This story first appeared in the ABQ Free Press, and can be read here.
Searching for answers to the most dubious scientific mysteries in our world doesn’t have to be a total white lab coat affair. It can be pretty fun too, and change the way we view ordinary things.
That’s the idea behind “Brain Candy Live!,” an upcoming tour set to visit Albuquerque in March. The tour features Adam Savage of “Mythbusters” fame and Michael Stevens, the YouTube star who has amassed millions of followers while exploring questions like “What is déjà vu?” and “What if the Moon was a disco ball?”
Enter Savage, who was looking for someone to tour with. A phone call would lead to a marriage of the intellectual and logistical, and born from the union was “Brain Candy Live!”
“There are some things that I know nothing about that he knows everything about – actually making things and using tools. I only talk,” Stevens said.
While the tour doesn’t kick off until mid-February, Stevens called the planning phase alone a mind-blowing experience. Here was someone who made his name through YouTube videos paired with an icon of the modern science-entertainment-education arena.
“It’s the best position to be in,” Stevens said.
As far as the tour itself, its website likens the show to “a two-hour playdate with Walt Disney, Willy Wonka and Albert Einstein.”
“[Audiences] can expect to leave with a whole new set of skills that they never knew were possible,” said Stevens.
Topics like barometric pressure, how electricity works and scientific principles discovered by pioneers with alphabet soup names? Stevens is confident attendees won’t forget the science they witness after seeing it through his and Savage’s eyes.
He said he is looking forward to a bit of a change of pace as well, returning to the stage – he did some theater in Chicago before finding a niche online – after spending nearly seven years establishing himself as a YouTuber.
“It’s a totally different feeling – you get immediate feedback,” Stevens said, adding that some interaction with the audience will also play a part in how individual shows go.
The subjects explored on the tour are different from anything Stevens has touched on as VSauce, which is almost hard to believe considering the dozens of videos on his channel. As it turns out, live performance is the best format for solving some of the lingering questions that have dwelled in the back of his mind over the years.
“It became obvious that there are some things you just can’t do with a camera and a microphone. You need to do it in person.”
Humble about the craft
Stevens first caught the science bug from his father – an engineer who possessed an unrelenting drive to understand the things around him. That eventually rubbed off on his son.
Stevens went on to become passionate about experimentation and research. A big part of that, as anyone who’s taken a middle school science course knows, is admitting when your initial hypothesis may be wrong. Stevens embraces that.
“I’ll go ask for help, or look it up in the dictionary. One of the most powerful things we can do is be humble about how little we know,” he said.
To explore some of the heavier topics of science, you also need to have a little bit of fun. Stevens’ YouTube videos are as lighthearted as they are informational, like when he says we would become “supersonic tumbleweed” if the Earth ever stopped spinning.
He said people can expect the same memorable approach at “Brain Candy Live!,” the tour’s name itself suggesting an educational experience of the sweetest kind. Their thirst for knowledge might not be quenched on the stage, but for Stevens it’s as much about the curiosity as it is replacing a question mark with a period on a scientific inquiry.
“Nothing is impossible to understand,” he said. “It just might take more time than you might think.”
On a broad scale, Stevens said he’s encouraged by the place science has in society. When he was just getting into the world of asking questions and finding answers, all he had was “Bill Nye the Science Guy” and minimal literature at the library.
But while shows like “Magic School Bus” and “Mythbusters” aren’t pop culture mainstays anymore, it’s because the new generation of answer-finders are taking on that role in spades.
“Now you can watch channels (on the internet) covering everything from medicine to physics to music to biology, hosted by a more diverse group of people,” he said. “It also means we all have a responsibility to share it.”
Locals can take in the knowledge that Stevens and Savage themselves will be sharing when “Brain Candy Live!” visits Popejoy Hall on March 31.