The Intersection of Comedy and Science at Atlanta Science Festival’s ‘Jazz Hands’

When you imagine Albert Einstein, does he smile? Atlanta Science Festival offers events at the crossroads of science and comedy. “jazz handsis one such session presented by Science for Georgia. Executive Director Dr. Amy Sharma joined “City Lights” host Lois Reitzes via Zoom, along with Dr. Meisa Salaita, Co-Executive Director and Co-Founder of ATL Science, to talk about this year’s Science Festival and its many fun, entertaining and fascinating opportunities for science-loving people of all ages.

This year, the Atlanta Science Fest will return with in-person events and will feature several opportunities for outdoor learning and exploration. “One of my very last events in 2020, before it all fell apart, was called ‘ID the Trees’ which is a fabulous walk-in, Mason Mill Park, learning about the trees around us “Salaita said. “We have all sorts of events that we would normally have had indoors, that we have moved outdoors. So one event that excites me is one that looks at mother nature; “Playing Mother Nature: Modeling Extreme Weather”…just looking at earth science and some of the crazy things our planet does. »

Sharma presented the goals and philosophy of Science ATL, the parent organization of the Atlanta Science Fest, born two years ago to promote science education and interest in communities. “Our principle is to ensure that science is at the service of society,” she said. “We really make sure that whatever we explain, whether it’s volcanoes or how to clean up the ocean, we give people something very small that they can do to experience this science and apply it appropriately. .”

Sharma gave the example of coastal conservation, a daunting topic that often seems impossible for most people to tackle. “How can I, as an individual, do something good?” Sharma posed. “When you talk to experts, they’re like, ‘What we really need is for people to plug their holes when they leave the beach at the end of the day, and we really need them use less plastic.’ And I’m like, ‘This is something anyone can do, and it’s an evidence-based best practice.’

Science ATL engages real scientists in spreading practical knowledge, involving them in community events such as “Science Tales and Trails” and the Atlanta Science Tavern. “Jazz Hands” takes the idea one step further, creating a space for laughter in an accessible atmosphere with real scientists. “When you ask people to name a living scientist, most of the American public can’t. They usually answer ‘Albert Einstein’ and a spoiler alert: he’s been dead for a while,” Sharma said. “We’re not just lab coat hikers, we’re just saying things in dark, windowless rooms, right? We are there. We are your neighbours, we are the coffee people and we really try to do the right thing.

“Jazz Hands” undertakes an arduous task: to inject humor into the most austere subjects, such as particle physics. “We receive about ten [scientists] in a cohort, and we take them from being, you know, just a scientist with a story they want to tell, to someone who has a pretty funny stand-up routine,” Sharma said. “We teach them how to write a joke and what people think is funny.”

As an example, she offered, “There’s a lot going on in Southeast Georgia around animal waste, isn’t there? And so there’s just, like, a plethora of poo jokes, and you really have to accept them.

The Atlanta Science Festival runs from March 12-26 across the city. The “Jazz Hands” science stand-up event will take place on March 23 at Zoo Atlanta’s World Studio space. More information and tickets available at https://atlantasciencefestival.org/.