Surrounded by a crowd of people, or just at home at your desk, you can listen to scientists share the stories of their lives on "Story Collider"
Story telling is an art, so much so that there are dozens of outlets across the country for live and audio performances. Programs like “This American Life,” WBEZ’s highly engaging public radio show broadcast with Ira Glass, features hook worthy narratives organized around common themes. “The Moth,” a non-profit organization based in New York, brings people to the stage to share their own stories, also around a theme. It was from a simple story on The Moth that I became aware of another group of yarn-tellers: "Story Collider."
By Larissa Zimberoff
Started in 2010, Story Collider believes that everyone has “a story about how science made a difference, affected them, or changed them on a personal and emotional level.” Six science-y guests get up on a stage, from New York to Chicago and more, to recount their experiences with science—becoming vulnerable, making us laugh, and, at times, spiraling topics over our heads, not unlike being back in 10th grade AP Chemistry.
The voice of Ben Lillie poured out from the radio: “I’m sitting in the orange room at the Stanford Linear Accelerating Room, as one does.” It was a mix of “we all do this” and the truth, since very few of us would actually be sitting in the Stanford Linear Accelerating Room. Lillie's tale reached out from the speaker and grabbed our attention. He was telling the story of feeling like an imposter. As a 2nd year graduate student at Stanford he was afraid the faculty would figure out that he knew nothing about nonperturbative applications of quantum chromodynamics to collider phenomenology. Say again? Nonperturbative what?
We have all felt like imposters when the conversation goes above our head, but this was an example of a discussion that very few in the world could engage with.
The story Lillie was on stage sharing was one we all can relate to: what should I do with my life? Lillie’s road started as a high-energy particle physicist and evolved into writing and science theatre. While on the Moth stage, Lillie heard about another scientist, Brian Wecht, a string theorist who did musical comedy on the side. Once the two met it became clear that if there were two scientists in a room wanting to tell their story, there was sure to be more.
“I’m fascinated by the human side of science,” Lillie told the Times Dot Earth blog about why exactly he wanted to bring these stories out of the halls of science. Lillie and Wecht wanted to answer the questions that kept coming up—the Whys and Hows of life. You can hear Lillie’s gripping story, “The Imposter Heart Attack,” here.
The next Story Collider show, themed Charting New Territory, is January 28th at the Oberon Theater in Cambridge, MA.