Topics was delighted to hear this week from Dr Rob Morrison.
Rob hosted The Curiosity Show, along with Dr Deane Hutton.
We wrote on Tuesday about the program, which was originally part of the Here's Humphrey show. It later became a show in its own right.
Rob and Deane were known as the “jumper- and skivvy-wearing scientists”.
“I was the main skivvie culprit, while Deane is recalled for his collection of rather glittery large-collared shirts,” Rob said.
“Both of us confess to a passing involvement with flairs.”
Rob found skivvies to be “a useful bit of kit when you didn't want a collar and tie”.
“They were very useful when colour TV came in, as they allowed you to be colourfully clothed in an appropriate fashion.”
Rob no longer wears skivvies, given the current fashion scene. We recall Steve Jobs was a fan of skivvies. We’re surprised the Apple founder’s famous black turtlenecks didn’t spark a revival. Fashion does go in cycles, though. We’re not ruling out a comeback.
But that’s enough about fashion. Science is the main game here.
Rob, now 74, said working on the show was “a constant joy, although hard work”.
“Deane and I enjoyed the golden years of Australian TV (‘70s and ‘80s),” he said.
“The times suited us both and we drew heavily on our pre-TV childhoods, which gave us both the make-and-do philosophy for which the show became known.”
Some of the inventions on the show, including a mousetrap racing car and paddle-wheeler, are now regularly made in STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] classes.
Some of Rob’s best memories of the show involve rare wildlife.
“Having a crocodile egg hatch in your hands, holding a newly-hatched kiwi, being alone in a cave with millions of bats, holding a numbat when WA had so successfully helped them back from the brink,” he said.
“Wildlife has been my life's pre-occupation and I was privileged to get close to some of the most wondrous aspects of it and bring them to others. One of my segments on the dingoes at Uluru (a few months before Azaria was taken), ended up as evidence in the Chamberlain trials.”
Nerds are Cool
Over the years, scientists have approached Rob to thank him.
“It's a bit daunting when some middle-aged, bald bloke comes up and says ‘you were a great influence when I was young’,” Rob joked.
Seriously though, he said, “who would not be grateful to have their work recalled after 35 or so years?”
“Kids interested in science were called dorks, nerds and dweebs and I suspect that many disguise or drop the interest because of the fear of ridicule and peer pressure.”
As we all know, nerds ended up taking over the world. Now it’s cool to be into technology and scientific stuff. Rob and Deane did it before it became cool. Plus, skivvies were pretty cool back then (we think).
People often say to Rob that the show did a good job of turning kids on to science.
“But in my experience almost every kid starts that way. What kid doesn’t love volcanoes, dinosaurs, animals and explosions. But something turns them off. If we helped some not to be turned off, that is fine by me.”
Rob and Deane acquired the rights to the series' 5000 segments. They created their own YouTube channel, hoping to attract a new audience.
“One recent segment titled “Self-starting siphon” went viral and sits at 730,330 hits – while the channel itself has nearly three million hits, growing daily after only a couple of years,” Rob said.
“Most of the audience is in the USA and India. There still is a lively audience for science – especially making-and-doing science.”
The Dark Side
We spotted this Darth Vader mask attached to a Central Coast Council truck.
Is this some sort of commentary on council mergers being part of the “dark side of the Force”? The merger of Wyong and Gosford councils seemed to be one of the only amalgamations that went through in NSW in the recent hullabaloo on the issue.
But what’s with the yellow eyes? Shouldn’t Vader have red eyes?