Episode 5 – Interview with science journalist Dr Graham Phillips

In this episode we’re delighted to speak with Dr Graham Phillips, a very familiar – and much loved – Australian science communicator and journalist.

Graham was the host of ABC TV’s science program Catalyst for many years, and also a producer-reporter on that program. He began his career as a scientist (PhD in astrophysics) before quitting to become science journalist/broadcaster/communicator. He’s been a regular science commentator on all the free-to-air TV commercial networks, written about science for almost every major newspaper in Australia and had regular science columns in a number of them. He’s contributed to many, many hours of science on radio as both an interviewee and interviewer, and has had four popular science books published.

He’s recently written and produced a series on extra-terrestrial life for Amazon’s podcast arm Audible Astronomical: looking for life beyond Earth – and teaches science communication at the University of Melbourne.

You can follow Graham and find out more about his work here:


Jen (00:00:00)
Welcome to Let’s Talk SciComm, a podcast by the University of Melbourne Science Communication Teaching Team. I’m Dr Jen Martin and my co-host is Dr Michael Wheeler and we believe science isn’t finished until it’s communicated.

Jen (00:00:31)
Hello everybody and welcome to our episode of Let’s Talk SciComm.
I’m Dr Jen Martin and I’m thrilled to be joined by my co-host Dr Michael Wheeler.
Hi Michael.

Michael (00:00:43)
Hey Jen, how are you?

Jen (00:00:45)
I am so well because today we are joined by one of our other very very favourite people.
So today we have Dr Graham Phillips joining us and oh my goodness, Graham has the most stellar scicomm and scientist career behind him. We’re not going to go into detail about all the amazing things that Graham has done, because it would take the whole episode. But suffice it to say that he has many, many decades of experience; talking about science, writing about science, TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, podcasts, you name it. Graham has been a headline act in all of these areas, and we’re so lucky because now he works with us.
So Dr Graham Phillips, welcome to Let’s Talk SciComm.

Graham (00:01:29)
What an introduction. Thank you, I’m blushing now.
Don’t need to talk about all the decades I’ve been doing it, maybe we’ll just tune that down.
There’s a yeah, only a few decades, you know, maybe a few years, *inaudible*.

Jen (00:01:40)
Yeah, sorry Graham, that was a bit rude.
I was just trying to defer to your incredible wisdom and the fact that you’re also a really, really lovely person to work with, so apologies, apologies.

Graham (00:01:50)
No, I’m only joking. Yeah, it has been decades unfortunately.

Jen (00:01:54)
We’re not going to let you talk about that quite yet, although we can’t wait to hear about your multifaceted career.
But we want to begin by just going back to somewhere near the beginning. And I’d love to hear, can you think of a particular moment or experience, probably as a child that made you realize how much you love science? Or convinced you that you wanted to be a scientist?

Graham (00:02:18)
I’ve wanted to be a scientist ever since I can remember, and I can’t, there are a few things that I know were important.
Like my mother used to take me out to look at the stars at night. She would identify Orion’s belt and all this stuff and the planets and all that was very exciting. And I remember a, a friend of hers had a telescope, and I was going to be able to watch the moon. And I still get this really incredible strong feeling for me now, when I look up at the moon, is that first time looking at it through the telescope and seeing all the craters up close. And plus, we had to wait a while ’cause the astronomer guy said, “well, you have to look at that in the first quarter, that’s the best time to observe” and I’m thinking what!? So I had to wait a whole week or something like that. So that moment of seeing the moon was some really exciting. I had my own chemistry laboratory in my garage as a kid. You know, I was right into science, right from the beginning.

Jen (00:03:08)
Did you blow anything up with your chem set?

Graham (00:03:11)
Haha, certainly set fire to things. In fact, the most exciting experiment I did, I didn’t realize how exciting it was. Yeah, I used to mix up some stuff and I can’t remember the details now. And it used to smoke and burn, and that kind of thing.
And I had a guy friend of my parents come over who was doing a PhD in chemistry at Monash. I was only 10 at this stage so I thought this is a great opportunity. I’ll take him and show him my backyard garage lab thinking he’s not going to be very impressed. And then I made up that mix for him and he said, “don’t do that, that is very dangerous, that could explode” and that was the coolest thing I’ve ever heard in my life as a 10 year old. Here I was doing an experiment, but the proper chemist was telling me I shouldn’t be doing. I was hooked at that stage.

Jen (00:03:52)
Graham, I feel it’s essential to ask, how many times have you lost your eyebrows?

Graham (00:03:58)
No, I don’t think I did any of that.

Jen (00:04:00)

Graham (00:04:00)
I used to have a fortified laboratory. Like this wasn’t just your ordinary lab. This was in a table under a table in the back of the garage with hessian bags hanging over the front of those walls.
And I had wires right around it which were connected to a 12 Volt battery. This was for security so that anyone, like my little sister, who would come up and try to get into the lab would be instantly electrocuted. She never did that, fortunately. I also had peashooters at, you know, like a cannon.

Michael (00:04:28)
Wow, it kind of sounds like Dexter’s lab or something. That’s a cartoon.

Graham (00:04:33)
Yeah, that’s right. I wonder if I, you can get into trouble for this retrospectively.
Anyway, I’ve said too much. I say no more.

Michael (00:04:41)
No one was harmed by the peashooters, we just want to make that clear.

Graham (00:04:45)
No one was harmed in, in any of these experiments, isn’t that right?
I mean, I did convince my sister to donate blood for me once so I can look at it under the microscope, which did involve me pricking her finger. Don’t know why I didn’t donate my own blood, but I guess I needed a laboratory assistant, I suppose.

Michael (00:05:00)
Yeah yeah.

Graham (00:05:01)
Yeah, she was my little sister. Who else would it be?

Michael (00:05:03)
So Graham at the start, then it sounds like your passion was in setting booby traps and making explosions.

Graham (00:05:10)
Like any good scientists had, a good start for a scientist.

Michael (00:05:14)
That’s where it started. What would you say your passion in science is now?

Graham (00:05:19)
Yo, that was kind of the weird thing for me because I wanted to be a scientist since I can remember and I went on and became one. Did the PhD. Did the postdocs. Ended up at CSIRO as a research scientist.
And then I sort of thought, oh, I wonder if this is really what I want to do. It was kind of like a early mid-life crisis, I guess, midlife career crisis anyway.
And so I quit and set myself up as a freelance science writer. Because for some bizarre reason, and that is utterly mysterious to me, I decided I wanted to communicate science and I, I don’t know why. I just had this burning desire to tell people about it.
But I guess I, I used to do a bit of surfing when I was younger and I’d be chatting to my mates out on the board about various science things, probably boring them, I don’t know. But I was always, I guess, like to convey the excitement I felt for science to others. That was when I made the big move into science communication for mysterious reasons.

Jen (00:06:13)
So I know your PhD was in astrophysics, Graham.
Was is the moon experience and the telescope experience that led you into that branch of science, do you think? ’cause you sound like a pretty wicked chemist as well.

Graham (00:06:26)
Well, yeah no. I, I went to university wanting to be a chemist. Now, I’d given up on the astronomy early on in life and I, I started doing chemistry.
But then I kind of fell in love with physics at university and particularly applied maths. Because applied maths at Monash where I studied, and you know, the applied math subjects were thermodynamics, quantum physics, relativity, all the kind of theoretical physics stuff that I really liked. But it was done in a really rigorous way in the math department, which I really enjoyed. So I sort of got into it that way and then realized I wanted to do a PhD in that theoretical physics area and astrophysics happened to be the topic. So I sort of came back to astrophysics, even though I’d kind of left my interest in that back in childhood.

Jen (00:07:11)
You sort of talked about this leap of faith that you made from science to science communication and you sort of had a sense that you enjoyed it. I’d love to hear more about it.
I mean, when you think back, what was your first experience of communicating about science? Was it sitting out behind the break chatting to your mates on your surfboard?
Like can you identify a moment when you recognized in yourself, actually, rather than doing the science, I’d prefer to talk about the science. ’cause that’s a pretty big leap of faith to take, I think.

Graham (00:07:41)
Yeah, look, I think I, I mean, I probably did talk a bit of science to people sitting out the back on the breaks, probably not as much as I mean I, I talk science to my kids now. You know, they, they learned very early on that they could bribe me with it. They would ask for something and then say “Dad, I’ll let you talk science to me for 10 minutes.” So I kind of enjoyed it all the time.
But I think I noticed when I was writing up my PhD thesis, sitting at my desk at home at 2 o’clock in the morning, and I just put it aside and wrote an article on Einstein’s special relativity for a general audience. I don’t know why. I just had this desire to do that, even though it had nothing to do with my PhD and I should have been devoting that time to writing up. But so now I’m, I’m genuinely say it was kind of, it’s a mysterious thing.
I, I would have, well, I would have bet you a million dollars when I was even doing my undergraduate, even doing my postgraduate degree at university, that I would not end up being a science communicator. I was still going to be a scientist when I, when I left university. So I, I don’t really know.

Michael (00:08:42)
Yeah, well, it’s, it’s really interesting.
And so then the transition that you made from being a scientist to being a science communicator. What was that like?

Graham (00:08:52)
Hmm, I mean it’s a big call to have a permanent CSIRO job as a research scientist that you’ve been aiming for your entire life. And to throw that in to become a freelance writer, freelance science writer, which is a very unstable occupation potentially. But I guess I was young and I felt a strong desire and so I did it. And it was in the early days I guess was it tough? I don’t know. I just had such driving passion.
But you have to try a lot of avenues. And that’s my advice to anyone who wants to do that sort of thing is just persistence. Gotta try every avenue you can and you may not, you keep heading in a direction, you may not get in that direction but something will come out of the blue, out of left field and that’ll take you somewhere equally good or loop back around to the direction you’re after.
So I guess that happened for me. I started writing for a few newspapers. So I wrote just articles on science, but I left science wanting to get to a really broad audience. I thought communicating science, even though it’s really important, you know, the Scientific American and New Scientist. I thought well, in a way, that’s preaching to the converted, if you like. I wanted to get to people like the guys I sent out the back with in the surf, who knew nothing about science.
So I started writing for Sunday Telegraph in Sydney, I had a science column there for 20 years. And the Herald Sun. I wanted to get to those broad readerships, which involves communicating science in a different way than if you’re doing it, you know, with ABC science unit or through Scientific American or something.

Jen (00:10:21)
And Graham, what was your thought process when you said you wanted to do that? Was that because you had this sense that you had this privileged position of knowledge that other people didn’t have? Or because you felt like you wanted people to be more scientifically literate, and that would help them in their lives? Or you just experience joy in kind of opening people’s eyes up to this whole other world maybe they weren’t aware of?
Like what was the you know, you said you were really motivated, what was the driving force for you?

Graham (00:10:48)
Yeah, I certainly, I’m a huge believer in spreading the word of science and that’s what I do. But like I think as far as motivating me goes, I mean that was part of it. But I think I just, I got this, I got a real buzz personally discovering aww, you think the universe is this way; actually, it’s this way. Or, isn’t this a really cool thing, you know? The black hole or something like that. So I got such a buzz from that I just couldn’t help but want to tell other people about it, so I think it was that that was really driving me.
But I, I still think there’s something more. I don’t, there’s, there’s something internal that made this a real passion for me. I’m not sure you ever kind of work out what sparks your passions completely. I don’t, don’t know, but and I still to this day get a real buzz from explaining some physics or something to an audience who go, Oh wow. I didn’t know that. Ah, I get that. So I think that’s what I get the day to day buzz from. But it’s still, the big picture is, it’s really important to to spread that scientific worldview as far as possible. I think in that scientific approach to problem solving and analysis of the world.

Michael (00:11:51)
Hmm, you mentioned making that transition. Your… it’s a little bit less secure, it’s a lot less secure, right?
Being a freelance writer.

Graham (00:11:59)

Michael (00:12:00)
And you’re doing that for a while. But did you have a moment where you felt that you were more secure now in this new role of science communication?

Graham (00:12:07)
Emotionally, I was more secure immediately. It was a surprise, ’cause that was a really tough decision to leave CSIRO. I spent hours and hours, sleepless hours about that and was really concerned about, you know, what am I doing here? And when I eventually made the decision, I remember, still remember it driving down the road and tears started running down my eyes, tears of joy that I’ve made the decision so emotionally I knew afterwards, I didn’t know before. Once I had actually made the decision, I knew that was the right decision.
And in terms of finances, it just got easier as time went on. I basically made the decision I would divide my life in two. And I spent half my life doing stuff that pays well and so that will help cover the bills and the other half I’ll do things that I want to do for science, which is kind of a, a good model I think.
So I did in those early days, I did a lot of writing for advertising agencies, for example, on writing science copy. But basically when they had science and technology clients, but they had trouble getting into their head space, they could sort of wheel me in and I, because I could speak science and speak advertising lingo, if you like, then I was this sort of good go-between. So that paid quite well and that allowed me to do things, other things that wouldn’t pay so well. So that’s sort of helped with the financial security.

Jen (00:13:26)
And Graham, how did science writing, beginning as a freelancer, how did that turn into a TV career and a radio career?
And all of these incredible things that led you to have, you know, at least in Australia, one of the most successful science communication careers around.

Graham (00:13:41)
Thank you Jen. Now I’m blushing again. Yeah, so it was sort of, it was one of those things where you just sort of keep pushing forward. And you encounter lots of dead ends and push backs and knockbacks and then eventually a break comes out of left field kind of thing.
So my path was, I started writing for quite a few newspapers in the end and back in those days. Pre-Internet, you could publish in Sydney market, the same article in the Melbourne market, same article in the West Australia market, so you can actually make reasonable money out of it.
And then I put a whole lot of my writing together as a book, had the book published and went on, on the publicity tour. The midday show on Channel 9 got me to come in, and so they like what I did there. Then I became a regular, I became the science guy on the midday show. And then the ABC saw me on the midday show and called me right after an episode where I’d used some footage I’ve got from the ABC and figured they were bringing me in to, you know, accused me of ripping off their copyright. But they actually were offering me a job, you know, from the ABC. Yeah, sort of a, you know, a bit of a random walk.

Jen (00:14:48)
Wow. And when you were working with the ABC, was that absolutely full time and you let everything else you couldn’t keep up writing and everything else? Or have you managed to keep all of these different outputs going?

Graham (00:14:59)
I certainly in the early days, I managed to keep a lot of it going. ’cause specially as a freelancer you’re so reluctant to let any work go, so I just, kept doing work.
I mean, I stopped doing the kind of advertising work and the other PR work when I had plenty of work on. But yeah, no, I kept [what] I was doing at one stage. Yeah, no, I was still writing for newspapers and doing radio at that stage. I had a lot of regular radio spots around the country and back in the old days they used to pay you, have money to pay for that kind of, and plus do a full time job at the ABC. So you know, it got pretty hectic in the early days and then I got a bit smarter about it, you realize no, it’s OK, I could let some things go.

Michael (00:15:36)
Yeah, and I suppose for listeners out there who are working in science at the moment, and maybe I think the most common way to engage with science communication is to do a little bit on the side. It’s not going to be a full time job, I think, for a lot of scientists.
And I think one thing that people might be wondering is, you know, what makes something newsworthy?

Graham (00:15:58)
Yeah, and I think you’re right. I think in the, the tough thing in my day was getting the break, because there were so few media outlets, and once you got the break you’re kind of OK.
Whereas these days it’s quite easy to get the break, you can just publish stuff yourself. But if you want to make a full time living out of it, that’s more of a challenge these days, as you see a lot of science communication just goes on as a a part time kind of thing. And I answered that first part of the thing you were talking about, and now I’ve forgotten the final question you asked me.

Michael (00:16:27)
Yeah, so I suppose I, I suppose scientists out there thinking about the work that they’re doing. And whether all of it is newsworthy or is some of it just newsworthy?
I mean, I guess you would have gotten a, a real sense from your experience working in media, what actually makes something newsworthy?

Graham (00:16:46)
Yeah, and that was a real mystery to me when I started because I didn’t know about that whole media journalistic kind of thing of newsworthiness.
I remember writing an article about earthquakes and think well, this is just fascinating. I love this and I couldn’t get it published anywhere. And then there was a couple of major earthquakes several months later and they were approaching me saying, “What have you got on earthquakes? Give us anything you’ve got on earthquakes.” So then I could not only get that article published. I could write a whole lot of other stuff. So there’s this thing called the media agenda that when topics are hot, they’re hot and they want as much material as they can.
So I think if you, as a scientist, if you keep an eye on that media agenda, then that allows you to get some sort of publicity, or you can write about your research if there’s something going on. So earthquakes, in Melbourne anyway, were a thing a couple of weeks ago, so, so it would have been easy to get stuff published in that area.
I once did some work for a company that made technology that would help power supplies during a brownout or a blackout. And I said, “Look, the time to get some publicity for your work is during summer, not during winter. Wait ’til we’re at a time where there are brownouts and blackouts. And that’s the time to hit the media ’cause then things are really newsworthy.” And that you know, there are other things that you know, make stories newsworthy. But being on the agenda at the moment is a, is a really big one.

Jen (00:18:06)
So Graham, I feel like you have this really unique position because you’re a scientist who has spent so much of your career effectively working as a journalist and so, that puts you in a really good position to be able to help scientists. So obviously this idea of newsworthiness is part of it, but what other advice have you learned over the years and, and I know that you probably know enough to fill 50 lectures.
But if you just think someone who’s listening to us, they’re a science student or they’re a scientist, they’re sort of thinking about delving into this world of science communication. What are some of the main things you’ve learned over the years about how we do that better?

Graham (00:18:42)
I think there’s a, there’s a thing for me that’s been, that was a really difficult thing to get over when I move from being a scientist to a journalist. And the example I give over and over about it, I’m not sure if it’s the best example or not. What is an atom like? Well, one explanation is an atom’s a bit like a solar system. Yeah, there’s big heavy nucleus at the center like the sun. You’ve got these electrons spinning around like planets. Say that to a quantum physicist, and they’ll say “What on Earth are you talking about? An atom is nothing like a solar system. That is the whole point of quantum physics.”
And it’s that idea that you’ve got to simplify your work to the audience. And it may be very different to how you would talk. Well, it will be very different to how you talk to your colleagues. And I think that whole process of thinking about the audience, putting yourself in that particular audience’s position and what they will get, what they can relate to, and being brave enough, I guess, to deliver the material to them in the way that they can understand it. ’cause I think there’s a natural tendency for all of us, especially scientists, to deliver information in the way that we want it, or how our colleagues want to hear it.
And so I think it does take bravery, actually, to sort of say, wait a minute, that’s not the audience. Sure, that’s what we call it. But I’m going to speak to this different audience. So that would be, I guess if you asked me for one key piece of advice, that would be it. And of course, that is a key piece of advice.
Of course Jen, put yourself in the audience’s position. It’s the most important message.

Jen (00:20:07)
Yeah, I feel like we haven’t even allowed time to talk about the fact that you’ve now come to hang out with us at, at university. And to, I mean, I know you still do a lot of freelance work as well, but you do spend part of your time each week with us.
How does it feel to have made that transition from not just being the scientist and being the science communicator, but to now being the science communicator teaching young scientists how to do that better? Do you sort of feel like you’re coming full circle?

Graham (00:20:33)
There’s two things there. One, I work with the best team that could possibly be. And I’m, I don’t just say that, that is true, it is a wonderful team of people, really lovely people and you’ve set up a great course Jen. It really is a genuinely fantastic course. I’m not just saying to you that because you’re the boss. That’s true.

Jen (00:20:49)
Thank you Graham.

Graham (00:20:50)
It’s really enjoyable that way. And also yeah, no. I, I love passing on any tips I can to the next generation of science communicators. That’s a real buzz. And I must say one of the biggest buzzers for me is when someone spots me out in a restaurant or something, and comes up to me and say, “Ah, you’re Graham Phillips, that Catalyst guy right? You’re the reason I’m doing science. I watched your program but…”
And that’s for me, is the ultimate, actually inspired someone to get into science, and that’s happened quite a few times. So passing on knowledge to the next generation of science communicators is, is an absolute passion for me now, yeah.

Jen (00:21:23)
And I would imagine that happens quite often, Graham. ’cause anyone who’s listening, who’s kind of either not in the right country or not in the right generation wouldn’t know anything about Quantum or Catalyst.
But for those who do, I mean, it was an absolute iconic household experience for any of us in families that liked science, to watch it and to see you and your colleagues, telling us incredible stories. I mean, it’s just amazing.

Graham (00:21:43)
Yeah, it was a real privilege to, to work for the ABC for so long. What they took, they took the science seriously and took science communication seriously, which doesn’t always happen on television.
So no, it was a, it was a real pleasure.

Michael (00:22:05)
All right, well, shall we move on to the rapid fire questions Graham? Are you prepared?

Graham (00:22:10)
What?! Rapid fire questions? No, I’m never prepared.
You know, I’m a, I’m a scientist type. I want to actually think about them for a few months, probably do a bit of research, maybe a literature review on relevant paper. I’ll get back to you in six months.

Jen (00:22:24)
Yeah, no, we didn’t warn you about this, even though we work with you everyday Graham. We didn’t warn you that we, we are ending every episode with five quick questions.
You, you don’t get to think about it. You don’t get to give long answers. But don’t worry, there, there is no wrong answer. Isn’t, isn’t that our story, Michael?

Michale (00:22:37)
Yeah, absolutely.

Graham (00:22:39)
Sure there is… this is some sort of psychological test.

Jen (00:22:44)
Well, I think you’ve already answered the first one. I think we might have to change our first question, Michael.
But maybe you can tell us a funny yarn anyway. Our first question is, what did you want to be when you grow?

Graham (00:22:53)
Yeah, absolutely a scientist. I can’t not remember wanting to be a scientist.

Jen (00:22:57)
And is that ’cause you wanted to blow people up with your chemistry? Or did you have slightly better motives?

Graham (00:23:04)
Ah yes, well once I learned how to make rotten egg gas and hide that in my sister’s bedroom. I think that’s quite poisonous, I would never do that now though now that I’m much older, but at the time, it just seemed very funny.

Michael (00:23:16)
So I, so would you say that’s your proudest moment as a, as a scientist Graham?

Jen (00:23:23)
That is question two Graham.

Michael (00:23:24)
That was my next question.

Graham (00:23:26)
Well proudest moment, proudest moment goes probably when I found some fire extinguishers at the tip with a mate of mine that were just your old fashioned ones, you fill them with water and we needed to test them out.
So I got in my laboratory with a box of matches, a bottle of metho, hessian sides, walls of laboratory, doused them in metho, set it on fire.
We’re inside, under the table, madly pumping away, and we got the fires out. So that’s my proudest, terrible, terrible.

Jen (00:23:57)
You’re allowed to give us a second proudest moment if you’d like to.

Graham (00:24:01)
Like a real proudest moment. I’m not sure. I don’t really know, I don’t think that way. I’m not sure if I have a particular proudest moment.
Did I get out of that one? Yeah, I’ll, I’ll check the literature on that and I’ll do a bit of research and I’ll get to you.

Jen (00:24:15)
Yeah, you can get out of that one, that’s fine. OK, perfect.
Next one, Twitter or Instagram?

Graham (00:24:23)
Umm. Facebook? LinkedIn?

Jen (00:24:26)
Graham, you’re showing your age, careful.

Graham (00:24:32)
Look, uhh, I am, I am on Instagram and I’m trying to embrace Instagram. I don’t like spending a lot of time on screens and that’s what I’m trying to change.
But no, there will be more of me on Instagram.

Jen (00:24:44)
Oh, good.

Graham (00:24:45)
This is my new Year’s resolution. 2022, lookout on Instagram.
I’m gonna break the Instagram. Is that what you say? Yeah.

Jen (00:24:52)
Come on, tell everyone, tell everyone your handle Graham, so they can follow you.

Graham (00:24:55)
Oh, I don’t remember that. I’ll have to find that.

Jen (00:24:57)
I think it’s Graham Phillips Science. We’ll put it in our show notes.

Michael (00:25:02)
Watch out.

Graham (00:25:03)
That’s it. It’s Graham Phillips Science, yeah.

Jen (00:25:06)
Lucky you’ve got me, Graham, as your, as your manager.

Graham (00:25:09)
Thanks Jen.

Michael (00:25:12)
So Graham, do you have a favorite science related movie or book?

Graham (00:25:16)
I really loved Carl Sagan’s Cosmos book, which came out when I was starting and maybe that was influential in me becoming a science communicator. Now that I’m thinking back, it could well have been. It came out about the time that all that feeling came on, and I, I found it a really cool book. And he was writing about physics. Yeah gee maybe that’s it. Maybe you’ve uncovered. So yeah, that would, that would be one of my favorite science books but look, I’ve got bookshelves and bookshelves and… of science books.

Jen (00:25:43)
And can we ask for Part B? Have you got a favorite science movie?

Graham (00:25:48)
Oh science movie. So science movie or science fiction movie? I mean, I really did like Interstellar.

Jen (00:25:53)
Hmm, me too.

Graham (00:25:54)
Which was quite complicated even with my physics background I think through. But that’s what made it so enjoyable, so I’ll go with Interstellar.
And Kip Thorne, whose sort of idea it was and who won the Nobel Prize only a couple of years ago, was a major reason it was so good, I guess.

Jen (00:26:10)
Hmm, oh excellent, I’m glad that my, one of my favorite science movies meets the approval with a, with an astrophysicist, I feel better now.

Graham (00:26:18)
You know, it’s a good movie.

Jen (00:26:20)
OK, lucky last number 5 and I know you have already spoken a bit about this but just your number one top SciComm tip.
So you’ve talked a bit about audience, can we ask you for another tip beyond put yourself in the shoes of your audience?

Graham (00:26:33)
Yeah, yeah, put yourselves in the shoes of your audience and be a bit relaxed about how people interpret what you write. ’cause that’s the other thing that surprised me. I would write something and be very careful about how I wrote it. And then I talked to people who read my pieces and a whole lot of them. Well, they have a vastly different interpretations of what I’ve written.
So you can get a bit hung up, I think, on people taking things out of context. You’ve got to learn to sort of go with the flow a little bit up because people put their own interpretations on what you’ve written. You’ve only got so much control, yeah?

Michael (00:27:06)
And Graham, you’re probably relieved there’s no questions about aliens today.
We were, we were joking beforehand that they might be because Grahams just released a very popular podcast called Astronomical, which is all about the scientific search for extraterrestrial life.
So we might have to get you back Graham and ask you some questions about aliens.

Graham (00:27:27)
Yes, one of my favorite topics.

Jen (00:27:28)
I think we just need to do one more quick question, don’t we? Are aliens real? Yes or no?

Graham (00:27:34)
Wow, you want just, you want a yes or no answer to that. Are aliens real? Well depending on your definition of aliens. Yes, they’re definitely real.

Michael (00:27:41)
Are we alone in the universe?

Jen (00:27:45)
OK right. Is that the cliffhanger for the next episode where we invite you back?

Graham (00:27:51)
Yeah, but you can’t see the tinfoil hat that I have on at the moment.
But it’s, it’s very tightly fitting.

Michael (00:27:56)
There we go. We need to, we just need to fade out with some, you know, X-Files like type music.

Jen (00:28:02)
We’ll put it on Insta, all good Graham.

Michael (00:28:05)
But no, that was brilliant. Thank you very much, Graham. That was fantastic.
Could continue chatting for ages.

Graham (00:28:11)
Me too, likewise.

Jen (00:28:12)
Thank you so much Graham. Thanks to everyone for listening.
And we will see you soon, hear you soon, listen with you soon on our next episode.

Graham (00:28:20)
Thank you. wonderful to talk to you.

Michael (00:28:23)
See ya.

Michael (00:28:37)
Thanks for listening.
You can reach out to us on Insta and Twitter @LetsTalkSciComm and Let’s Talk SciComm podcast on Facebook and we would love to hear from you.