That's pretty much the goal at Secret Science, which started in 2006: to bring science out of the lab to the people.
The club is the brainchild of co-founders and curators Dorian Devins, Margaret Mittelbach and Michael Crewdson. While all three are interested in science, they're not scientists. They started the club because they thought they'd enjoy it. It quickly became surprisingly popular.
"My mission kind of quickly became, 'Oh people are really interested, let's see how far we can take it,'" Mittelbach said.
(Of course, some of it is just, um, quirky, like the taxidermy contest, in which people are encouraged to bring their "taxidermy (bought, found or homemade), biological oddities, articulated skeletons, skulls, jarred specimens — and beyond, way beyond," according to the group's website. Judges pick the winners.)
These days, that means events once a month, attended by a crowd of at least a few hundred people and often more. Newcomers usually make up at least 25 percent of the audience, Mittelbach said. Despite its tongue-in-cheek-name, the club advertises its meeting place and times on its website.
And while the scientists don't necessarily use the same scientific and technical language they might use with colleagues, it's not some type of "Science for Dummies," said Michael Garbarino, 42, a security worker from Yonkers and a longtime attendee.
"They're expressing it in the vernacular, but they're not dumbing it down," he said.
For Scharf, it was a welcome change from his everyday reality, caught up in numbers and equations.
"It's this sort of opportunity, when you're talking to a crowd, that you remember, 'This is why I got into this,'" he said.
Mittelbach said the gatherings transcend entertainment. "In parts of the country science has really been under siege," he said, referring to disputes over issues like climate change.
"I do think it's sort of important to shed light on what scientists actually do, how does the scientific method work," she said. "Anything that helps make science more accessible is really great."
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