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Science Faction, not fiction

New podcast series aims to explain science discoveries in 1000 most used words

Did you know fire ants are able to lift ten times their weight? If a human could do that, they would be able to bench press a Holstein cow, which can weigh as much as half a metric ton. Try and imagine that. These tiny, but amazingly strong creatures were the subject of Science Faction’s first episode “Fire Ant Physics,” which was released online as a podcast and broadcast on community radio stations, including CKUT 90.3 FM, across Canada on January 5.

The show is the brainchild of Dalal Hanna and Andrea Reid, who met while they were graduate students at McGill.

“After we both had our research featured on a prominent Canadian science radio show [CBC’s Quirks & Quarks], we got to talking one night at a bar about how we would both jump at the chance to start our own science radio show. It just clicked and we never looked back,” said Reid in an interview with The Daily.

According to Hanna, ‘science faction’ is a term used to describe advancements that are so hard to believe as fact, that they are often mistaken for science fiction. It is also the name of their new ten-part podcast series that aims to make cutting-edge and complex scientific research more accessible to audiences by using the Up-Goer Five Text Editor, which allows its users to use only the 1,000 most common English words to describe difficult- to-understand ideas – in this case, scientific concepts. Each episode will cover one recent discovery, and the first three episodes will span three very different fields: biomechanics, chemical engineering, and astrophysics.

Science Faction is hosted by Nick Schofield, who Cult MTL declared as Montreal’s number one radio host of 2014, and who also has a weekly radio segment called Underground Sounds on CKUT. As a pre-produced podcast, Science Faction will be released on the first Monday of each month, January through October. It is currently funded by Jeunes Volontaires, an Emploi-Quebec program that enables young adults between the ages of 16 to 29 to dedicate more than 20 hours per week to a project of their own design while receiving funding to cover project costs and living expenses.

However, Hanna and Reid cannot reapply for Jeaunes Volontaires for future episodes and the show is currently set for ten episodes, Hanna notes they are open to the idea of continuing after the initial ten episodes for another season depending on the funds they are able to collect from listeners.

You can listen to Science Faction on their website, and follow the show on Facebook and Twitter @scifactradio.