Image Description: The words “The Uncertainty Principle” above a whale surrounded by an atomic symbol.
By Cate Tweedie
Science isn’t something that’s usually associated with Perth’s FRINGE WORLD Festival, but the team behind The Uncertainty Principle are out to change that. Filled with funky facts, each hour-long show focuses on a different topic in science, and is presented in the form of a podcast-style discourse between the two hosts with a guest speaker and some elements of audience interaction. Essentially, it is a laid-back evening where the audience can sit back with a beer and absorb all kinds of fascinating concepts and tidbits of science history, made accessible through both the format of the show and the enthusiasm of the hosts.
The night is run by two young and highly qualified scientists: Dr Taryn Laubenstein, a marine biologist now working in the world of science policy; and Dr Ben McAllister, a physicist primarily operating in the area of dark matter detection. Joining them each night is a special guest – this night it was Catriona Thomson, a Masters student from UWA who works alongside Ben at EQUS (ARC Centre of Excellence for Engineered Quantum Systems) looking into the detection of dark matter.
The subject of this night was animal intelligence. Beginning with a description of historical methods and perspectives on the scope of animal intellect, Taryn took the audience through the major schools of thought in the area, sprinkling in fun and hilarious facts along the way. Ben would often interject with witty remarks and amusing observations, which made the session feel less like a science lecture, and more like something you could listen to on your way to work or uni to make your journey both entertaining and educational. Together, the two of them were able to discuss some pretty complex scientific theories and studies without it feeling laborious and cluttered with jargon.
It was fascinating to hear Catriona discuss her current research, especially since it is being conducted at UWA. Her portion of the night acted as a recess between discussions of animal intellect and meant that the show could focus on more than one main realm of study, catering to differing interests. After the main discussion concluded, there was a game-show segment called Science Fiction vs. Faction. This is where the hosts and special guest teamed up against the audience to guess the legitimacy of certain facts, which was a fun ending to an entertaining and comprehensive show.
Some fun facts I learnt across the evening include:
- Kangaroos can’t fart.
- Birds can hold grudges.
- There was a horse called Clever Hans that could do maths but not really.
- If apes and birds combined forces, they would be an unstoppable killing machine that could take over the world.
If you have any interest at all in science, but don’t have the time or energy to comb through dense academic articles, The Uncertainty Principle is a really accessible and enjoyable experience for a dose of accurate knowledge from enthusiastic and charismatic scientists. All the live shows have actually been recorded and will be released in the future, along with other content from the same team. The format is well-suited to podcast form, and so is something to look out for and get into.
The Uncertainty Principle is on until the 8th at the Perth Mess Hall. Take your friends who think Fringe is too ‘artsy’ and buy $21 tickets here.
3½ mathematical horses out of 5
Cate vicariously lives the life of a scientist through highly niche meme groups.
Image courtesy of FRINGE WORLD Festival
Woodside Petroleum is a principal sponsor of FRINGE WORLD Festival. Pelican has been a long-time supporter of the Festival, and will continue to show its support. However, the Magazine feels it is unethical for Woodside Petroleum to remain a principal sponsor of FRINGE WORLD, given the current climate emergency, and Woodside’s ongoing contribution to climate change.
Other Festivals have demonstrated that ethical sources of funding are possible – you can read more, and sign the petition, here: https://www.change.org/p/fringeworld-side-with-the-climate-and-drop-woodside-petroleum // #fossilfreefringe #fossilfreearts // Arts and Cultural Workers for Climate Action.