Science and the importance of cheese

Week two of “I’m a Scientist, Get me out of here!” is now upon me. This week the evictions start, so the competition is hotting up.

I had meant to get around to writing a blog-post about week one, but I have been preoccupied with more pressing matters – like getting ready for week two. I hope to serve up a digest of my experiences of this public engagement once the hurly burly of the week is over. In the meantime, you can sample a couple of very thoughtful reflections on the competition so far, one from Tom Hartley (who is in the same zone as me) and one from Andrew Maynard.

The prize for the scientist in each zone who is left standing on Friday next is £500 to spend on a science communication project. My idea — not so very original — is to make a video about the reality of science. I’d like to show the ordinary side of scientific endeavour and hopefully go some way to re-assuring school children that you don’t have to be a genius to do science.

So, as my secret weapon for week two, and since it was Father’s day yesterday, I spent the day in South Kensington with my three children shooting the trailer to the film that I would like to make.

And I present it here for your consideration. I hope you might be able to tell that we had enormous fun doing it. Best Father’s day I’ve had in many a long year.

And what has this got to do with cheese? Well, you’ll have to watch to find out.

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43 Responses to Science and the importance of cheese

  1. Kristi Vogel says:

    Brilliant, Stephen, and not too cheesy! Kudos to all involved – actors, cinematographers, scriptwriters, directors.
    I’m afraid the cheese comparisons would be rather pathetic in the US, with Velveeta, Cheez Whiz, string cheese, and bacon-flavored spray cheese in a can on offer. I miss that cheese shop in Neal’s Yard!

  2. Grant Jacobs says:

    Very good!
    But what does the apple on the cheeseboard represent? 😉

  3. vishal kalel says:

    The video is made very well. Not only fun but seems you took lot of efforts on it too..!
    I agree with your views especially that for doing science, you don’t have to be genius.. (phew… I am relieved.!)

  4. Stephen Curry says:

    Ha, ha Kristi – but I’m sure if you look hard enough you can find a decent cheese shop somewhere…?
    @Grant – I could tell you the meaning of the apple but I’m interested to read what Media Studies PhDs will make of it in the future and don’t want to queer their pitch!
    Thanks Vishal – it was a lot of fun making it (hard work in the editing because of some unexpected technical difficulties – that’s why the sound is a bit ropey in places).

  5. Richard Parry says:

    Congrats, Stephen – nice idea 8o).
    I propose that the apple is pseudo-cheese and that the point is that you needn’t be a scientist or a genius to spot the difference ;o)

  6. Paula Salgado says:

    Absolutely great, Stephen!
    It does show you had a great time filming it. I hope you win your zone in I’m a Scientist – I want to see the full feature!

  7. Bob O'Hara says:

    “Stilton smells, and has blue bits” That’ll be the molecular biology, then.

  8. Bob O'Hara says:

    BTW, if you don’t win, should we have a whip-round to raise the money? Well, shares as we’ll all expect a return on our investment.

  9. Kristi Vogel says:

    _but I’m sure if you look hard enough you can find a decent cheese shop somewhere_
    I know of one in the Bay Area; otherwise, I have to settle for the occasional trip to Whole Foods and hope that they’ve got a good selection. Not the same as Neal’s Yard, though!

  10. Andrew Maynard says:

    Wonderful (and all done in a day?! – impressive as well!). I assume you will now be using the £500 prize money which you will surely win in I’m A Scientist to fund the full feature – or possibly a cheese board for the kids taking part 😉

  11. Stephen Curry says:

    Thanks everyone!
    I would hope to be able to develop the project even if I don;t make it all the way to Friday in the competition (by no means a sure thing since there is very strong competition in my zone).
    If I do win, only a small fraction of the money will be spent on cheese…

  12. Fran Angel says:

    You guys could use this video for a project and maybe gather contributions that way. Good luck!

  13. Åsa Karlström says:

    Lovely! I thought _”apple… hmm.. shouldn’t a pear be better with the Stilton… but of course Newton didn’t get a pear in the head”_
    …and of course, some of us are more like laughing cows in the green grass than a smelly stilton in the deserted fridge. Lucky that science can be done by people who aren’t geniuses 🙂 (I love it though)
    (it must have been fun making the video with the kids. To do things together and being allowed to play in the lab! What will it be next time…. )

  14. Lou Woodley says:

    Brilliant! And if the apple on your cheeseboard was a subliminal message about useful additions to make cheese more palatable, can we also have some grapes (of wrath) for days when the experiments don’t work?

  15. Brian Derby says:

    Stephen – good luck with the cheese. I have always found that schoolkids prefer experiments and analogies with chocolate and baloons.

  16. Austin Elliott says:

    bq. _”Not the same as Neal’s Yard, though!”_
    If only Neal’s Yard had stuck to cheese (and other edibles) we might have been spared “all this.”:

  17. Kristi Vogel says:

    Oh noes! Teh woo! 😛
    Happens at Whole Foods as well, unfortunately. I think there was/is a Whole Foods at Neal’s Yard? Not sure whether it’s related to the US company, however. I remember my London flatmates mocking me for days because I’d bought dish soap there once. 😀

  18. Stephen Curry says:

    @Fran – thanks for the tip – not seen Kickstarter before.
    @Åsa – Newton may not have been hit by a pear but by all accounts he wasn’t hit by an apple either! Still it was great fun working with the kids – I should do a reel of out-takes…
    @Lou – nice idea but I forgot to get grapes at tescos. Actually I was looking for Dairylea triangles (more instantly recognisable to a UK audience?) but had to settle for Laughing Cow.
    @Brian – you could be onto something. Once did a talk on microorganisms at my daugher’s primary school and offered some blue cheese around. No takers.
    @Austin and Kristi – yes, their support of woo is not Neal’s Yard’s finest achievement. Didn’t they welch on a promise to answer Qs about selling homeopathy ‘remedies”?

  19. Erika Cule says:

    On science and cheese, in all seriousness, this is how I learnt the trend in the physical properties of the “alkali metals”: at GCSE
    I can visualise it in my notes:
    Lithium: soft, cuts like dairylea
    Sodium: soft, cuts like brie…

  20. Stephen Curry says:

    Brilliant Erika – a quite lovely coincidence!

  21. Matt Brown says:

    Great work, Stephen. I was also in South Ken for much of Sunday. Shame I didn’t bump into you – I could have been an ‘extra’.

  22. Alan Henness says:

    I am worried about the unpaid child actors you are using, though. 😉

  23. Austin Elliott says:

    How did you restrain yourself from making the obvious crack about science sometimes being like _Swiss_ cheese, i.e. full of holes, Stephen?

  24. Stephen Curry says:

    Ah – very sorry we didn’t bump into you Matt. But it was a rather frenetic shooting schedule, packed over 90 shots into about 2 and a half hours!
    Thank Alan (and a welcome to NN!). Those ‘unpaid’ child actors have be cleaning me out for years and are likely to do so for many more to come!
    Didn’t think of that one Austin. But may keep it in reserve for the main feature – in which case, of course, you’ll get a writing credit (though no payment…).

  25. Stephen Curry says:

    Video seems to have paid off -so far. Have survived first two evictions. Only the really hard to beat competitiors left now…

  26. Karen James says:

    *standing ovation*
    But…. you came to the museum and didn’t find me? Harrumph. I could’ve totally explained that, though Darwin is remembered as a genius, he started out as a college drop-out whose father told him he’d amount to nothing more than a rat catcher.
    p.s. Nice touch with the ACDC.

  27. Stephen Curry says:

    Many thanks Karen! 😉
    I would of course have looked you up except it was last Sunday and we were on a very tight schedule for the shoot (Listen to me – I’m such a pro!).
    We were only in the museum for about 15 mins in total. Only took 4 takes for me to get it right… Even then I probably should have used a mic since the background noise is quite high. Bloomin’ museum visitors! Some of them did look on rather quizzically.

  28. Jennifer Rohn says:

    I love the dig you made about multiple presenters and the daft things they make them do (like recline regally on rocks while they do the emphatic BBC-hand motion thing).

  29. Stephen Curry says:

    Ah well I should tell you that the reclining thing was all Dominic’s idea. And it was Eleanor who suggested we do the stair-well shot.
    BTW – did you spot the Avatar gag…?

  30. Stephen Curry says:

    Well, here goes nothing. I have made it to the final round of the competition.
    There are only two of us left – myself and Tom Hartley.
    Final eviction is at 3:30 pm. Wish me luck!

  31. Richard P. Grant says:

    Good look Stephen! And remember, I’ve promised you a bottle of #AwesomeSauce ™ if you win.

  32. Richard P. Grant says:

    Bah. Not enough coffee.

  33. Nature Network Team says:

    Woo! We’re all rooting for you! (Although Richard is probably routing for you.)

  34. Richard P. Grant says:

    An appreciating of Antipodean slang is appropriate, here.

  35. Stephen Curry says:

    Thanks folks – going to be a tense day.
    Richard – your slip-up is probably because every time you think of me, the phrase ‘good looking’ always occurs to you.

  36. Richard P. Grant says:

    Yeah, it’s the red hair. #gingerninja.

  37. Åsa Karlström says:

    wow Stephen, that’s great fun! Good luck. I realise that it might already have happened (it’s 3.38 I guess) but nothing is up on the web site just yet!

  38. Åsa Karlström says:

    HA, if I click on your link Stephen, his [Tom] face has a ‘EVICTED’ line.. but on the front page – not yet 😉
    so, I’m taking a leap of faith here and say “Congrats Stephen!! Great work with the answers to all those questions. And now you have to think about movie part II”
    😀 have a happy weekend!

  39. Richard P. Grant says:

    WOOT! Congrats!!

  40. Elizabeth Moritz says:

    Three cheers for Stephen! \o/ \o/ \o/

  41. Stephen Curry says:

    Thanks Åsa, Richard and Elizabeth – yes, the impossible happened. Now looking forward to the challenge of making that film…
    But for now, going to slink home to celebrate with my wonderful co-stars – I am totally shattered!

  42. Nicolas Fanget says:

    Well done surviving the teenage onslaught! With your special X-ray crystallography powers (#gingerninja) I expect at least part of the film will be 3D??

  43. Stephen Curry says:

    Nice idea Nicolas – if YouTube can broadcast it in 3D, I’ll film it that way! ‘-)

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