'Hello.I’m Amber and I give people typhoid.'
Competitors in the annual international science communication challenge, FameLab, have to know how to grab an audience’s attention and keep it for the three precious minutes in which they attempt to communicate a piece of science with no audio-visual aids, other than props they can carry on stage themselves.
This year’s competition kicked off for
Subjects ranged from how a Fitbit works to the concept of 'alternative splicing' in DNA, and from the use of tritium to the science of brewing beer.Ingenious props included a water-soaked sponge representing a piezoelectric crystal, a scarily realistic chocolate heart and a couple of giant origami birds.
The panel with the difficult job of deciding who should go through to the regional final included Georgina Ferry, science journalist and radio presenter; Renee Watson, founder of Curiosity Box; and Lucy Rogers, the 'inventor with a sense of fun' and judge of Robot Wars, who founded the Guild of Makers.Contestants are judged on 'content, charisma and clarity'.
The four who went through were all superb and so diverse: Amy Ross, the particle physicist who opened the proceedings with confident aplomb; Matthew Greenwell, a landscape geneticist who spoke so engagingly about butterflies; Isa Bonachera, a lapsed astrophysicist turned stand-up comedian whose day job is in cybersecurity, who had the audience in stitches with most bizarre collection of comparisons you could imagine (why is the universe like a Chicken McNugget?); and, most memorable of all, Matt Tompkins, the psychologist who not only spoke about illusions and metacognition but also demonstrated them by slipping half a dozen magic tricks in alongside his three minute talk, including somehow managing to change the T-shirt under his jacket without anyone noticing ...
These four are going to be hard acts to follow, and I am looking forward to two more nights of some of the best 'edutainment' in
The regional final will be held in the Wig and Pen in March.