Senior Producer Ed Prosser lifts the lid on our 1 April CHRISTMAS LECTURES announcement.
This year we wanted to go all out for our April Fools effort, so we decided to make a video to announce this year’s (fake) CHRISTMAS LECTURES subject and lecturer. You can see the effort below:
In reality, the lecturer featured in our video is none-other than Ri Director of Finance, Michael de Crespigny (at least his name was real) who, may I add, played a fantastic role in portraying a quantum astrologer.
Although we don't usually make a video announcing the Christmas Lecturer we wanted to create a piece of content that would work for our international YouTube audience as much as those that regularly tune into the Lectures in the UK. So we set about scripting a piece that straddled the line between nonsense and plausibility, settling on the subject of astrology and making liberal use of the word “quantum” to hopefully pull the wool over people’s eyes.
On screen cameos can be seen by Olympia Brown (who really does organise and manage the Christmas Lectures) and Professor Frank James, who sadly isn’t a cosmic historian, but is our Professor of the History of Science. Frank did a great job linking the Ri’s heritage with the fictional lectures, spinning a tale about Faraday’s early work believing that magnetism was transmitted by an ‘invisible jelly’. And he very nearly stole the show with this particular line:
While most of the video is a load of nonsense, Olympia was telling the truth when she said that we like to try to cover new territory in the CHRISTMAS LECTURES. When deciding on what the Lectures will be about, we look at topics that will work particularly well to be brought to life in the CHRISTMAS LECTURES STYLE. We also look for fields that have recently made exciting developments, as well as looking back through our archives to see what we haven't tackled in a while. For more information about how we really select the Christmas Lecturer, this blog post outlines the process.
Here’s a gag reel of Olympia trying to perform her lines:
In the April Fools video you might also catch reference to the term ‘quantum pigeon holing’, initially when writing the script I had fabricated this as a comic piece of science-sounding jargon, but alas, after a quick check, it obviously turned out to be a real thing.
We made sure to insert a number of subtle and not-so-subtle gags throughout the video to signpost that not everything may be as it seems (did you watch with subtitles enabled?), but it seems that we managed to fool a fair few people, including some people who rang up to purchase tickets! We were very amused reading everyone’s responses though
Finally, one of the reasons we produced this piece was to demonstrate how easy it is to dress up a pseudoscience like astrology with scientific sounding language. All the fancy words in the world don't make up for a lack of verifiable predictions, repeatable results and Popperian falsifiability. So, no the CHRISTMAS LECTURES won't be on astrology this year. We're still in the development phase of the 2016 Lectures, so you'll have to wait until this summer to find out what we've really gone for.
The Royal Institution joins 45 leading science organisations in a letter to European policy makers to highlight that an open exchange of people and ideas is crucial for science.
Posted to Talking science on17th February 2017