If you are a lover of science, or just like to watch things get blown up, BBC Knowledge has a show for you! Factomania takes hosts Dom Byrne (Mr Curious), Fran Scott (Bold Experimentalist) and Greg Foot (Daredevil Scientist), pits them against each other and sees which scientist can come up with the most exciting and interesting experiments. Greg made a trip to South African to promote the show and I got to sit down with him and ask him some questions.
How did your love of science begin?
When I was a kid my Dad took a tub of custard powder, stuck a straw into it, then blew the contents over the hob on our oven. It produced a great mini flame! From then I was hooked on playing with stuff and trying to answer the question of WHY. Why did that custard powder produce a small flame? Why is the sky blue? I always used to ask my Mum & Dad questions and they’d do their best to answer them. I then discovered that was ‘Science’ and I followed the subject through school & uni since then.
Factomania seems like a bunch of fun! Describe a typical day on set.
Ha, yeah they’re awesome fun! We get in about 7.30/8am, have a quick meeting about the schedule for the day, Dom gets his bald head covered in non-shine makeup, Fran’s hair would be tousled, and we’d ‘turn over’ (i.e. start filming) at 8.30am. It’s pretty flat out as in one day we look to film two or three sofa question items, a medium demos, a couple of smaller demos and the setup for a big stunt too. We wrap about 6.30pm. Then it’s a meeting about the next day’s filming, script read-throughs and then script tweaks & learning into the evening. So they’re long days but when you’re exploding eggs, or getting to just chat about something cool on camera, or buckled over in the corner laughing so hard you’re crying thanks to another of Dom’s jokes, you realise it’s totally worth the long days as they’re loads of fun!
They call you the “Daredevil Scientist”. Where did that nickname come from?
Hmm…Well I did a series a while back called the Secrets of Everything where I got to answer loads of peoples’ interesting science questions. We didn’t want to do it with simple pieces-to-camera or graphics. Instead, as I’m into extreme sports and anything and everything adrenaline-fueled, we decided the best way to answer the questions was to get stuck in myself. So I was buried alive, frozen, shot, and even got a surgeon to cut out a bit of my own leg to find out what humans taste of! Because I basically throw myself into everything, and I’m a scientist by training, that’s where the Daredevil Scientist title came from!
What’s the most dangerous experiment you’ve ever conducted?
Probably being buried alive! BBC Health and Safety weren’t keen on covering me with soil, but I got into a coffin, and they sealed the lid. I had a doctor monitoring my oxygen and carbon dioxide levels to find out how long I could survive before I essentially drowned in my own carbon dioxide levels. I felt utterly awful when I came out of the coffin!!
What is it like working with fellow hosts Don Byrne and Fran Scott?
Awesome fun. We get to sit around chatting about cool stuff and it’s filmed! Or we get to go out and do a huge experiment. Fran is a fellow pyromaniac so we’re always tinkering and trying to one-up each other with our favourite demo, and Dom is just hilarious and a great guy to hang out with.
Why do you think Factomania is so popular?
The show is all about uncovering the world’s most interesting facts. It’s about finding those cool facts you can impress your mates with. Plus it’s quick fire too – if you’re not into Déjà vu then we’ll be doing something else in a few minutes time. We’ve got big explosions, small really curious demos, ace take-away facts, hilarious graphic bits, and it’s all just great fun. Hope you guys all enjoy it!
Catch Factomania, Thursdays at 22h00 on BBC Knowledge (channel 184 on DStv)