A week ago on Thursday, I spent the day in a Tardis with Dr Karl Kruszelnicki. Also with us was Elizabeth Hagen, a human biology and anthropology student.
Yes, that’s right, we were in a Tardis. At the ABC in Ultimo, this is what a small studio used for radio work is called. The nickname came about back when the ABC Radio studios were in Forbes St, Darlinghurst. The equivalent studios were apparently about the size of a phone booth. Perhaps they were bigger inside than they appeared as well, I don’t know. Anyway, the name stuck, even though the studios no longer exist, and now the sign on the doors at Ultimo say “Tardis Booth 1”, “Tardis Booth 2”, etc.
So, how did this visit to the Tardis come about? It was more straightforward than I would have ever imagined. A friend of mine suggested I give it a go, so I emailed Karl’s research assistant and asked how I would go about it, what the procedure was, etc. A short while later I received a phone call asking when I was free. We arranged a date, and that was it. I wonder if they did a background check of some kind on me, to make sure I wasn’t some random fanboy.
Elizabeth and I were guests of Dr Karl as part of his regular Thursday radio spots on ABC and BBC radio. We spent the first two hours answering science questions on four different ABC Local Radio stations: Far North Queensland, Brisbane, Darwin and regional South Australia. The format of the talkback shows was quite informal and lots of fun, with some great questions. I’ve done a few of these before, but for Elizabeth it was a little new and perhaps daunting, but she seemed to warm to it well.
After this, we all raced up to the Triple J studios for Mornings with Zan Rowe. Here Karl’s slot is a bit more formal: Elizabeth and I were allowed in as observers only. Apparently for us to appear on the show would require some weeks of notice, which would allow Triple J to advertise and promote it. Still it was interesting to see how the calls came in and were prioritised (sorry, no trade secrets :P).
Following an hour in the Triple J studios, it was back to the Tardis for an hour-long slot at 3am on BBC Five Live. Karl told us that the BBC had a similar policy to Triple J, so we’d probably be observers only again. Happily, the normal presenter was not in and the fill-in (Andy Crane) let us on to answer questions and talk a little about ourselves. You can find the podcast here for your listening pleasure. I got to talk about my favourite exoplanet topic – planets orbiting two stars at once – along with a bunch of other great stuff, including the Hubble eXtreme Deep Field and of course, Mars Curiosity.
Elizabeth had to leave after this, and Karl had a pre-recorded TV gig on ABC News 24. I hung around during make-up and filming, but it was relatively uneventful. I will say that the station is pretty low budget though: the presenter, a cameraman and the producer and that was it. I always figured that television was a more involved process, but the only difference between it and radio was the cameraman.
We had one more radio talkback show after lunch, this time with regional NSW, and then it was time for me to head off home. All-in-all, a highly enjoyable experience. Dr Karl is a lovely bloke, especially given I effectively invited myself along to his show. He’s as energetic in real life as he is on radio and television, but perhaps not quite as frenetic. I definitely have a new found appreciation for what he does: it’s very impressive stuff.
So that was my day of talkback in a Tardis. Hopefully I can go back and do it again sometime. 🙂