By James Dacey
Regular listeners of the Physics World podcast will have noticed that things have been a little different for the past couple of months. That’s because we’ve handed over the presenter mic to science communicator Andrew Glester, who has brought his own unique style to proceedings. Based in Bristol, UK, just a few kilometres from the Physics World HQ, Glester is a presenter and co-founder of Cosmic Shed – a podcast about science and storytelling, recorded in Andrew’s garden shed.
Andrew describes his reaction to scientific claims as “sceptical optimism”. He is always hugely enthusiastic when learning about new scientific developments, but he is aware that scientists are also humans and therefore prone to hyperbole like everyone else. Andrew has a Master’s in science communication without an academic background in natural science, and I believe this brings certain advantages. Not least, he asks questions that wouldn’t always occur to someone more immersed in the research community.
The concept behind this “podcast takeover” is for Andrew to take on an assignment each month to learn more about a topical physic development. Audio recorder in hand, Andrew heads out to meet physicists and to document his own journey of discovery. We hope the results will be of interest to both physicists and more general audiences.
In the latest episode, released this week (see above), Andrew immerses himself in the world of neutrinos. He visits the University of Oxford in the UK to meet members of the team behind VENu – a new smartphone app that explores the physics underlying the MicroBooNE neutrino detector at Fermilab in the US. The app – available free of charge from the App Store and Google Play – allows users to learn about particle physics and to play a game by searching for signals of a neutrino detection.
For me, one of the highlights of the podcast is when Roxanne Guenette tells Andrew that on using the app, her mother finally began to understand what her daughter does for a living. I’m sure the challenge of trying to explain physics research to friends and family is something that many of you can relate to.
This human appeal of the podcast has been well received by our listeners. On Twitter, @TonyToners described the podcast as “a fascinating, and delightfully human, podcast about neutrinos & people who study them”. Meanwhile, a fan called Achintya commented on our website: “I felt like I was in Oxford myself speaking with the scientists about neutrinos and their research.”
Thank you for the feedback we have received so far and please continue to share your comments on this website or on Twitter via @PhysicsWorld. You can also go back and check out the February podcast, which saw Andrew visit the University of Bristol to learn about a new proposal to create batteries from storing nuclear waste inside tiny diamonds. Andrew is currently engaged in his next assignment – learning about the suite of planets recently discovered around the nearby star TRAPPIST-1, some of which could be habitable. Don’t miss that podcast when it’s released at the start of April – you will find it on the podcast page of this website, in our podcasts feed and in the iTunes store.