27 May, 2022
Our fortnightly popular science ‘Materials: Fact or Fiction’ segment continued for its second year. The series is a collaboration between the MacDiarmid Institute and RNZ. Each fortnight a MacDiarmid Institute researcher looks at a fictional sci-fi material from a book or a movie and discusses whether the sci-fi stands up to scientific scrutiny. This year we featured many students and early career researchers, providing them a safe yet fun opportunity to gain some media experience. An array of materials, technology and sci-fi elements were discussed, including magic carpets, MacGyver’s laser, Proton Packs from Ghostbusters, hypermatter and the Force from Star Wars, and even how Rumpelstiltskin made straw into gold.
In December a spinoff of the series was released as a podcast titled Sci Fi/Sci Fact. Nights host Bryan Crump says that one of the great things about the new Sci Fi/ Sci Fact podcast is the link between science and the imagination, between the empirical and the hypothetical.
I love how so many of our brilliant guests from the MacDiarmid Institute reconnect with their childhood sense of wonder and curiosity during ourBRYAN CRUMP RNZ host
“Imagination is a key part of the scientific endeavour, and I love how so many of our brilliant guests from the MacDiarmid Institute reconnect with their childhood sense of wonder and curiosity during our conversations,” he says.
“The real world is such a rich and strange place, and sometimes science fiction is the route to unlocking a new discovery, and sometimes, it’s just lots of fun. It’s great to see the best of these discussions turning into a new RNZ podcast.”
MacDiarmid Institute Co-Director Professor Nicola Gaston says she is thrilled that so many researchers from across physics, chemistry, materials engineering and biochemistry have gotten involved.
“One of the best things about asking scientists to assess fictional science is that there isn’t always a right or wrong answer to the questions Bryan comes up with! The angles that different scientists take on a given topic can also be really different based on their own areas of study, which in itself I find really interesting,” she says.
Bryan’s style of questioning really encourages people to have fun with ideas.PROFESSOR NICOLA GASTON, Co-Director The MacDiarmid Institute
“Bryan’s style of questioning really encourages people to have fun with ideas while thinking out loud; in that sense it echoes the scientific tradition of the thought experiment, as used extensively in the work of Albert Einstein. I like to think it gives listeners some insight into how scientists think about unexpected problems, when the answers are not all known.”
Sci Fi/Sci Fact is available on Saturdays at rnz.co.nz/scifi, Spotify, Apple, iHeartRadio and wherever you get your podcasts.