Featuring a song for every letter of the alphabet on a different scientific topic, the ambition of this performance is to make some impressively complicated ideas accessible and enjoyable for younger audiences. N is for neuron, P for Phylogeny and R for Relativity, which comes complete with a rap. And whilst as with any performance that aspires to present 26 moments of genius the hit rate varies, the clarity of the scientific concepts is maintained throughout. Ensonglopedia of Science is couched in vaudevillian humour, and although the accent used for the ‘Cell Calypso’ is unfortunate, the other humour helps difficult ideas to stick.
It’s goal of familiarising the young audience with the mechanics of scientific inquiry, foregrounding the central process of a hypothesis tested by experimentation, is vitally important in an era of fake news and alternative facts. As scientists have continually asserted, one of the biggest issues they face is the way that the public understand the language and processes of science. It is essential that both the public and politicians appreciate what is meant by terms like ‘theory’ and ‘proof’ in relation to the research of scientists. Correcting misrepresentations, particularly amongst the young, could help avoid the kind of debate seen around the validity of the science of climate change, for example. Greater scientific education can leave the next generation less susceptible to the distortions of research in the service of political positions.
Hinton is in a long line of performer/scientists that engage with the silly to help foster understanding, from Don Herbert to Bill Nye, a family friendly entertainer and educator. Manic energy and the breakneck speed with which he moves from one song to the next relates to the fizzing of electricity, the vastness of space and the breadth of human inquiry.
- Lewis Church
Links relevant to this diagnosis:
Engaging and Educating the Public on Environmental Science - BioMed Central
How to Make Hydrogen - Mr Wizard (Don Herbert)
Climate Debates on Television - Last Week Tonight with John Oliver