Dara O Briain

Dara O Briain: on the Festival

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In the second of four blogs from The Times Cheltenham Science Festival Guest Director Dara O Briain, he tells us about what he loves at the Festival, being a professional bluffer and getting angry about video games….

On the Science Festival….

I’m very fond of being around people who actually know things about things. I work professionally in the field of bluffing and making things up and it’s a tremendous pleasure for once to be surrounded not by other people who also bluff, but by people who actually know what they’re talking about.

On maths…

It’s getting your teeth into a problem as much as anything else. I love looking at a problem. I think maths is most interesting if you put the topic in a different way… I did come to the Science Festival once before, and I thought it was sorely lacking in some hard core maths! It needed more equations, so I’ve shifted the entire focus of it to Peter Higgs, obscure bosons and The School of Hard Sums…

On Science Club and School of Hard Sums…

We’re going to do a version of Science Club, which will involve using the scientists who are around: we’re not going to be short of people to interview and chat to. It’ll end up being a ‘who’s in town at the moment?’ we’ll do an experiment or two with Mark [Miodownik] which is always good fun. The maths show [School of Hard Sums] will be a slightly different format: there won’t be a bit when I put my head down and do a puzzle for half the show as that could be quite dull! We’ll instead be putting it to the audience – a big problem session, and we’ll have comics in with us so there’ll be some messing around. A problem solver’s delight hopefully.

On video games…

Could I design one? It’s not my kind of creativity, but I do recognise a good bit of storytelling when I see it. I did a long rant that’s become very well known in the industry about how they’re the only medium where you have to earn the right to see the rest of the product: you have to be good enough to move onto the next level. There’s no other medium like it, you’re never read a book, where it stops and it asks you questions and you have to earn the right to unlock the rest of the book, but video games habitually do this. My only contribution to the industry is getting angry about this and saying you’ve got to find a way to get past that bit: but I’d hate to be a malevolent influence in dumbing down the industry! I think there’s a lot of good science there – not just in terms of the computer science but in terms of the psychology of it.

Want to hear more from Dara? In his first blog he talks about his childhood love of science, having a nerdy house and gushing at Stephen Hawking …

Dara O Briain appears in four events at The Times Cheltenham Science Festival; Coding the Game, Peter Higgs in Conversation with Dara O Briain, Dara O Briain: School of Hard Sums and Dara O Briain’s Science Club.

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