Science left the lab Monday night and found a warm welcome — along with some frothy pints — in the backroom at The Burren, an Irish pub in Somerville.
David Haig, the George Putnam Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, took the stage for the graduate student-sponsored outreach program, sharing the science of body heat on a not-so-cold winter night.
“I love it. This is awesome,” said John Chamberlain, a Medford native who joined other science enthusiasts to hear Haig’s presentation. “You get to talk to scientists, pick their brains. It gets your own mind thinking about this stuff. If you’re a nerd like us, it’s brain candy … and there’s beer.”
Haig spent about 20 minutes discussing the science behind the practice by warm-blooded mammals and birds of huddling together to maintain heat. He took the audience on a globe-spanning tour, from the bare Antarctic ice, where emperor penguins huddle for months as they incubate eggs; to a rat’s den, where nearly naked rat pups snuggle for warmth; to a winter burrow, where marmots pile to keep their bodies from freezing; to hospital delivery rooms, where humans are born.
“It sounded like a fun thing to do, talking in a very different environment,” Haig said of the offbeat venue. “It’s a little bit of a challenge to be educational … It’s hard sometimes just to talk to members of your department about what you’re doing. Tonight, to talk to people with … less background — in ways that are not misleading — is a bigger challenge.”
The Science by the Pint series is run by students from Harvard’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. The program, one of several run by the GSAS student group Science in the News, is coordinated by doctoral students Nicole Espy and Cristina Popa.
Science by the Pint began in 2008 and each month features a different Harvard scientist in an informal discussion of science and of research. In recent months, the program has been drawing 60 to 70 people to its events, Espy said, though Monday’s crowd was between 80 and 100.