Read this: Media Masters - Alok Jha
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Media matters with Paul Blanchard welcome to media Masters a series of one-to-one interviews with people at the top of the media games communication in physics at university.
He spent 11 years at the Guardian where he broke doesn't say front page stories and presented the award-winning science Weekly podcast from they spent 3 years leading ITN science and Environment coverage.
It was also present on Dara O'Briain Science Club as well as on BBC Radio 4 and BBC World Service programmes has written three best-selling books and since 2017 has been an honorary senior lecturer in the department of science technology and public policy at UCL thank you for joining me pleasure to be here.
I want from climate change to the at the impact of technology on our lives Sciences really the heart of public debate these days.
It must be an incredible time to be a science journalist.
Yeah, it is because actually for me so I'm still.
Is all about accessing really interesting people information that's why I did it started more than around 20 years ago and I wanted to the other talk to physicists and discuss black holes or I wanted to understand the latest technology in things and I was quite on those kids that took things apartment and made mostly broke things but that she know you're right now science and technology really are the engines of everything from economics to understanding climate change to public health.
It's got very serious and um.
It's not the not just a fun whizbang stuff that term we'll talk when were German school.
Did you always want to be a science journalist not particularly? I mean I was always into the science at school.
That's what I was good at mathematics physics chemistry, etc.
Soul classics nerd before nerves were any anyway cool not suggesting.
I'm cool now you and your words anyway.
I was interesting all those things and I'll even do extra science lessons at lunch time because I was just interested in knowing things.
Eminem when he first year did physics because I just wanted to understand something is great problems of the world didn't think about jobs or anything like that and you busy wondering about the Fabric of the Universe weirdly and it'll make my physics colleagues are actually has now left eye when I came to university.
I was convinced that I was going to the person that unified generally tivity in quantum mechanics.
I heard that is a problem seek ambitious now.
I just wish I was jealous ridiculous ignorantly yes, I was but I think this is a problem with his excited probably do that but I suppose that's your time for you.
Got to have that ambition right otherwise you're not going to do these big things you anyways.
I realised about a week into my physically that I wasn't to be able to do this massive challenge however, I was writing a lot for the student newspaper because I love music.
I'm not many are really like using a like writing so I thought I'm going to write music reviews and I'll get free CDs at and if anyone remembers CDs but I am ok to get them for free and go to gigs and that's why I did and mainly I
That rough estimate to be honest and I realised about 3 years into my degree.
This is a good job.
I wonder if there's an actual thing that people doing the real world because growing up.
I don't know any journalists that had no contact the media you still up aspire to the jobs.
You see around you, don't you and so my dad's a doctor or his friend the doctor's if you're not doctors.
Are we lawyers professionals and that's when my parents want to meet to be and so that's nice.
You know I would do.
I'm already doing a science that was so slightly far apart from what their ambitions for me were and so I was thinking of people at the Genesis is a thing and then after that Peugeot my college.
I realised it is what I do.
I just tried to get onto some journalism courses back, then it wasn't really the done thing to do on a science degree if you want to do journalism that mean do you want to be in a can of Assisi generic John it's more like a mainstream journalists wanted to be reporter so I used to write new stories for my students paper features all sorts of things investigate corruption all of those things you see.
I was 10 kgs I tried to get onto German course and it wasn't really I said and I have to BBC the English graduate or history graduate or whatever sort of things and I can write so I decided to make a shim instead which was son of a halfway house between science and journalism academic and after that I gotta work placement at a couple of work placements and then it went for now really so at that point if you're ready formed the opinion that you were going to be a science journalist no again.
I was happy to do whatever J&K my way because he's work yet and I thought I'll get any training at hand and the first job I got a happen to be in a newsletter, which did politics actually has a politics newsletter about science but they had no sign of it wasn't like that explained physics or anything is more like size policy sign something has happened to be lying like working there for 3 years and did a does traineeship essentially about had no intention of being a science journalist.
That's just the job the came in my way and when they did, wire.
Actually, I have got a size background so I hide it might as well.
Use it somewhere so what can next so I was working out research fortnight.
Does this policy newsletter which saw talked about and which has since by the way spawned many are significantly successful size journalist, how many some of whom have been on your podcast if that is a very small newsletter read by 300 people but they're important people and so that's Like This podcast al7000 President before tonight.
I was writing about hydration policy.
You know not something.
I never expected to rise by we got into it and I freelance for the garden at the time and just wanted to ask call whenever they couldn't fill their dreams of pages that classified advertising this is back in 2003 when the Guardian made tons of money for having a billion pounds a week or something.
It was whenever at they can fill the pages.
They had some space left.
I would like some feature about.
Astronomy funding of Cinderella in the end, what happened 3 years ago.
I was not moved to Washington to do a job there and doing the washing research policy funding staff them over there and around the same time Alan rusbridger the God that you got a detention time wanted to increase their size coverage of the Guardian and he put out an email to the Guardian internally say that I'm going to be sectioned if you know what to write for a let me know and my contact regarding his to commission me so you might be interested in this.
I had no national newspaper experience at all that I did the again.
This is another night thing.
I was supposed to tell you know you got to do these things like like trying to unify generativity quantum mechanics and not be able to do it and I emailed out of the Guardian and just just some ideas for stories.
He might want and I do that females kalamota Island Oxbridge guardian.co.uk.
And then I had an email back from someone called Emily Wilson who were never heard of her hair was Elvis's now then was she emailed me and said look I'm had this email from Alan saying you are some ideas.
You were coming for a chat and write.
This is fantastical picture this things are ending was one thing led to another she said look you got no experience in the supply of the jobs that are going as I can't I can't I can't play there's another word for a newspaper for gin to leave me she was really nice.
She was just a lovely very good friend of mine and and I miss you heard him advert is the size actually gone in the time and just got the job to my shopping get on the job than advertised in made a job for me which was hair which was the web editor all night was weather reporter or something that was when the Guardian website was just started to take off and they want to guardian unlimited that's right and you wanted to meet you understood websites and technically I was under 25 at the time.
And you what websites were and like the rest of my colleagues and so I just got six month contract and it's all went for lowering a 6-month contract later became 11 years and 6 months and they kept me on and I became science correspondent and I continue to do digital things and writing and audio and all those things are my intentional always was that wanted to do TV news actually that was my when I started as I know reporting is important to me, but he needs to be great or the work placements.
I did after my masters was with Lawrence McGinty of ITV news and who is a god to me basically.
He was a TV news Legend and then cycle at one day.
I went away back into this and damn I did actually in the end.
We got 11 years of the going to go through because I really intended to I said be a TV or a or a radio reporter ends up at the Garland in writing but then all the other stuff came to me tonight audio video as the internet.
And the word became bigger and bigger at the Guardian always on the media for the came to me that I was really happy there for a very long time.
I didn't need to go anywhere else in fact.
It is a really wonderful 11 years the Guardian it's have changed completely and that time from just a couple of agt auditions of newsprint a day from broadsheet to Berlin and lots.
Lots of different types of people.
It was her past and move buildings from a decaying thing on Fountain Road to the hip Kings Cross and b.
Near many times it is pretty good.
Hope and you know looks ridiculous expensive and the building AutoTrader paid for and say I'm an under Guardians is this an amazing is an amazing situational always be there and at the core of what I'm doing.
It sounds like we will do the reporting and they were really serious about science and so that the point is that there was three of us doing sign for the time and then it just got bigger bigger.
They wanted to walk on climate change and their interest in technology digital and technology reporter McKay
Bigger so it was a really interesting informative time 21st came on my way.
Because I'm a huge fan of the science Weekly podcast one when I came from where's 2006/7 the first wave podcasting and so this current way, where was excited that podcasting with you know we were as it's happened before another thing black flared trousers are coming back in a big way, so we don't know what we're doing really to be honest.
She is imaginative website amazing guy he was one of those people have the Guardian with me to be somebody who wrote for the paper and also digital things now everyone does that say but will we will have my laptop with genuine you are on at sounds ridiculous Now to say it but we will meet him when we worked in Finedon Road the first people in the entire guardian to access the web site from our computers.
Inside the road because the digital do the website in the paper were in computer from building to a different companies basically, but we were going to Bridges and so he had become quite seen at the time and he wanted to do something and audio until then.
I think was walking past him in the corridor and had a piece of paper saying I'm going to launch the podcast into the joint do a science podcast and I never made a right Radio 4 account my life and amazingly sings just literally like Horrid Henry big is going to be walking past Rider corridor, and he said that I said I went back to my colleagues on my sat on the size.
If not can we just chat about some science stories so then we just dragged in them a bunch of people are fat the first episode of science weekly had I was presenting but also doing all the Young the desk at urban dictionary meaning of microphones and all that and I swear I am the music and I have someone else I can have a go new from youth training right here.
That's the sensible way of doing it.
What's the weather gonna leave the club doctor actually produces to do that now? I'm not saying that they dragged in the technology correspondent at George and Charlotte are answer answer correspondence.
I'm just to see her house.
I've taken site.
How much did not were doing but we recorded it and actually took off like loads, honestly.
I'm not even joking.
We had tendered houses than hundreds of thousands download simple head of all people which mean in a room about stores and is a great forecast example David Adam at the time.
We spend all our time reporting science tourism all over the world and we talked about them all the time and those conversations would we never wrote down anyway Ruffin the best parts of the early? Why is this a good story? Why is that not? Oh my god not that scientist or how about this is really exciting or do you want to go on this trip and that conversation between people who respect each other and we got on bail.
We're still very good friends.
Was just is dynamite, is that she really lovely and that she wanted to hear and generally you can take anyone report this story but I had to because I'm using two made me and his wife is wrong with it people like that inside Trader want to be met and the saying that it was the most fun.
I've ever had a real shame to leave it behind after sex with their what they doing now absolutely I do remember the very first book as we did it.
We we used to come Media Focus many many years ago and then before then we were the lady Society podcast for about 44 episodes and that for the very first one.
I got my friend torin Douglas I was just leaving his BBC's Media editor and my friend Tim Collins who is still outside the deputy editor cine produce on the Jeremy Vine show and icecap.
Can I got two minutes in but I literally no plan to do it we got minint I remember torrent brought the newspapers PC World shall we go through the newspapers anyway? Yeah, alright.
No plan and now.
Speed up totally proviso scripted questions in Aldi to college at that time a very senior radio producer or the BBC brilliant much does she want to email me? I was wondering if you know if I can come in and watch and actually what he was doing with that Shiba cookery pad to make something that terrible job of presenting scripting.
She gave me some advice after about how to script program and data structure composition and very useful advice and very kind people did sorta like drag me out for my drowning self basically.
I get there it's like listeners emailing all the time.
I got a piece of anonymous feedback about two years ago.
He was really useless in Poole this is meant really benevolent Lee I'm a longtime listener, but just shut up.
Let me let the guest speaker bit more new speak less but in friendship XP
I've actually try to abide by that I think I'm going to my tutor psychology as I was worried after have many many episodes have I never had any training in voice or presenting or anything to this day and as it's my my tutor psychology from college.
He is already ready professional I said to her Gareth I'd not never had new year training already said to me you could he be natural don't get presenting training.
Don't do any that stuff this on here being natural and he was right never did it I mean I probably could be much much better if I had some but to actually it's not that bad in the end.
What are you still about science weekly? That was not just say yeah that the chat but also the Specials that used to do where you'd say, you know why is 95% of the Universe completely unknown to all the scientists in the world are now joined by three of the cleverest people in the world who are going to tell us a don't have a clue.
What's going on this fascinating.
What are these the questions you just report anywhere in science writing started by saying that science is important to a lot of decisions.
What makes now.
I'm in important circles with its government or business or else but actually the things that get people into science questions like that.
Why do we have signed 95% of the Universe missing? What does that mean is a question even what does what are stars made of a what does a black hole look like in a how many dinosaurs were there is not things that actually gonna put into your site policy briefs or I can stop the next recession but the things you need to know on the way you think to answer those amazing questions that in a get everyone from 5 years to 95 years instead.
They that way of thinking is I think one of the most important things that humans have come up with the most creative things that humans have come up with and has led to quite incredible progress in the world will Karen going to recreate surely bless you sticking interesting segue present and a questions popped into my head and presenters property of is what are the most interesting aspects of science 4 you are there certain Fields are certain topics.
Are you? What is the bit that where you would you genuinely read it out of curiosity?
Even if your off-duty I love astrophysics and cosmology saddle and black holes and I'm not coming where my background is anyway Astra fixing and all of that because it's just a quiet one spiringen huge and the numbers so massive and you don't know what's out there in the universe than the stuff we see around us in our stars planets atoms all these things made of quarks basically and electrons that can you know these things are labels for being different practitioners lump of it and it's lots of it.
No, it's just a label for ignorance basically and dark energies even more mysterious that what is this stuff? It makes no sense physically I like the idea that you know we have always questions to answer about the universe and people out there trying to find answers to them and there are lots of ideas what this could be.
Has an endless quest that I quite like the idea of and other so I find that quite interesting.
I find out the other end quantum mechanics quite interesting because me to become a favourite just a weird and was it Neil's brother said if anyone who claims understand quantum theory clearly.
Yeah, you're probably right.
It's so strange.
You know we don't even know if it's actually real or not, but it seems to work but it was the most successful theories that side has come up as that's what I like wave particle duality quantum superposition is how can a photon be in two places at once the question is there something one electron in the Hull University is everywhere and I was like what you see if you can get if you can get a conversation about things out there about the fact that.
But the other could be only one electron in if you're a photon a particle of light you travel at the speed of light end Einstein special relativity tells you that you travel the speed of light time basically stops around you so I meant is there a aau in all parts of the universe the same time.
Do you not move at all as a photon? What does it will look universe look like from Holywell you guys on rest mode be technically correct and and you know but the thing is also if you the closer.
You move the speed of light that did the more you contract the universe contracts then? It's just like what what does that look like they cost the thing Is All Humans and we have human sensibilities and senses and we can't anthropomorphize all this around as they could be it.
Could just be that the universe is too complicated and weird and multidimensional for our particular set of sensors to have dead and alive at the same time.
I mean it sounds weird and
You have to assume that the quantities to work.
What would that mean literally? What does it mean and everything is out there is a the quantum mechanics is not real.
It's just not real.
It's just an Illusion that that that we've been made work, but there is something deeper and they might be right to know and we've Only Just Giving 100 years ago think about to watch physics was like 200 years ago didn't there's nothing like it is now and he said it 100 years ago when we completely different again.
I think I read a book recently at sort of 13 things incisor doesn't make sense of talking about things like the Pioneer anomaly as well as dark matter and dark energy news about homoeopathy and they're all of these kind of things and and you know viruses that are bigger than bacteria are arguably a line which draws into sharp Focus what what is life and what is death and the placebo effect as well in the nocebo effect when there's so many tons of things that that that no one truly knows the answer to a good thing about the world is he don't know the answer to everything and there is.
A place for you to go that and securities out there.
That's the Pope that.
That's the thing that science allows you to do it Tuesday your mask on his questions and then test it and find out what the truth is that are not suggesting that all science is truth because you know the point is that scientific ideas are there to be tested and a new evidence comes to light you have to change the idea of scientific ideas in many scientific ideas of had to be junked because of that improves.
Look at you could argue that Einstein's general Theory of Relativity was an improvement on newtons original that calculations on gravity and an even then we still don't quite know I mean that there's we have to have an open mind that dark matter and dark energy don't exist and we've just simply got gravity wrong well that could be true there isn't there are theories out there then modify newtons Dynamics to incorporate all did they change them slightly so that you don't need to dark energy and dark matter but we have got evidence that true that fits wiki who who says right with the Galaxy should fly a pot it if it if we hadn't you know but the sun is obviously keeping it together then you've also got like Hubble seeing all of these gal.
Is expand further away from as when they shouldn't be right with the whole thing that's that's the basis of data bits Vicky by the way you have on the best insults known to man which nothing as well as podcast on now anyway, and it has told him to me by Simon Singh the great science writer and the Legend is wonderful he told us that sign if it's Vicky was was quite a mean person and a nice person and so he massive self publicity and so he can get there might be some sort of spinning faster than a shared Ledger doesn't matter if you can't be with and like spherical bastards Jack because you're a bastard from all directions software for a living at a quite a few clients in you call them custards, and he said it's a cross between a customer and a bastard have looks like that absolutely.
Let's go back to you.
Got going to your career then so you when did you realise it was time to move on from The Guardian cos after 11 years you could have just become part of the wallpaper.
I never thought I'd leave the garden if I'm honest because she's a little boy who's no Corolla xli sounds really should I move jobs all the time in there so many digital startups in always exciting sitting on and I just wanted to be a classical journal Australia newspaper.
I was my ambition and tooth out when I started I don't one day I went for garden.
That's why I thought to myself because I like the Guardian and maybe in 10 years and then it's only got this job at the Guardian 10 years of it to Italy as that hang on.
I have made it now to do and then I didn't I just thought I'd never Leo is there.
I'm going to retire here and to be honest everyone around me with thought the same thing pretty much the Guardian now and leaves and then why have my tea after 11 years old?
I've been there besides Crispin and the job changed so much and I kept being interesting and there's always audio and video and what animals eat to cover a really interesting thing actually you'll be is global unlike many other people's and say you're if it is in some sense a foreign correspondent job as much as it is as as as as in the UK home thing to 11 years.
I just been to Antarctica a spot for profit the Guardian which is an epic journey and you know pretty much outside the Pinnacle of what I done and I know you do and I got stuck there and is all you know there's a whole story is extensively covered out on the website with video and everything was amazing and I thought that we massive interest with one of the first people actually in the world to send images and video and text back almost live I heard that in real time so we we we came back from there.
I will let I was also it was it was awesome scary brilliant.
I mean it.
I mean scary or scarey as in I think I actually might die.
Scary I was talking to you now.
I realise I'm incredibly naive person as I didn't realise how scary it was so that's a third example of being incredibly dangerous that you still alive and very dangerous because we were stuck in an ice floe.
Where's icebergs all around as rescue by helicopter me the story's been told so I'm not a toilet here again looking back on it and speaking some of the scientists and others who'd been on that trip with us.
They were originally T'Pau what was going to happen.
We did get rescued when we were intermingled that weird part that was Anderson Cooper CNN CNN absolutely was taken by the story and he interviewed us from the top of our ship 3.
X who are step back including on New Years Eve in Tudors and what is presenting the New Years Eve ball drop thing from from Hampshire
To be right next to that very well done that and I was going to take 6 months off to write my book.
I was like them time off and I was thinking of you.
Take some time off then come back and thinking what can I do next and it was then that Lawrence McGinty emailed me life begin to who is the Legendary psychiatrist ITV news.
I have been there for 2030 years.
He emailed me to let hiring for my job.
So I think you should apply and he or she must have email lots of people much is Me by the way but I have done a workplace within 20 hits her earlier and obviously memorable and and I apply thinking of not going to get this got no TV experience it so I went for an interview with the new editor of ITV News Jeff Hill how do I got on with really well, just to go go really nice guy and Tim Singleton so both of them.
We had this chat.
I was thinking of TV and apply for jobs in TV before and you always wanted to TV Joyce's the Holy Grail
Time that I thought they had not that bothered about getting show on TV anymore, but also I'd never applied for a job anywhere else and still thought he know this is a good thing to do you gotta try Elsewhere and I went into you and the thing about TV is there something that I get back to 4 months and previous times another applied for this sort of jobs took 9 months and tell me that you know and experience or whatever and I've got on cuff ankle like 4 days later from Jeff saying right.
We don't even I said you were coming 4:00.
Have a job pays the salary.
When can you start as that what and this is why I do not even conceived leaving at the cat leaving the Guardian so went to a traumatic if we give thinking of what shall I do so leave the Garden of choice and it may sound silly now than it was like his career.
It's a big big thing the Guardian for me was through I watch and and it's just such an important thing in the world and I thought and parmesan grater and and shall I leave should I don't regret the decision at all.
Yeah, na na na what's on CITV and TV news The Madness of tea, if you knew that was not like they're actually I mean I've never changes crazy innit the Guardian you write Maze Runner 2 stories a day and sometimes you actually Chisora Juniors audio and video with her, but it was coming does senpai Stewart Abbey used to ITV News you waking up at 7 in the morning.
You're going home to 11 running around the country with camera Crews most of it is logistics.
Isn't it? It's like the picture as well.
That's all this texting TV can you write can you write 100 words of this entire story which I would have written 2000 words for as I can't do this so much to learn such absolute absolute amazing professionals, do that job? I have so much respect for TV news Crews you get.
Bottles of people I know but the things that I have to do in a time and the stress and all those things that is just it was a real eye-opener did unisense completely because you couldn't write 2200.
Words to camera roll and show rather than tell Chantelle think about pictures all the time is this a story for me story is if something just things happened in this my in my field Virgin TV news.
It's like have you got pictures or can you get the pictures in time or can we get camera to that place it all.
These are the factors that haven't thought about and my colleague Tom Clarke in choosing Channel 4 The Time who are no known for long long time.
I found him up actually before I took the ITV drama Phillips I do this and you said to me you should but you know this if your sides to a list of Dennis the Menace or eating out in the newspapers whatever you can do stories as you wish in TV 95% of it is logistics and whether you've got pictures and things and I was like what it what does that mean and what he means by that was quite often you there's lots of lots of Grey story is you want to do the inform your audience and someone or just cos you're interested.
You can't do them, because there's no pictures or what do you put on screen wire talking about synthetic biology at pillows so that was Fred
Frustrating about pitch allsorts and they like but what can you show onscreen we can't put this on user 10 is going to be just you talking to someone in the room and that you can't do that and things like in which has been realised but became SRI won't want to watch actually is that works for BBC doing TV as well and but would think I seen this there's so so good and limited resources is a house season of the Invention of the resources of the BBC but they're almost as good you know almost everything away and often in terms of pictures.
They're far better Senza packages.
They're much better at editing their match but you really realise that news when you feel on the inside of it.
This is haven't got the capacity was amazing glorious things at the BBC do I need a canopy better than the Goodwood competition form, so had to relearn the entire job from scratch and met some wonderful people are fundamentally underwriter underneath and that was difficult actually really difficult 3 years you did ITV News ITN that's what made you?
He said to move on if you had enough after 3 years well.
It's a hard job to do and it's for me the the chaos of it is something I never really enjoyed some people thrive on it and thriving not not knowing what they're going to do that day and not knowing credit going to be for a week when it's when it's fun and this Oxford rental in it can be really good life example when the first year I was there.
I went to Darmstadt to cover the European space agency's mission to land on a comet than this is covered all of the world and landing on comet 67p the Rosetta mission for The Likely Lads on this thing and I went to cover it persuaded ITV News it's time that we should do this and I'm not sure on a space weather noaa, do I have to go there? When we got there? It turned into a 3-day story because they landed didn't quite land in the right way remember it had it was like Twitter went crazy with it and I was doing a lead News at Ten to three days.
It is a plural of deer.
But what was Duke of me? Was I got there? I thought is going a one day story then I was going to go on to Geneva to film something the Large Hadron Collider because you're always try and go to the Large Hadron Collider if I get an yeah.
I'm constantly trying to go.
It's one I'm trying to get as you know so so so I was going on it, but then the after the first day of the Rosetta landing minute has rang me up at midnight and I've been up for 22 hours this point.
It was crazy is all the bulletins and it won't really exciting I thought right when I go to Next story is the news I said to me all you have to stay there for the next four tomorrow because it is more stuff and I don't want to stay here.
That's done now.
Who's has massive arguing on the phone with them and this was what happens if you go somewhere then you don't come back for a week, but I think about things like that.
And honestly we have many change the clothes you ok and also at the time.
I was going to say random is gone away from family for 3 days and didn't know I'm expecting it either the point of the TV news is that it's very chaotic and last minute.
I said some people thrive on that and I just didn't have a look as I like to think I like to consider things about an hour.
I would you like doing the down the line so you know, rabbits in the in the students saying then when I joined by Vi 2B new science Collins all the people we know and having to solve this still your message in 200 words and recovered climate conferences that doesn't the Paris climate conference.
I was there for 304 days and that felt momentous and away and when you got TV in your telling people about things in his pictures of people banging gavel saying going to save the world and it's all great and it sounds what's the actor called in writing things down in the Guardian or whatever and I loved all that but it was a lot of.
Work to get those two minutes atelier out and I just felt exhausting sometime and I think I was at an inflection point of 3 years are thinking as she's really hard to do this and so I just think I prefer attacked different type of journalism.
I started looking around and what came next year as a fellow at the Wellcome Trust you can think and experiments and things for railways academic is an academic some people Are Scientists you want to do more public engagement and things what you make of it.
It was completely for that the idea of the idea of it in this isn't Harry sell it but which is like you can apply these fellowships.
There's only had two year you get a certain amount of money to then.
Just do whatever you want by the question.
I asked you is if all the obstacles are removed from you like a literary things you want to do all their ambitions.
You have to do all the obstacles are removed, but would you do with your life? He got his
Money what you up to remove no responsibilities nothing in the year just heard what you done and let it where do I find all sorts people did them artists near scientists? I was the first journalist to identify uneasy relationship between journalism and public engagement is a big science communication world out there, but does citation does my museums or PR or writing about science from science perspective and I think this is important.
We need more of that but journalism from is always invite to separate different from that because it's about being on the outside.
It's not criticizing and being critical of holding into account with new people to account being on the side of the audience not been on side of the scientist now actually making scientist raise their game right.
Hope so, are you hope sunlight is the best disinfectant.
Well, I think so no applying for funding fellowship from a science organisation like the Wellcome Trust which is one of the most prestigious biggest science organisations out.
There was a little bit old for me, but I thought you know what I'm probably about halfway through my career.
I put need a bit of time to think it was nice to go to do that try out some experiments and yeah, we did some experiments that was really fun and then he moved to The Economist out of that, how did that are they just advertised for tonight's respondents and I just applied The Economist is outside with the Guardian the any of the other place ever wanted to work.
What is genuinely I'm genuinely mean that they are lovely, so not been to the Digital they gave me a job.
I want to do it for e-commerce Rabanne 50ml for another fantastic magazine you know by lines, but how do I know you've even written anything now?
Like that wasn't because it's writing and you get to write long pieces and someone and this does audio and video and all those other things the byline to metres make that much difference anymore because I've had plenty of by lines on Twitter and things you have your own profile, but I think the lottery, Ms try to do now, so that's fine.
You not Anonymous and how does it differ though at the one thing I've only been over 78 months so don't ask me getting a couple years, but the big thing I've noticed that's different is that your mum or your you can just write.
What have you like? You're more able to free to explore ideas.
Can you have a bit more time partly because it's her a weekly publication.
So there's not like his daily pressure to get stuff out there.
They're not so bothered about covering the news.
They want to analyse the news and think about things a bit more if you want to.
A couple of weeks investigating nuclear fusion which is what I did a few weeks ago as long as you produce something interesting at the end of it and they're not worried about necessary everything being completely brand new but you can bring a new take on to it or it interesting interview on to it.
That's fine because what is this newspaper flash magazine for it's about explaining the world's people who make decisions.
That's what I that's why I see it.
I get the sensory night.
I'm not important.
I get this into a lot of economist readers.
Are you actually feeding to the mind of people that really do make actual decisions people are not important but already convinced anyway, but most of my adult life, but yeah, I would say that probably and I've got no evidence to support.
This is terrible for science checklist for old people the world in make informed decisions for read economist and that is probably not an exaggeration prime minister's presidents business leaders, they read it and you know them knowing about science which is like.
Is important and they're not going to necessarily read new Scientist for example although they probably should and Santa's is awesome Emily saying that very chair really really really good thing.
I'm glad that we write New Scientist people want to know about the latest ideas in the world with its biology or physics whatever else because actually and it's nice and utilitarian, but it's true where the new businesses come from where the new ideas come from where does progress, comes from these people in Labs all over the world thinking of new ideas investigate in the world you know in in in in some ways science is a real is not even some ways it is a driver of growth in economics and so it's a respected thing for those people and say for them writing at nuclear fusion of astrophysics and stuff.
Is they want to know these things also I'm very.
Convinced that all those people probably want to sound intelligent to their friends and colleagues and I certainly do so reading about these things Concepts from quantum physics generativity in accessible language useful identify conversation is well say it's a good thing.
I spent I feel bad for my legs last weekend and I spent 2 hours watching YouTube videos on the weak nuclear force because I couldn't be evolved form of things.
I couldn't someone asked me what does a week Foster and I genuinely couldn't even cope with one follower quest.
I could probably black with you can probably at least one or two levels of follow-up questions Deben I could probably blanket.
I'm not quite know what the hell it is, but if I'm honest.
Everything is possible to the opposite.
They are how do you mean back at home the strong force which is the other thing that no one else has heard of the fundamental forces the gluon gluon.
Acting completely opposite way to the other forces because as you as things get further apart the strong Force get stronger as you push them together that she get against weekend and cladding which is what keeps nuclear together basically.
It's all witchcraft in my view actually actually thinking about how politicians seem to be fuelling of populist move these days against experts and scientists.
How damaging is that there is a frustration.
I think probably with people who think they want to tell you what to think about the on how to think about it.
So you know if you spend your entire career thinking that one in running very specific thing whether it's gluons or the economy and no one else believes what you're saying then and then you get upset and angry in the way you communicate that somebody and then they can having the day they going to think you're talking down to them that relationship is not going to work.
Is it because you know people don't want to talk down to you and respected even even if they don't know any.
Thanks, and I think that in in in that sense know what we took down to orbi condescended to anything as I got an experts are very good at condescending to people expect them in because he's that just can if they want people to get to get up to speed quickly so in a sense it speaks to a truth.
Yes people might have you fed up of people condescending to them and things like the brexit Debate when they're told I will if you vote for brexit.
You're going to have this much money out of your bank account and these different things going to happen with jobs in thing by me.
Just treating a bit respect.
What does it mean that all sorts of nonsense as pedal there? I don't think people have actually had enough of experts though.
You know I mean most people still want doctors to treat them when it comes out on in hospitals and medical homeopathy available the expert homeopathically I try make a joke about their expertise.
Have you after being beheaded you want your doctors treat you you probably want if you're talking to a financial advisor.
Is there an expensive ME20 want to buy some them? You know he getting in a plane you want a pilot to know? What do it actually prefer station that you don't you don't come to send it to him.
Have I expect talking down to you and stuff you still actually would probably want that sell stuff, so I don't politicians fuelling that is just it feels to me like it's not true that people had enough of experts, but it just makes a nice line to then allow you to the make an argument and I think that nowadays it's easier and easier for experts to get their information out there whether it's through Media or blogging or Twitter or whatever else I actually did so much information out there.
I haven't really good point to make it was interesting about flying in an aeroplane that the pilot having expertise that reminded me of just how I started on my own journey of exploration in science which is someone once asked me how a plane flies and I think I'm reasonably clever and sharp and I just a
Seandainya when I couldn't say for 18 anyway, how a plane crash to get off the ground I mean now I can but that was nothing that I watch formation for playing games and after that that that was the one that actually truly took me that I didn't know and that I hoped and I just felt a deep sense of frustration and almost shame that the something as obvious as how does a plane fly that the united know that question is actually quite complicate it is because there's 775 different ways of answering my air have mass that's the reason why planes fly I've got to pray and I thought I knew have planes fly.
I thought so obvious question if you've asked you so it's not obvious that all this level of truth.
You want to get into that people don't really know and that's where he gets really is even like even aeronautical engineers.
Don't actually know how planes fly I've got really good idea wing generate lift because there is travelling.
It's slowly under the wing is that right and creates a vortex rights in Ireland was about bernoulli principle basically where the wing shape is such that it correct a travels faster over than Under Pressure drops underneath the wing which pulls the wing up is that right? What's it has low pressure and high pressure differential between the top of the bottom pushes generates lift down is a Newton so I'm one of you as laws if the baby pushed down then push the other out of the plane up at same time as whatever happens to planes work their way back.
Just cos we're trying to work out steam engines work.
We come up with the laws of thermodynamics.
It turns out that the second law of thermodynamics is actually responsible for the arrow of time.
Yes, that's right.
That's what the hell.
What are the IRA this is one way because of the second of them, then I mean steam engine because this is a properly nearly conversation this point but a series of articles.
Have you ever actually when I was back in the Guardian long time ago about equations because I have a real fascination with equations and people get scared of equations because their meaningless jumbles of other letters and symbols and things but I am I thought was that if you looked an equation in you explain to people each term meant that you can explain big concept people so then we Dynamics as one of them and the second law of thermodynamics is as you rightly point out is that the entropy of the universe is always increasing that comes from steam engines and that gives you your overtime, but that's the beauty of an equation which is there comes from something physical in the
In the world, but then the brilliant part of it is in any predict something Epic and solving equations.
Do that look at equals MC squared that mean ineffective shows that mass and energy to flip sides of the same can't believe you.
Look at the sea Square to be the light squared.
Just shows you just how much energy there is in a mask An insane amount you can pop out the Earth of decades on one sugar cube if you could actually unlock all that the energy is absolutely turning very very small amounts of the nuclear matter inside uranium into something it to energy which is plenty to solve.
Keep you cities in whenever going out of course the sun is all nuclear.
It's a big nuclear reactor is in its own way and it's going to continue burning for billions of years because there's so much energy can when you can Batman's 99% of the entire mass of the entire solar sun.
Arrow next to it.
That's right literally Stardust and we were made in supernovae start as I was it again.
There's just so we could this could be a 5 hour podcast where we just got this is my favourite topic in the world cuz.
It's just so brilliant and what's the heaviest elements that we can make in the sun before you have to get them as carbon and iron and anything heavier than that anything with greater atomic weight has to be made in a Supernova atoms fuse at the centre of stars and 2 bigger and bigger bigger things so the start of hydrogen become helium and all the way up to a difference life cycles of different styles, and that's where gravity and pressure overwhelm the strong Force to create nuclear fusion.
That's right for you and you can get iron inside a normal start and then you write Supernova happens, which is that the whole thing collapses and explodes at say under these are sometimes the most bright objects in a Galaxy very briefly.
And in those enormous Explosions you get more heavy elements essentially what we discovered just recently I mean we talking you know last few years.
Is that you can you can get to the sort of very very heavy elements in in supernovae, but really not all of them.
So you know you can get gold and you can get uranium in these things for most places but not in the masses not and abundances you seen the universe.
Where do they come from where does all the gold and platinum? I was thinking that they come from the collisions of these weird things called neutron.
Stars are crazy objects which I let you know that the classic example is like you can have on which is like a collapsed gets collapsed core of a star that completely dead and what it is.
It's just neutrons which are the Neutral bits of the nucleus and atom and they're so dense that a neutron star the size of London a teaspoon of that is heavier than that and I'm gonna get it wrong, but some of that as sun or something creating saying.
And those things Collide and by the way we don't really understand how these things work properly another mystery out there when he sees Collider released shitloads of gravitational waves and the scientific term for early so we detected then, that's how we detect the money in the last 2 years but in those collisions the energy use that you create entire solar systems worth of gold just like gets thrown out of platinum whatever and I need Street to say that basically almost all the gold on Earth comes from Peter normies collision somewhere else they can be created in South Africa is it in India black hole collision somebody's neutron star collision and then there are other types of closures as well with objects will become the imagined create even heavier elements and so on and so heavy that were creating the midlife fraction.
I think there is this so-called island of stability coming that's all I think that.
Yeah, what I mean the did the brilliant thing about chemistry and physics knowledge of the things that you got equations and understandings of the Universe and structures and someone drives my predictions and say lots of theoretical physicists and biologists and chemists never make predictions about the future.
What does a table made predictions did it out? That's right cos I'm back to reveal that there were gaps in wasn't the periodic table that was wrong.
It is that the the state of science at that moment was wrong and we haven't found the phone number of elements Android apps for the oldest ability you talking about is an interesting theoretical Concepts that at some point so as you get heavier and heavier in a periodic table.
You have to do atoms become the camera didn't split seconds even quicker than that sometimes occur in nature because they're just so they said the unstable behaviour Theory is that at some point when you got hundreds and hundreds of honey.
Is of nucleons maybe more tales to give them some sort of massive atom exist out there and we don't know what's in space with no idea what if there is like some enormous atom the size of a planet with billions of neutrons and other things inside a with electrons of a flying around outside.
I mean it up.
I sound like a crazy person there, but these things might exist who knows we just don't have spaces and almost without what made you choose water is the topic 3 of fascinating book the idea for a book came from choir Nigel thought I had actually anything my ideas for stories in whatever what noise do you and what is what what is ph7? Which is Which is not an acid.
It's not an alkali.
It's completely neutral and there's nothing else to ch7.
So why is that just because if you want to measure and measure something that's an acid.
What you do.
Is you measure the concentration of H+ ions in the solution yours measure something as an alkali you measure the concentration of oh minus sign that says how is to find and so what has an exact number?
Which dihydrogen monoxide so what you loads that caused the acid alkali scale is built around water and then you realise that the temperature scale 0hotos of water bottle freezes at 0 balls 100.
That's quite convenient set of numbers for the world was because you're measuring the boiling point and freezing point of water and that's how you measure what temperature are you realise that of course water is in such common thing is why our eyes see the spectrum that we can see her electromagnetic spectrum.
It's because we evolved from fish in water such an important thing that we don't make take notice of Because We Can it's like it's like um fish.
You don't know that there are in water.
This is just this is that just yours environment.
I want to start on picking these little things he sends out the water which is the bland boring thing everywhere around you is actually provides all aspects of everything around you and I just started investigating.
And it led me to write the book because there's such a scientific story to tell they're about what it actually is and making people aware of it and how to generate weather and all the other things Bruce a culturally you can talk to me the amazing stories about water because you know if you think about him evolution you if you went back 200000 years in met humans.
They will be physically pretty much the same as we are now you won't be able to talk to them of course because there's no way that Cheryl I'm going to make for the right people anywhere language same food.
We drink some water and it probably is the same what you drinking now.
You know if you lose your connection to the first humans is water if there are Aliens in the universe that are very likely that they will use water is the thing that carries around other chemicals and their body and stuff does the same things that was does without enables because Luca was created in water the water is the thing that connects everything but it's also invisible.
Mister Maker visible that was the purpose of that book and very fast as me for that reason and I hope whoever else Weezer last question then because the device hijackthis podcast by asking you loads of interesting science that stuff and it's been an absolute like what advice.
Would you give to someone who's starting out in their career that wants to be a science journalist? What should they doing? What shouldn't I do you want to be a size during this first of all it sounds obvious but be interested in science and you don't need to have a science degree to be incidents as many of the best.
Fleet Street colours.
I had when I was working newspapers.
Don't have 5 degrees and those interested in the world around them and I think that's a general journalistic thing actually to be curious be respectful of other knowledge wanted to learn more.
I think that that nowadays is Anna having a size background or having a different background of some sort is useful in journalism, because it gives you a different perspective on the world as well as giving you a USP which you can then decide on to things and newspapers as one nowadays the good thing about science is that it can lead you into career.
Inclimate journalism sky ever more important entertech journalism, which is getting incredible if you want understand the tech World having a technical background as that is useful for understanding or wanted notices.
What are the people in this world? Is there? I don't know that the specialism of science journalist really exist anymore was more like journalist who was also during this have to be interested in some part of science world or have the tools of a journalist in science.
What is statistics or programming or data visualisations one of those things so I just think be interested in the world and be interested in one of his new question everything think scientifically in some ways and it leads to some very interesting places.
I won't listen been an absolutely fascinating podcast in its own right.
Thank you ever so much free time I really appreciate it if I was a right angles podcast in association with big things Media
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