Meet your experi-mentors
Professor Burnaby Q Orbax (PO) and his lab assistant Sweet Pepper Klopek (K) will be your guides through our "Make & Break" experiments chapter in Science & Stuff. They’ll tell you what you need, how to make things (and how not to), and some actual science behind the records (don’t worry: only the fun bits!). Before you put on your goggles and lab coat, though, let’s find out more about our very own mad scientists…Back to Make & Break
They’re some interesting names you have…
PO: Thank you. I don’t insist on being called “Professor” all the time… I’ll also answer to “The Great Orbax”! Admittedly, I get some funny looks when they call out my order in the coffee shop…
So, are you real scientists?
PO: I sure am! I have a degree in physics and mathematics and a Master’s degree specialising in polymer physics. I’m now a physics lecturer where I get to share my passion with the next generation. How lucky am I? Though obviously not as lucky as my students…
K: I don’t have formal qualifications in the subject – music is my main background. That said, I have always loved science. At a young age, I became obsessed with my telescope. The thought of infinite space has blown my mind for as long as I can remember. I was also an avid rock collector and geology nerd, and into model rockets during high school. I was the kind of child who would take stuff apart to see how it works and put it back together feeling very satisfied.
Professor Orbax, what drew you towards a career in science?
PO: I’ve always enjoyed tinkering and building things, but I think my first real exposure was through movies like Frankenstein. The idea of a mad scientist in his secret lab building monsters and robots, surrounded by the buzz of coils and generators, vials bubbling with indiscriminate coloured liquids with unknown but undeniably weird purposes always appealed to me.
Outside the GWR science lab, you both work in the world of entertainment…
PO: That’s right. By night Sweet Pepper and I become the “Monsters of Schlock”, touring the world putting on comedy stunt shows. As well as plenty of bad jokes and magic tricks, our acts often involve daring feats such as walking on broken glass, escaping from a two-man straitjacket and lots of other things that would probably make you wince…
K: I have been in bands for over two decades, music is such an important part of my life. Entertaining is something I must do and now to have the ability to teach kids about science and be entertaining is a dream come true.
We’ve set several Guinness World Records titles through our acts, which really got us hooked on record-breaking; stunts like ours can be very dangerous though, we suggest everyone else sticks to slightly safer – but no less fun – records… Just like the ones that appear in Science & Stuff’s “Make & Break” chapter!
Does your physics knowledge come in handy when devising your acts?
PO: LOL, I’m not entirely sure it does! One thing I do know is that reason, logic and elements of the scientific method play a huge part in how Pepper and I figure out some of our stunts. We try to minimize the danger and understand how the body will react then use logic and basic principles of physics to ensure we walk away unscathed… usually!
Why should everyone give the experiments in Science & Stuff a go?
PO: I’m a firm believer that getting hands on is the best way. They’re great activities the whole family can get involved with. You could ask your science teacher about setting a class around one of the experiments or, if you’re really serious, why not look into setting up a school club?
K: I think it’s really satisfying to make things from scratch. Throw in the chance to set your very own world record with the thing you’ve made and why wouldn’t you give them a try?!
What are your favourite records in Science & Stuff?
PO: This book is packed full of all the exciting things I love about science! I was obsessed with the duck-billed platypus as a child, and was blown away when the Vacanti Mouse became a reality. In terms of my top record, the “Human Hammerhead” Gino Martino will always remain my favourite.
K: There are so many amazing records, but I think mine might be the largest loop-the-loop in a car. It’s so awesome! These crazy car records always blow me away.
It looked like you had a lot of fun trying out the experiments. Can you let us in on any antics that went on behind-the-scenes?
PO: It was super-fun. We wanted to be sure the step-by-steps in Science & Stuff are straightforward. We had a few problems with the Mentos and soda car – most of which resulted in Lab Assistant Klopek getting covered in soda, which was hilarious! For me, anyway!
K: I learned a few important lessons from these experiments. One: always wear goggles when having marshmallows catapulted at your face. Two: avoid getting raw egg in your hair – especially if you have long, luscious locks like myself. It takes ages to get it out. Three: steer clear of Mentos and soda. [Sighs] That’s the life of a lab assistant for you.
As multi-record holders, can you offer any tips for attempting records?
K: Read all the rules carefully BEFORE you start making anything or practising the record. If you miss just one detail, that could mean your application has to be disqualified, which can obviously be devastating. If there’s anything you’re not 100% sure on, drop the folks at GWR a line – they’re always happy to help.
PO: Whether it’s climbing mountains or making stretchy slime, breaking records is never easy, so be prepared for things to not always work. If at first you don’t succeed, look for some inspiration then try again!
Finally, what would you say to kids who find science challenging?
PO: People fall down. That’s science. Fire is hot. That’s science. Night-time is dark. That’s science. These are things that everyone understands, and yet so many of us get scared of studying science.
Not everyone learns in the same way, and it may take a little while to find what works best for you, but don’t lose hope. We live in a time now where learning doesn’t have to start or stop in a classroom. The world is full of accessible resources, whether it’s YouTube, your favourite website or cool books like Science & Stuff.
K: Keep at it: the payoff is worth it. Never give up, even if it is really challenging because once you realise how important it is, it opens up the whole universe. You will never stop learning fun and amazing things!