henderson, a PhD researcher in Maths, was infectiously enthusiastic about his topic and had all number of interesting paradoxes and patterns that he wanted to share with us - including fractals, hence the picture of a Romanesco. He explained everything clearly for those of us a bit rusty on our maths and it was great to learn about something completely different. Did you know that some infinities are bigger than others?

Indeed Robert was enthusiastic enough to do three conversations in one week, all of which had 8-25 people attending and learning about the nature of infinity. If that's not successful free education then I don't know what is!

The next conversation was led by Theresa Belton, researcher in the School of Education, on the topic of 'Increasing Happiness, Decreasing Consumption'. Around 15 people came to talk about what happiness is, participate in thought-provoking activities and hear about the latest research.

This coming Saturday (5th) at 3pm there will be a conversation with Kathleen Lane, from the Centre of Applied Research in Education, about Boredom.
Is feeling bored a good thing or a bad thing? This conversation explores what older people mean by 'being bored'. Your input will help define various kinds of boredom and what value older people place on not being bored and on maintaining activities and social relationships.

Aladdins cafe is a lovely friendly place that makes delicious quiche! It is run by a group of friends who have always enjoyed meeting up in cafes. They wanted to create a space where people can meet and chat and I think they have succeeded. They also want to encourage community gatherings there as well as supporting local art and music. So generally a friendly and happening place to be!

All of these conversations are free to attend and no booking is required, just turn up, enjoy the intellectual stimulation and mine the knowledge of an expert in their field. They are meant to go on for an hour, but most people stay around longer for more discussion. The timetable of conversations is displayed in Aladdins cafe or an electronic copy can be found here. The March timetable is all sorted, but the complete April timetable will be coming out soon. If you would like more information on Cafe Conversations then please contact Stefi on or 01603 591109.

Photo: A Romanesco is the nearest to a fractal pattern in nature - ever repeating in the same pattern - John Walker

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