Skip to main content

Marty Jopson - Four Way Interview

Marty Jopson has a PhD in cell biology and builds science props, but he is best known for his regular appearances as the resident scientist on the BBC's The One Show. He does live stage performances around the UK, which involve naked flames and end in a loud bang. His latest book is The Science of Food.

Why Science:

Because it’s fun and I get a huge buzz finding out new things and then passing that knowledge on to other people. As a science communicator, it’s my job to talk to people about science on the telly, on stage and in books, so I’ve spent a lot of time considering why science is important, not just to me but to everyone. I could harp on about how science and technology have shaped our world, how medicine keeps us alive or how engineers have built everything. I could spend my time trying to communicate the science behind the deeper secrets of the mind or the darkest recesses of the universe. But in the end the audience I am interested in is the audience that doesn’t know they are interested in science. The key for me in my work is to share my enthusiasm for science. So, why science? Because it's fun.

Why this book?

Lots of reasons, but it really sprang from the first book I wrote, The Science of Everyday Life. In that I talked about quite a number of food-related science nuggets and I realised that I had so much more I wanted to say on the subject. I have spent a lot of time working on TV programmes about processed food and became very familiar with the food technologist’s subtle science. On top of that, I used to be a plant scientist and that is where some really exciting science is going on right now, but you don’t hear about it often. Lastly, I do love to cook and it was a way to marry two of my great passions - science and food. 

What’s next?

Immediately on the horizon I have a couple of new science stage shows to work on. I spend a lot of my time touring the UK going to science festivals and schools performing science shows. My shows are full of props and demonstrations and it takes a considerable while to develop each show. Lurking in my brain is a show to go with the Science of Food book, but also one on microscopy. After that, I would love to write something specifically aimed at kids and come the New Year, the BBC will be knocking on my door wanting to film again. 

What’s exciting you at the moment?

So many things! In the workshop, I just bought myself a new table saw and I'm about half way through refurbishing my massive Van de Graaf generator. On the stage show front I’m hoping to get my hands on some swanky microscopes soon for my new show, and when I say swanky - woo hoo - these are the bee's knees, but I can’t say any more right now. At home my daughter just started GCSEs this year and it turns out that for English Literature she’s doing two of my favourite books (Merchant of Venice and Lord of the Flies). I can’t wait to hear how she tackles them. Then there is the fountain pen that a friend just gave me. I’m rediscovering the joy of writing things on paper with ink. Oh and it’s my birthday in a few days and a bunch of my friends are joining me for a curry. All this excitement, I may need a lie down.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Where are the chemistry popular science books?

by Brian Clegg
There has never been more emphasis on the importance of public engagement. We need both to encourage a deeper interest in science and to counter anti-scientific views that seem to go hand-in-hand with some types of politics. Getting the public interested in science both helps recruit new scientists of the future and spreads an understanding of why an area of scientific research deserves funding. Yet it is possible that chemistry lags behind the other sciences in outreach. As a science writer, and editor of this website, I believe that chemistry is under-represented in popular science. I'd like to establish if this is the case, if so why it is happening - and what can be done to change things. 


An easy straw poll is provided by the topic tags on the site. At the time of writing, there are 22 books under 'chemistry' as opposed to 97 maths, 126 biology and 182 physics. The distribution is inevitably influenced by editorial bias - but as the editor, I can confirm …

Artificial Intelligence - Yorick Wilks ****

Artificial intelligence is one of those topics where it's very easy to spin off into speculation, whether it's about machine conciousness or AI taking over the world (and don't get me onto the relatively rare connection to robots - cover designer please note). All the experience of AI to date has been that it has been made feasible far slower than originally predicted, and that it faces dramatic limitations. So, for example, self-driving cars may be okay in limited circumstances, but are nowhere near ready for the commute home. Similarly, despite all the moves forward in AI technology, computers are so-so at recognising objects after learning from thousands of examples - sometimes fooled by apparently trivial surface patterning - where humans can recognise items from a handful of examples.

Even so, we can't deny that AI is having an influence on our lives and Yorick Wilks, emeritus professor of AI at the University of Sheffield, is ideally placed to give us a picture …

Apollo 11 - David Whitehouse *****

The problem with doing a book about the Apollo programme is that it's hard to find something that hasn't been said before - but with the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing just weeks away, the publication of this elegant book is extremely timely, and science-reporting veteran David Whitehouse manages to make the story feel fresh, even if you're one of the just 20 per cent of the world population who were alive on the remarkable day in 1969.

Although he has worked a lot with New Scientist, Whitehouse was for many years a TV journalist, and that comes through in his impressively engaging prose as he takes us back to the origins of the US/USSR space race that would lead to the moon landing. He passes through the wartime aspects relatively quickly, but once the two superpowers are flexing their space technology muscles, Whitehouse achieves a near perfect balance between the far less-heard USSR side of the story and the US. This is probably the best bit of the whole bo…