We meet in Branford, CT, about once every 4-6 weeks and topics discussed range from physical sciences, to life sciences and social sciences.  A knowledge of the topic being discussed is not required, nor is there any membership requirement or age restriction.  Perhaps the only requirement is curiosity and a thirst for knowledge! Science and technology are integral to every aspect of life - history, geography, humanities, music - everything.

The fundamental reason for Tilde Café's existence is to demystify science and to make it more accessible to all.  

As of July 2014, the IRS has recognized Tilde Cafe as a 501(c)(3) organization. Gifts are deductible to the full extent allowed under IRS regulations.




Mathematics Awareness Month 
April 2015



NOVA Betahttp://nature.nps.gov/geology/nationalfossilday/overview.cfm

Now for a piece of excellent news for Tilde Cafe: as of January 23, 2009 you can find a link to us on the science cafes website maintained by WGBH Educational Foundation - WGBH is the public television station out of Boston, and produces NOVA among many other fantastic shows.  Tilde Cafe is the only listed science cafe in CT, and the only one between NYC and Boston! 





© 2009 Deepti Pradhan and Tilde Cafe

January 17, 2016

Rubber-bands, nails, bridges and networks*

It's January, and thankfully we weren't slipping on the sliding ice when we congregated at Blackstone Library to learn about networks from Professor Daniel Spielman.

A collection of connected elements (people/internet sites/computers/proteins - pretty much anything that can be connected) forms a network. For example, one is all too familiar with the concept of social networks; similarly, in biology there are networks connecting proteins; in engineering there are electrical networks. Each element in the network is called a node or a vertice, and the connection between two elements is called an edge or a link. If you know the characteristics of an element, you can predict the characteristics of other elements connected to it, which is why if you have a LinkedIn profile or a Facebook profile, you may be prompted with suggestions to connect with specific individuals. These predictions are based on refined algorithms that have been developed to make rapid calculations behind the scenes. What is particularly fascinating is if you looked at a particular social network, while connections exist because of some shared features between individuals, many other features may be divergent. Very complex networks that look like a pot of cooked angel hair pasta can be simplified into manageable clusters and then further studied. For example in a network of high school classmates, political views may span the spectrum. Each classmate has his or her own network.The question is, can you make a reasonable guess about the political views of someone who you don't know directly in this complex social network? Mathematicians study these networks (they refer to them as graphs), and develop elegant algorithms to yield fast and clean answers to such questions. Such algorithms can be applied to understanding and interrogating networks in general.

Dan took us through a captivating afternoon where we learnt about the history of the field of networks and how even map coloring played a role in the field - you may have encountered your school geography teacher telling you that you could use only four colors to color a map, and adjacent countries should have distinct colors. While the topic of networks and how mathematicians and computer scientists develop methods to understand them may seem daunting, Dan simplified it for us in a manner that can be broadly understood and shared with us how he is trying to continually improve existing protocols to study and understand networks. It definitely gave us a greater appreciation of the under-the-hood contributions of mathematicians to making the world a little more manageable!

Professor Heeger started the afternoon with telling us about subatomic On a note related to networks, Lewis Carroll had developed a game he called Word-links or Doublets, where two words were connected to each other through a number of steps, and each step involved the change of a single letter in the word; each new word had to be a word in the English dictionary. Perhaps the most famous Doublet challenge is this - can you evolve ape to man in five links?

Solution: APE - ARE - ERE - ERR - EAR - MAR - MAN
There is of course a shorter link:
Solution: APE - APT - OPT - OAT - MAT - MAN

For a compilation of Lewis Carroll's Doublets, visit - http://www.explorethemidwest.com/Doublets__a_word_puzzle__by_Lewis_Carrol.pdf 

Note that he ends the preface to the book as follows:

"I am told that there is an American game involving a similar principle. I have never seen it, and can only say of its inventors, "pereant qui ante nos nostra dixerunt!

I had to check what the Latin translated to, and according to Merriam-Webster, it is this: "may they perish who have expressed our bright ideas before us." Brilliant! 

Thank you, Dan, for an informative afternoon. It was worth the wait! 

In closing, a network joke - 

 Q: What kind of network does a Hobbit have? 
A: A Tolkien-Ring network.



*Check video below for context to subject line

It is with deep sadness that we share the news that Paul Hudak who spoke at Tilde Cafe on April 5, 2014 passed away on April 29, 2015 after a long battle with leukemia. Despite his health, he was kind enough to make the trek to come to Branford and give us a peek into the exciting work he was doing on Music, Math and Computation. Our condolences go out to his family.

You can view his cafe talk here: