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August 2010

'MythBusters' coming to UNC Science Festival

What attracts a kid to science? I can't speak for everyone, but I think the possibility of making something explode makes a big difference. Isn't that why the baking soda volcano is such a popular science fair project?

It also has much to do with the success of Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman, co-hosts of the Discovery Channel show, "MythBusters," who are coming to the Dean Dome for a special appearance Sept. 19 at 2 p.m.

The 90-minute program, "An Afternoon with Adam and Jamie," will include video clips, outtakes and behind-the-scenes stories from the show. I'll be there, leading a question-and-answer session. (To get tickets, visit

Adam and Jamie know how to make science appealing to adults and children alike. Sure, it helps that there are plenty of spectacular explosions and the wonderfully fizzy combustion that occurs when Diet Coke meets Mentos.

But Adam and Jamie also teach one of the most valuable lessons young people can learn: When it comes to science, there are no dumb questions. If your car went underwater, could you open the door and escape? (Yes.) Is food that's been on the floor less than five seconds really safe to eat? (No.) Can you teach an old dog new tricks? (Yes.)

I'm glad that Adam and Jamie are part of the North Carolina Science Festival, Sept. 11-26. Our Morehead Planetarium and Science Center is coordinating the festival, the first-ever statewide science festival in the United States, with participation by museums, parks, community sites and other facilities across the state. From the mountains to the sea, participants will be grinding corn, examining their own DNA, observing the sky and nocturnal animals by moonlight, and making their own slime and flubber.

More science fun comes to Chapel Hill on Sept. 25 when Carolina hosts our Science Expo Day from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

That Saturday, our campus will be full of free science activities, demonstrations, performances and more. Our Nobel Prize winner Professor Oliver Smithies will deliver a keynote address. We'll be leading tours of various departments -- marine sciences, physics and astronomy, mathematics, archaeology and anthropology, biology -- as well as the N.C. Botanical Gardens. We'll have demonstrations of robots, virtual reality and wave simulators. We'll have shows about physics and the brain. We'll talk about physics in sports, science and music, North Carolina's coastline and advances in cancer treatment.

We'll also host the N.C. Science Challenge, a series of hands-on activities that put to the test the problem-solving skills and creativity of elementary and middle school students. They will build bridges out of spaghetti, create delivery systems to help eggs land safely when dropped and construct catapults to hold items that won't land safely.

Whatever your level of scientific interest, I hope you will join us on campus next month for the Adam and Jamie program, the Science Expo or both.

It promises to be explosive.


Holden Thorp is chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Readers can contact him at

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