Study Groups

Read more about our Study Groups (below).
For Study Group Locations and Times, see our Newsletter to the (right).

Colloquy Cafe

Members examine words as concepts by bringing their life experiences to the analysis of such subjects as “justice”, “poetry”, and “normal”. At the end of each meeting, suggestions are made and voted on for the next discussion’s subject; and the new word can then be thoughtfully considered in advance.

The purpose of each analysis is not to reach an agreed-upon conclusion but to discover the varying interpretations of each concept.  For instance, in the discussion of “childhood”, members’ understanding of when childhood ends differed greatly.  One person said his childhood ended when he began to stand up to his authoritarian father.  Another individual believed her childhood ended when she accepted the inevitability of death.

By means of such discussions, participants appreciate how life experiences affect not only one’s interpretation of language but also our understanding of one another.


Culture has been up and running since 2013-14. Emphasis has been placed on studying cultural bases and differences.  In addition to each group member reading the same selected book, we supplement with additional relevant writings and then analyze and discuss one or more chapters at a time until the book is finished. Examples of books used include Geography of Thought, Metaphors We Live By, A Brief History of Humankind/Tomorrow, and China Rules. 


The Film Group meets in a member’s home for viewing and discussion.

Begun in 2010 with an intended format of documentaries only, members quickly decided not to limit selections.  Foreign films, documentaries, and English language films are equally popular.  Among the most memorable are The Scent of Green Papaya, 1993 drama, Vietnamese setting, French production; Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter…and Spring, 2003 drama from South Korea, and The Singing Revolution, 2007 documentary from Estonia.

Physical Sciences

The Physical Sciences Group studies various topics in the STEM areas with varying degrees of depth. To fully follow the details of these studies often requires a substantial math background and a solid grounding in the topical areas (e.g., physics) at the undergraduate level.

The first major topic studied by the group was General Relativity, using the book Gravity by James Hartle (Addison Wesley). The Group spent over a year going through this text from beginning to end. The second major topic, and one that is still ongoing, is Elementary Particles and the Standard Model, using the book Introduction to Elementary Particles by David Griffiths (Wiley-VCH). We are roughly half way through that text.

Future topics may include shorter studies and presentations in areas of particular interest to the group.


1n 1996, the late Beatrice (Bea) Rose founded this group to explore questions arising from a couplet in Dava Sobel’s book Longitude, namely: “Time is to the clock as the mind is to the brain”. Bea asked: “If the clock is material and time is a man-made construct, and if the brain is material, then what is the mind and what does it do? If it thinks, what is a thought?”

Issues of brain and mind, and thus neuroscience and psychology, have continued to be a prominent theme of the group, although it has also explored genetics and other biosciences. Among the topics covered have been theories of consciousness, free will, brain structure, cognition in the octopus, human genetics, and gene editing.

The group is currently pondering a conundrum posed by two books – Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow and Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking. The problem is that most of our daily decisions are based on cognitive approximations that efficiently yield rapid judgments but unfortunately involve biases and occasionally cause catastrophic errors. However, the other alternative – deliberative, analytical thought – is too slow for continuous use and is not good at handling incomplete information, whereas our snap judgment approximations are. As Gladwell puts it, a challenge that we all face is “…figuring out how to combine the best of conscious deliberation and instinctive judgment…”

The Reading Experience

The Reading Experience is an unusual book club because it spends several monthly meetings in the reading and comparing of volumes that approach a similar theme in different ways. Examples of such themes are “Memoir,” “Where and When” and “Friendship.”

The Reading Experience is designed for any individual who loves good literature. Expect spirited discussion. Bring your desire to learn, enjoy and experience life through the eyes of others.

Inside Politics

With the goal of encouraging respectful, informed discussion of difficult issues, this non-partisan discussion group was formed to consider hot political topics of the moment. All opinions are welcome and encouraged.  We attempt to learn from each other, rather than change anyone’s opinions. The group’s philosophy is that open airing of all viewpoints can increase understanding of others and potentially lead to insights not accessible from more rigid perspectives.

Discussion is based on an agenda of important issues for each month. The facilitator is a retired California Assistant Attorney General who has been leading similar non-partisan political discussion classes at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute of UC San Diego for the last fifteen years.

Inside Politics is open to all persons interested in current events and civil discourse.

Works in Progress

The Works in Progress Group offers a place where scholars who are in the process of doing research and various presentations thereof, in written, video, or other forms or formats, can gather to discuss their current projects, present the status or conclusions of their efforts, and submit responses to the activities and/or works of other members. Technical issues such as access to databases, organization of reference materials, and publishing, may also be considered. Persons involved in any area and/or discipline involving scholarly research and its communication are welcome.

Dining Events

JUST LUNCH is a gathering several times a year at different local restaurants.
There is no particular topic…it’s just lunch.

SUPPER WITH SCHOLARS meets at Humphreys La Jolla Grill on the first Thursday of each month, from September through November and January through June. Participants suggest topics, and one is chosen for the evening’s discussion.

Social Activities

GARDEN PARTY AND BOOK EXCHANGE is held in July at a member’s home.  Guests bring finger foods and a book to exchange.

HOLIDAY PARTY is held in a member’s home in early December.  Lunch is catered by a local restaurant.

SDIS Current Newsletter

What Members Say

“I was looking for something like the study groups. I’m so glad I found SDIS. My life is richer because of it. “


“At SDIS I get to spend time with some terrific, interesting people.”


“I’ve been stimulated intellectually by SDIS activities and have been delighted by the people I’ve met.I have been encouraged to write when I otherwise wouldn’t have, and have been introduced to subjects I didn’t know about.”