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“People have no idea what happens inside a computer,” Parker says. “We smile and agree. People really just don’t understand, do they? I don’t understand, but keep it to myself. 

“People know they have a mouse and a keyboard and somewhere inside magic happens. There’s a hard drive, a processor and RAM but they don’t understand how a computer does calculations – it is just an inanimate object.” 

To illustrate the inner machinations of this magical apparatus, Parker demonstrates how the signal in the chips inside our phones and computers works with a painstakingly created 10,000 piece ‘computer of dominoes’ that adds binary numbers together – our computers’ basic function.

“It takes up 10 square metres, and took 10 people six hours to set up,” he says.

“We knew we were going to knock bits over though so we left gaps – our motto was, ‘trust the gap’. Once you knocked something over you got someone else to fix it as you didn’t want it to get personal. You don’t want to be putting up dominoes with a sense of revenge.”

Where computers have taken over the world now – not literally … yet! – there are some areas in which Technobabble suggests early estimates of our technological achievements have not been fully realised. 

“Robots have been the ones that have let us down,” Parker laments, perhaps longing for a Robocop or HAL-ready present in which chores and maybe even law enforcement could be carried out by man-controlled automatons. 

“Computing power has vastly exceeded any predictions,” he continues, “but any form of artificial intelligence has lagged way behind. We are going to show examples of AI, though – there’s a thing called Chatbot that you can chat with, but it is very obviously only a computer. We’re still a long way off [being able to create] anything that will pass as intelligent.”

Despite a focus on improving our understanding of science and technology, the Nerds’ shows are just as much about our successive, rhythmic, spasmodic expiration with open glottis, or laughs.

Their mix of comedy, cabaret, live experiments, songs and audience participation has won them plaudits galore since they pooled their smarts after a meeting at the Edinburgh Fringe. 

“It’s a comedy show about science and technology and maths and geekery and nerds,” Parker says.

“But you can come along if you enjoy watching The Big Bang Theory but don’t always get all the science-y stuff.

"If you happen to know some science-y stuff there’s another layer of jokes for you and some amazing bits of science, too.”

Time for some mind expansion.

Festival of the Spoken Nerd play Full Frontal Nerdity. Mar 22. £7.50. 

The Inspiring Science season is at the British Library from March 11-24.  
British Library, NW1 2DB  
Tube | King’s Cross  
bl.uk

Technobabble. Apr 16-18. £14.
The Bloomsbury, WC1H 0AH  
thebloomsbury.com  
Tube | Euston Square  

festivalofthespokennerd.com

 

Photos: Idil Sukan; Isabelle Adam


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Interview - Festival of the Spoken Nerd: The comedy-science troupe on perfecting the formula for laughs and a little learning, too
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