Gareth Jones and Violet Berlin

Gareth Jones and Violet Berlin

TV presenters, writers and science fanatics

Gareth and Violet are a couple who love science AND TV. How do they combine these interests? They make fantastic science TV programmes! Together they've worked on lots of radio and TV shows including How2 and The Big Bang.

Here's Violet and Gareth in action on The Big Bang:

Violet and Gareth came to love science by very different routes. Gareth describes himself as a "child of the space age". The moon landings had a profound effect on him and he was fascinated by all things space-y. His father was an electronic engineer who was great at explaining things, which reinforced Gareth's passion for science and engineering.

Violet followed a totally different path. As a child, she hated science at school and an administrative error meant that she didn't study any GCSE sciences! When Violet started working in children's TV she became interested in scientific experiments and practical demonstrations. This kick-started her love of science.

Planet Science interviewed Gareth and Violet to find out all about their most embarrassing moments and favourite experiments.

Who is your favourite scientist?

Violet: Ada Lovelace, who wrote the first software programme, and Jocelyn Bell, who discovered the first pulsar. Also, Einstein, because he did really badly at school! I like the way he had a really boring job and got into science through his thought experiments. Ooo, also the first woman in space - Valentina Tereshkova.

Gareth: Eric Laithwaite, who invented the linear induction motor. Also, Werhner Von Braun, a rocket scientist. His work ultimately led to men landing on the moon.

Do you have any non-science heroes?

Gareth: My brother, who is one of my heroes, said "the key to true happiness is getting things done". All my heroes are people who get stuff done - Bono, Damon Hill, Noddy Holder and Violet!

Violet: My mum! Also, Jonathan Sanderson, who is behind almost every good kids science TV show, including How2 and The Big Bang. It's really important to make good science TV shows. If I had access to that when I was younger, maybe I would have liked science earlier.

Planet Science: Jonathan is also the force behind the recently re-launched Planet SciCast. Have a look and make your own science film!

What has been your most embarrassing moment?

Violet: Plenty! Many! I'll have to think about this...

Gareth: I haven't had too many embarrassing moments, but a lot of unfortunate moments. This often go wrong on science TV shows, but my physics teacher pointed out the value of things going wrong -it leads to greater understanding. We did an experiment on How2 where we tried to get a goosebump reaction on my arm to make the hairs on my arms stand up. Because the studio was boiling hot we never got it to work. Also, I once fractured my arm jumping into a ball pool on How2!

What is your favourite experiment or demonstration?

Gareth: There is one we could never do on How2 for safety reasons as it involves lit matches, so I now do it in my show "How everything you know could be wrong." Here it is:










The explanation often given of how this works is usually wrong, but I know the truth!

Planet Science: Gareth didn't share his explanation with you'll have to work it out!

Violet: I absolutely adore the one where you turn a glass of water upside down with a postcard underneath it. That always impresses people!

I also absolutely love the one where you use sand to visualise soundwave patterns - it's called a Chladni Plate.

What would you do if you didn't work in science TV?

Gareth: I'd like to be the bass player in Slade, run my own Formula 1 team or be the first Welshman on the moon or Mars. Buzz Aldrin once said to me "Aim for the stars and you'll clear the fence", so maybe it's not too late yet!

Violet: I'd like to discover a new species or space phenomenon. I'd volunteer at the Natural History Museum and find something amazing. There are so many undiscovered species - the world needs more people to investigate the animals and plants here whilst we still have them. Or I'd be an astronomer - there's loads in outer space that we haven't discovered yet.

Thanks to Gareth and Violet for answering all our questions! We love your favourite experiments, especially the one with a glass of water and a postcard. We didn't even make a mess when we tried it out!

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