The Uncertainty Principle is a podcast-turned-talk-show hosted by Ben McAllister, a PhD student from UWA specialising in dark matter, and Taryn Laubenstein, a graduate from Yale University with a focus on marine biology.
The two met at a science competition in 2018, and knew from then on that they wanted to make a podcast together. Their journey hasn’t always been easy going, with previous years at Fringe World being described as ‘cursed’; in 2019, Taryn almost couldn’t make it to WA due to flooding in her town, and in 2020 the bushfires almost stopped her again!
In an effort to break this curse, the duo decided that this year they would focus less on themselves, and more on featuring a range of awesome local scientists. Each show features two different guest scientists, so you could go to every single one and never see the same thing twice!
The opening night for Fringe 2021 started off a little shaky when a banner fell down, but they recovered quickly with a couple of jokes before introducing the guest speakers.
First up was Kit Prendergast, bee scientist (also known as a doctor of apicology) and avid bee fan. She walked onto stage in a full beekeeper’s outfit while telling us how much she adores native bees, but hates the European honeybees. Her word of choice: “beenis” (bee penis).
Did you know that when a male honeybee has sex, it ejaculates so hard that its beenis blows up? I certainly did not. If you’re worried that you might not be science-y enough for this show, have no fear. Kit easily explains all jargon and makes it entertaining, like describing pollination as “plant sex”.
After an awkward joke from Ben about science degrees being better than arts degrees broke the stream of bee talk, we found out that Kit also has an arts degree and moonlights as a Neocircus performer under the name Bee Babette. Her bee outfit was actually made for her own Fringe show in 2018!
Next up was Chayan Chatterjee, a physics PhD student at UWA whose work focuses mainly on analysing gravitational waves through machine learning models. His phrase of choice: “space balls”.
Technically, these so-called “space balls” are neutron stars. In true physicist fashion, Chayan made his work easier to understand by using simple analogies that hide the fact that 99% of physics is actually just maths. He spoke about the interwoven fabric of space and time and how the interaction between two black holes can create ripples in this fabric, which are known as gravitational waves. When talking about neutron stars, Taryn described them as “big scary space balls”, but Chayan insists that they are actually “beautiful space balls”, and that black holes are boring in comparison. A question from the audience about aliens inevitably popped up; Chayan responded very scientifically.
Cue funky music and coloured lights – it was game show time! To wrap up the show, they played a game called ‘Survival of the Fittest’, which pit the hosts against the guest scientists against the audience. It felt a little rushed, but was fun overall. The only question all three teams got right was about how many nerve endings the clitoris has – over 8,000 and a whole lot of incentive to find the damn thing!
All in all, the evening was fun, engaging, and not bogged down by excessive scientific jargon. My only criticism is that it felt quite rushed towards the end, since we didn’t even get through all the game show questions!
Unfortunately, as much as I would recommend that you go and see Ben and Taryn, they have sold out for all their remaining shows for this season. However, they are releasing a studio version of their podcast which will be announced later this week on their Twitter (@principlecast). If you liked the sound of Kit Prendergast, she will also be performing (in her bee costume, of course) in the Fringe World circus show 80’s Mixtape, which still has tickets available!
And remember, native bees are “cute”, but European Honeybees? “They’re dicks!”
4 Beautiful Space Balls out of 5
Gian Kaur is patiently waiting for the alien invasion to reach Earth.
Images courtesy of Fringe World.