Fran Scott: The facts of life

JAMES CROOT
Last updated 05:00 11/03/2014
Fran Scott
FRAN SCOTT: Irreverent, cheeky and crammed full of facts.

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Fran Scott credits her successful career as a science presenter to very understanding parents.

Speaking from Britain ahead of the worldwide launch of her new show Factomania , the self-described "science translator" says her mother and father were very encouraging when it came to her in-home "experiments". "When I broke things, or messed up the kitchen with potions, they would just go 'oh, well done'."

Scott is unsure whether the producers of Factomania (best described as a kind of love child of Blue Peter, QI, Mythbusters and Top Gear) are as understanding about her experimental proclivities but the programme's set up certainly encourages her to go all-out in trying to come up with the best way of explaining scientific facts.

Each episode she and fellow presenters Dominic Byrne and Greg Foot attempt to wow and outdo each other in the name of science. The trio all use explosive experiments and strange stunts to underline "facts'' like why there are dinosaurs in your garden and how beer is the bedrock of civilisation, with the other two awarding points for entertainment and interest value, using a judging system about as comprehensible as Olympic Ice Dancing's.

Scott admits the points system has led to the odd tense moment.

"When we first got together, I didn't think any of us was particularly competitive, but, oh my word - is Greg Foot competitive. I thought I always gave a fair score, but there were a few toys thrown out of the pram with one score and so we all had to have a little bit of a time out. I don't think it was that bad a score, but I don't think the reaction it got will make the final cut."

Well established as a demonstration developer and science presenter on radio and on stages around Britain, Scott believes her role is not turning people onto science but rather making sure they don't switch off it.

"You only need to look at pre-schoolers, everything they do is very investigative and learning through play, but at some point in our lives something happens and that stops."

While that never happened to her - she holds a Masters degree in Neuroscience - Scott thinks the overcomplication of science could be to blame.

"That's one of my pet hates. Sure I was a little bit of jargon to get the audience's respect, particularly because I look about 12. But unexplained jargon is a problem. I remember during my first year at university, one of my lecturers used 11 different words for "increase" during a single talk. It just added another layer of complexity that didn't need to be there."

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Not afraid to get her hands dirty or have her failures broadcast to the world ("the whole point of science is that it isn't 100 per cent perfect all of the time"), Scott says the highlight of filming Factomania was getting to drive a tractor.

"I love big machines and we did a lot of the outside demonstrations on a poor, unsuspecting farmer's field. I got on very well with him and so we were finishing up for the day and I thought 'to hell with dinner, I'm go to ask him if I can have a go'," she says, her voice still buzzing with excitement from the experience.

Factomania 7.30pm, Wednesday, BBC Knowledge

- Stuff

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