Bigfoot Meets the Loch Ness Alien Space Ghosts: The Cognitive Genesis of False Observation in Superstition and Science

Ring in the new year with Cafe Scientifique! Dr. Matthew Sharps from Fresno State will be speaking to us about some of his research into perception and cognition.

Eyewitness memory in the criminal justice system is notoriously unreliable.  Less well-recognized is the fact that the same perceptual and cognitive principles operate in other areas as well, notably in the false observation of “paranormal” phenomena such as Bigfoot, UFO aliens, and ghostly apparitions. My students and I have published a number of articles on this subject.  We’ve demonstrated that not only can we distinguish, psychologically, people who believe in different aspects of the paranormal, but that specific psychological processes can literally induce normal people to see them, to interpret everyday sights as paranormal entities and objects.  We have also shown that these principles can apply in the sciences themselves, most famously in the case of Percival Lowell and the Canals of Mars.  Understanding these principles of interpretation and misinterpretation is increasingly important in a world in which science and pseudoscience are frequently confused.

Who: Dr. Matthew Sharps, California State University, Fresno.

When: January 7, 2019 at 7PM

Where: Santa Fe Basque, 3110 N Maroa Ave., Fresno, CA 93704



Social Media as a Museum of Science and Math

Please join us Monday December 3, 2018, for a discussion of using social media in physics outreach and education hosted by Dr. Ray Hall!

Physics education has traditionally incorporated demonstrations as a best practice in teaching, partly because physical phenomena are dynamic in nature– static images are rarely able to convey the underlying principles, or illustrate the surprisingly counter intuitive aspects of the real world. The social media platform Instagram allows the wide distribution of short high resolution video clips, which turns out to be an ideal format for sharing interesting physics phenomena to engage the public in the excitement of science. The Instagram stream @physicsfun features a daily short video post that showcases physics toys, kinetic art, mathematical objects, and scientific curiosities from my personal collection. In this talk I will highlight the history and science of some famous physics toys, discuss the motivation and methods of capturing them on video, and describe the reaction so far: Over 1 million Instagram users subscribing to a social media museum of science and math.

Who: Dr. Ray Hall, California State University, Fresno.

When: December 3, 2018 at 7PM

Where: Santa Fe Basque, 3110 N Maroa Ave., Fresno, CA 93704


Fungal zombies and microbial mind control: OR, how I learned to stop worrying and embrace our microbial overlords.

In the spirit of the season, please join us Monday November 5 at 7pm to talk about zombies with Dr. Alija Mujic, an Assistant Professor of Mycology at Fresno State.

Fungi are everywhere. Take a deep breath… You’ve just inhaled several hundred fungal spores. For the most part this is just a normal part of life. We breathe in, we breathe out, and the fungal spores get expelled naturally from our bodies without causing any harm. But, have you ever wondered, what might happen if something went TERRIBLY, TERRIBLY wrong? While very rare in humans, for a lot of insects the potential for something to go terribly wrong is actually very great. Some fungi are even capable of taking over the minds of their insect hosts and drive the insect to perform all manner antisocial behavior. This, dear readers, is the case of zombie ant. A diabolical amalgam of ant and fungus, driven during its short time on earth to commit the most unspeakable eldritch horrors. Come and join us for a discussion of zombie fungi and their favorite insect hosts. It promises to be an evening that will scare you brainless (if you are an insect)!

Who: Dr. Alija Mujic, California State University, Fresno.

When: November 5, 2018 at 7PM

Where: Santa Fe Basque, 3110 N Maroa Ave., Fresno, CA 93704