Just how deep can you dive into science and still be entertaining? A Podcast of Unnecessary Detail proves that it’s a very deep pool. From Festival of the Spoken Nerd (aka. Matt Parker, Steve Mould and Helen Arney) A Podcast of Unnecessary Detail takes things that you wouldn’t believe could be interesting, and makes them fascinating by drilling down to the nitty and / or gritty details.
With the new series starting today, we caught up with the three Spoken Nerds to ask them for the nitty-gritty on their podcast journey.
Who are you and what’s your podcast about?
MATT: We are three comedians, two physicists and a mathematician, who do two of those things each under the name Festival of the Spoken Nerd.
HELEN: Every episode we pick a topic and each bring something sciencey or mathsy that we think gets better and better the more details you go into.
What was the first podcast you ever listened to?
STEVE: The first podcast I ever listened to was Professor Blastoff. I was looking for science podcasts. Professor Blastoff isn’t a science podcast, so false advertising there, but it is brilliant. They don’t make it anymore 🙁
Why did you decide to start podcasting in the first place?
MATT: We do a lot of live comedy shows where we talk about interesting bits of science and technology in unnecessary levels of detail. But sometimes it’s nice to have an audience who can’t talk back: so we decided to take the idea to podcast form! Plus making a podcast gives us a chance to dive into even deeper levels of detail. Partly because the format lends itself to deeper and more involved explorations than you can usually achieve when you’re standing on a stage in a comedy club, and partly because (and I cannot stress this enough) the audience can’t talk back.
HELEN: Also I currently have two kids under 5 in the tail end of a pandemic, so I am all about working from home rather than spending most of my weeks and weekends driving up and down various UK motorways in a tour van. For now, anyway…
Which podcasts do you take inspiration from?
MATT: We’re long time friends with the No Such Thing As A Fish folks and we think there should be no such thing as a monopoly on nerds banging on about stuff. So we’ve decided to out-detail them.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt so far as a podcaster?
HELEN: That it’s not radio! We’ve made a few series of “Domestic Science” for BBC Radio 4 and it’s a very different style of audio. For radio, everything has to be much more scripted, faster paced and we recorded everything for those shows in front of a live audience.
MATT: Who, sometimes, try to talk back.
HELEN: Whereas making a podcast is more relaxed and conversational.
MATT: Obviously we still script it word for word, but we script it to sound relaxed and conversational.
Which episode would you say is the perfect introduction to your podcast?
HELEN: In the Series 2 episode “To Infinity And Beyond” Matt gives a very comprehensive history of the HP 9100A desktop scientific calculator. That’s a fairly typical level of detail to expect.
MATT: Yes, it was the first scientific calculator ever made and birthed the phrase “personal computer”. When an early model was shown to the engineers at NASA they literally gave it a standing ovation and that calculator went on to directly impact the exploration of our solar system. Later in the episode Helen and Steve also go on about some space stuff but it doesn’t involve any calculators.
Where can the Pod Bible readers find out more about you?
HELEN: If you want the best possible introduction, we have some live shows coming up at the Bloomsbury Theatre in London on the 7 and 8 of April called “An Evening of Unnecessary Detail”.
STEVE: There’s our first series still knocking around on whatever podcast app or platform you listen on, so that’s there if you can’t wait for Series 2 to start.
MATT: If you can’t successfully google either of those things or find our website, that’s probably for the best as it’s unlikely they’re going to be your bag after all.
You can listen to the new series of A Podcast of Unnecessary Detail on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and other podcast providers. Find out more about Festival of the Spoken Nerd on their website festivalofthespokennerd.com/podcast.