I went to Wageningen UR this Thursday to take part in the first regional heat of FameLab Benelux. It took me 10 trains and 3 busses and more than 9 hours of travel (and that for just 3 minutes of presentation), but it was definitely worth the journey!
I think I speak for all contestants if I say we all had a really fun afternoon. But that's not all. To my honest surprise, I ended up as one of the first three finalists for the Benelux final on Thursday 22 May, along with Lenny de Jaeger and Padraic Flood (and Ake Nauta as runner-up).
In the end, 25 FameLabbers took up the challenge of presenting a topic in science, technology or mathematics, and that in only three (!!) minutes. And with three minutes, they really meant . . . 3:00 minutes. A first sign was made after 2:30 minutes, and at 3:00 sharp, a horn was blown at which point you had to stop, no matter what.
Luckily, this didn't discourage too many contestants, and I was truly amazed by the level of the presentations. It was heartwarming seeing how passionate everybody was about their research. Props were being used in the most ingenious ways, jokes abounded, and everyone used his/her own wits to explain their topic, be it by telling a story, raising sharp questions, or even . . . dancing.
After 25 presentations, on a variety of topics, I definitely learned a LOT. I joined Padraic Flood on a fantastic journey to the interior of a plant cell, and I learned about the new algae revolution from Lenny de Jaeger. Ake Nauta convinced me it is better to go on summer holidays to Siberia, rather than, say, Hawaii or Jamaica.
I now know how a pregnancy test works, thanks to Florine Duval and her fantastic props. I learned about fruit flies and dinosaurs, young stars, tickling leaves, romantic molecules, shit swaps and sarcasm on Twitter.
My own presentation was about quantum immortality — on how the Many Worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics offers a way to be immortal, and on how we can prove it via a quantum suicide experiment.
After so many inspiring presentations, it's not surprising the jury had a really tough time deciding who should go through to the next round.
I'm honoured I was chosen, and I'm especially looking forward to the two-day master class in science communication, in which all finalists will take part to polish up their oral expression and enhance their communication skills. Our public communication skills coach will be no one less than Malcolm Love.
Last, but not least, both Wageningen UR and the British Council deserve a lot of credit for organizing the first heat ever held in the Benelux. Two more heats will be organized in Brussels on Monday 7 April, and in Groningen on Thursday 10 April.
See you there!