Do you remember a time when you were young and the world of science seemed so exciting? What do you mean over a million Earths could fit inside our sun?! What do you mean some apples have first AND last names?! And then when science in school got a bit harder, you went off science for a while. And then after you graduated, you re-discovered science. What do you mean electrons are in more than one places at once?! What do you mean the apricot was introduced into our society by vanquishing pirates?! But by this point, you’d missed out on so many things, the world of science seems too intimidating to get back into.
Josie Long is a standup comedian. Her DVD Cara Josephine is for sale from Soho Theatre’s website. She hosts the comedy night Lost Treasures of the Black Heart, which is available in podcast form. She also co-hosts Book Shambles podcast.
Josie Long’s 2008 Edinburgh Fringe Festival comedy show All the Planet’s Wonders seeks to break down the (fictional) barrier between you and the wonders of our world. Yes, there is a lot out there to absorb, but don’t worry, no one will turn their nose up at you for your elementary investigates. “Trying to take on everything is definitely the right attitude,” says Long.
The show was later adapted into a four-episode radio show, produced by Colin Anderson (who is now out in Cali doing Max Fun stuff), and features the voices of Maeve Higgins (playing herself but also basically every other character they didn’t want to bring someone additional in for), Robin Ince talking about how Feynman was annoyed at winning the Noble Prize because they called him in the middle of the night and woke him up, Henning Wein playing Gunther von Hagens, Isy Suttie, Dan Harkin, Bullseye’s Jesse Thorn, and even members of Long’s family.
The episodes–based around themes like astronomy or plants–seek to make the world more accessible. You may have heard of some of these facts or figures before–Hieronymus Bosch, for example, or John Locke–but it should also tantalize you with new facts that inspire you to look up more about it. Like the Pitt Rivers Museum! This is Josie Long’s favorite museum. I’d never heard of it, but looking at its website, it’s an archaeology/anthropology museum and now I definitely want to go…if I’m ever in Oxford.
In Astronomy For Dummies, we learn that Carl Sagan dedicated his life to finding aliens, no matter how unlikely the odds; that naming stars after people is not officially recognized; that Robin Ince wants a constellation named The Space Stick. In The Enlightenment, we learn about France’s philosopherlebrities and von Hagen collecting dead corpses. In Obscure Animal Facts, we learn that moths have super villain names like The Vaporer. We also hear a phone conversation with Josie’s dad who won a science book by beating out all the younger kids. In Propriety, Plants, Grandparents and Growing Your Own, we learn about John Tradescan the pirate hunter and Robert Fortune the tea spy. We also hear a recording of Josie’s grandma that she’d recorded on a cassette mix tape of classical music she’d made for Josie’s birthday. As with all of Josie Long’s longform, you are never without silly witticisms or puns but you’re also never without heart.
You can listen to this show (about an hour in total) for FREE on Josie Long’s website or on YouTube.