Exploding the boring science myth

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TO factomania BBC REALLY COOL STUFF: Biologist and practical experimenter Fran Scott with Factomania co-presenter, physicist and adrenalin junkie Greg Foot and radio and TV broadcaster Dominic Byrne.

Put Fran Scott, Greg Foot and Dominic Byrne in a room together and they will, literally, get up to explosive fun. Debashine Thangevelo caught up with the three livewire presenters, two of |whom are scientists by profession, at BBC’s Worldwide Showcase in Liverpool and found out what sets their science show apart from the rest…

AFTER astounding all with a few demos involving fire and sound in one of the showcase theatres at the ACC Liverpool, an energised Fran Scott, Greg Foot and Dominic Byrne made their way to the interview room.

Surrounded by a table of international media, the three were only too happy to chat about BBC Knowledge’s Factomania and what sets it apart from most other science shows, including the ever-popular Mythbusters.

Foot comments: “There are amazing graphic elements to the show. You see fantastic animated versions of the three of us doing things we wouldn’t be able to do on the show. It grew from a number of ideas that morphed together. As always, lots of meetings, lots of discussions… It combines different elements. You have the facts that you can go and mention in a pub or wherever.”

While Foot and Scott are scientists by profession, Byrne is more of an enthusiastic observer and amateur boffin.

Foot continues: “There are a lot of shows that have big explosions, which is great. But on Factomania, there are little one-minute wonders in the show, too.”

Scott chips in: “I prefer my animated version actually.

“What I really like about this is that I come with my demo, you (pointing to Foot) come with your stunts and you (Byrne) come with just being curious about the world.

“And it’s like an amalgamation of all three things together. Our approach is not dry at all. We bring humour to the experiments.”

Foot reveals: “I think our characters have come out as we were kind of developing the show. It has become quite clear that we both love explosions, but Fran likes the engineering side.”

“I just like the stuff that looks good. If it is something I can understand, that’s even better,” jokes Byrne.

He continues: “Scoring is huge. He (looking at Foot) is the most competitive person I have ever met.”

A defensive Foot responds: “I am not.”

Byrne carries on: “He gets annoyed if I score him like 40 out of a 100. When we finish, he will go: ‘Can I have a quick chat?’”

But Foot continues to plead his case. “When you really believe in the demos you are doing, if someone scores it low, it’s just not right.”

The one subject that dominated the conversation was Byrne making a cloud.

He laughs: “Yes, I made a cloud, which I am obsessed with. I’m really bad at DIY and handiwork and stuff. So for me to make anything is quite impressive.

“And I made a cloud that would have filled the room. Have you seen the clip?”

The other two laugh and reveal they are going to make T-shirts saying: “I made a cloud!”

Foot reveals a few of his highlights: “Mine was probably building a jet engine that started as a simple experiment on the table.

“It started with a bit of fuel, a jar and a lighter.

“You light it and get a bit of a thrust. Then we thought of supersizing it and strapped it to a go-cart. We had no idea that it would: a) work, b) go up in flames with me potentially underneath it or, c) go super fast or super slow.”

Scott points out: “We don’t just bust myths. Here, if you don’t like a subject we are on, it’s fine – three minutes later we have moved on to something different.

“It’s jam-packed with facts taken from the entire periphery of science as opposed to following one story all the way through.

“This show takes the intimidation out of science. Anyone can do it, you just need to be curious, poke and prod,” she explains.

Always the comedian, Byrne says: “I got a D in physics. Put that down.

“Joking aside, if I were taught science in this way at school, I would have found it much more interesting than I did.”

Factomania is a fun science show underlined with facts – and that isn’t just a theory.

• Factomania airs on BBC Knowledge (DStv channel 184) from tonight at 10pm.

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