Interview: Kari Byron

Face it, will all loved Mythbusters. It taught a generation of kids & adults to ask questions and make the scientific method fun. So we sat down with Kari to see what she has been up to since Mythbusters ended and how science has changed her life.

Q: Your book has the Tagline “Why Crash and Burn when you can Crash and Learn”. This is great life advice, Why do you think so many kids & adults feel that failure is not an option? PS I love failure, I do it all the time

Kari: Failing sucks. We try so hard, it is work to take a breath and learn from our mistakes. For me, it has become liberating to embrace failure. Every time I fall down and survive, I get a little stronger.

Q: Mythbusters was a phenomenal show and really helped bring science and the scientific method into the forefront for the public. Do you think the humour and playfulness of the show helped get this across, & should more be done to incorporate humour/playfulness into science

Kari: I learned to really love science on the show. I have always been an artist and fostered my curiosity by getting my hands dirty. When we approached science like art, I fell in love. I was having so much fun and the audience was along for the ride. I like to think of Mythbusters like the cheese sauce on broccoli. It tastes so good that you didn’t realize you were eating a vegetable.

Q: Artificial Intelligence seems to be coming along in leaps and bounds. Do you think AI developers should adhere to an ethics board like most regular science research have to?

Kari: I have never had a fear of AI. This question made me google “AI and ethics”, so thanks for propelling me into that rabbit hole of conspiracy theories. hahaha

Q: America used to be at the world leader in Blue Sky Science (Large Projects with unclear financial use, but still important), what do you think caused the decline in this kind of research?

Kari: I have always loved the connection between amazing scientific discoveries and curiosity-driven research. How many inventions happened because we tried to land on the moon?

Q: Do you think pop culture (TV, Movies, Anime) etc does a good job of inspiring kids to take up science?

Kari: Personally, I think science fiction was the catalyst for a generation of amazing scientists. I have a theory that William Gibson’s Neuromancer inspired the internet.

Q: Favourite element in the periodic table?

Kari: How about Kr. Krypton since it is a noble gas in lasers and because, well Superman.

Q: We are currently finalizing a study into women working in the STEM fields to see what inspired them and what hurdles they face. Did you always have a passion for science and building things or did this develop later in life? Follow up: What or who inspired you the most?

Kari: I came to my love of science as an adult. I wished I realized how much I loved it earlier. One of my best friends has an astrophysicist as a mom. Her name is Sandra Faber. In high school, I remember thinking that she had the coolest job and I always looked up to her as a badass woman in science.

Q: What was your favourite experiment from Mythbusters or white rabbit project?

Kari: On Mythbusters, it was the Shark Week myths that I enjoyed most. More recently, I loved the “Mind Control” experiment on the White Rabbit Project. We were trying to emulate superhero powers using current technology. Using a human-to-human interface from Backyard Brains, I was able to control Tory’s muscle movements by hooking us both up to an electrophysiology device. We staged a delicious Italian dinner that turned into a huge mess as I made my Tory puppet spill food and throw wine. I recommend you look that episode up. It was hilarious.

Q: Will there be a season 2 of White Rabbit Project?

Kari: Sadly no. I hope to work with the guys again someday.

Q: Many of the participants in our study have faced biases or outright sexism in their workplace. Although many organisations are moving in the right direction to rectify the gender pay-gap and other gendered issues, what else do you think can be done?

Kari: I think we need to continue to keep the awareness going. I wrote about my own struggles in Crash Test Girl because I think it is an important conversation.

Q: You are now the chief creative officer at ‘Smart Gurlz’. It sounds awesome. What does this job entail?

Kari: Besides being a spokesperson, I will be designing and consulting on new toys that will teach girls coding. I am hoping to include more STEM areas in the future. I learned to love STEM through play and I am hoping to inspire girls the same way.

Q: We have created a character ‘Fiona Fox’ and in conjunction with working women in STEM, plan to write a series of books to encourage girls into the STEM fields. What do you think of her?

Kari: She is so cute. I love the big eyes. I am a sucker for puppy eyes!

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