All kinds of everything for Dana's taboo-free zone

November 28, 2003

Scientists stood sipping champagne and politely tried not to stare at the pregnant man circulating among them at last week's launch of the UK's latest attempt to communicate science to the public, writes Anna Fazackerley.

The new adults-only Dana Centre is a joint venture between the British Association for the Advancement of Science and the European Dana Alliance for the Brain, with £10 million funding from the Wellcome Trust, among others. It aims to stimulate taboo-free discussion on modern science.

The launch party in South Kensington, London, kicked off with an hour of speeches, in which the great and good of British science tried to find new ways of saying "engage with the public". But the audience of scientists seemed more fascinated by the time delay on the plasma screen above the speakers' heads.

In an upstairs bar later in the evening, two stand-up comedians improvised a witty scene about medical research to an embarrassingly small crowd.

It was clear that the main stunts had been saved for the general public.

The forthcoming "naked science" events will include a contortionist bending her body into painful-looking shapes while Richard Wiseman talks an audience through real-time scans of her internal organs shifting about.

Catherine Blackledge, author of The Story of V, will lead a discussion titled The Vagina Dialogue , exploring what science is - and is not - telling us about female organs. There are also plans to screen live coverage of a heart bypass from the US, with a chance for the audience to speak to the surgical team as they work.

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