For the second year in the row Festival of the Spoken Nerd has been one of my favourites. Presented by the impressive trio of Matt Parker, Helen Arney and Steve Mould the FOTSN takes the audience through some impressive and hilarious science.
We had fire tornadoes. We had demos that used flying beads to illustrate a science that is still not fully understood. We electrocuted a pickle. That latter experiment involves plugging a pickle into the mains and flicking the switch. The salt on the pickle contains sodium (just like old school streetlamps) and it glows when it gets excited.
I think it’s worth mentioning the fire tornadoes again.
This a whole new Fringe show. However, if you’re a FOTSN fan and have tracked every iteration of the festival then you’ll recognise elements from the preview show that ran in the Edinburgh Science Festival such as Arney’s songs, the Game of Life and some of the spreadsheet tricks. I didn’t mind the discovering overlaps, though, as the whole presentation felt slicker and better managed.
The Festival of the Spoken Nerd works because of the banter between Parker, Arney and Mould. It works because they quickly take the audience into a comfort zone and extend a geeky party to everyone in the room. This is a “one of us” show with a trio of talented and charismatic hosts.
When I watched the show last year I thought most of it was improv and responsive. I’m sure some of the banter is impromptu but there’s nothing wrong with the fact that the three scientists have realised that certain jokes, certain teasing of each other, helps the crowd relax and chuckle.
You can download a few of Helen Arney’s songs from iTunes if you wish to sample or grab some as a keepsake.