Science night @RWTH Aachen University. c:o/re asks: what is science?

On November 11 a Science night (Wissenschaftsnacht) took place at RWTH Aachen University. This was an open-doors event in the University’s impressive CARL building, where various university departments and research groups exhibited their work, in a welcoming ambiance, aided by food and drinks (see program here). The c:o/re team took this opportunity to engage in dialog with the attendees. While many colleagues such as engineers and natural scientists represented their work by showcasing actual technological products, we thought to best represent our work by irritating and inspiring science-enthusiasts with the question what is science?

Interior of CARL building (RWTH Aachen University) during Science Night
Postcards & posters: c:o/re is ready for Science night.

That is, in the best of philosophical traditions, instead of pointing to solutions and giving answers, important and urgent as that is, we invited to reflection and dialogue through questioning. Specifically, prompted by materials that we prepared aiming to inspire conversation we asked the more subtle and challenging question addressing our interlocutors: what is your science?

Phillip Roth asks: What is (your) science? Photographer: Jule Janßen
Science is… magic. Photographer: Jule Janßen

This was an excellent event and we are grateful to the University for organizing it. It helped us both to better reach out to interested stakeholders that are not formally part of higher education institutions and, also, to connect with colleagues from other departments and faculties. As a result, many citizens from the Aachen region now know about the Käte Hamburger Research Centres and about c:o/re. We had very interesting and challenging discussions with a diverse public, from children to students and to professors, and we discovered many common interests with colleagues working in, for example, bioeconomics and teacher training. We used prompts, such as postcards and posters, to intrigue passers-by about the difficulties of pinning down what science is. The people we talked to left their impressions on what is science on post-it notes. We collected the notes, thus forming a collection that can now serve as an unusual set of data, at least for stimulating wonder and inspiring questions, if not for conducting concrete research. The many answers ranged from claiming that science is “magic”, to “applied imagination”, “ongoing” and to “what can be debunked” and “fallibilism”.

We are now pursuing the dialogues that we started with colleagues at this event and we look forward to next year’s Science night!

c:o/re team engage in dialog with attendees at the Science night. Photographer: Jule Janßen

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