These days, you don’t have to attend a lecture to learn about science. Just visit your local cafe.

People anywhere can attend informal, grassroots-organized talks in coffee house–type settings around the world. Since 1998, when the movement began in England and France, the number of “cafés scientifiques” (science cafes) has grown to over 1,100 worldwide.

Rachel Connolly, a spokeswoman for science television series NOVA, said the number of U.S. science cafes has tripled in four years to 380. They are located in 49 of the 50 states.

“It’s not in a museum or in an academic setting,” Connolly said. “It’s in an ‘I’m going to have some fun, but I’m also going to learn and talk about some important science issues’ setting.”

Volunteers organize the science talks at bars, cafes, restaurants or wherever else people feel comfortable. They choose the topic, the venue and the scientist who will lead the discussion. Two websites, Cafe Scientifique and Science Cafes, provide free resources on planning science chats.

“It hardly matters what the topic is — if it’s what the scientists are working on, it’s what they care about, and that enthusiasm is what comes across,” said Ann Grand, a volunteer with Cafe Scientifique.

On October 21, science writer Ivan Amato orgainized a session at Washington’s Busboys and Poets restaurant. Amato has organized 25 science talks in four years and calls it “a labor of love.”

Find out why Amato loves science cafes and why you might too: