Students at the Paia Youth and Cultural Center (PYCC) in Paia, Maui, teamed up with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and started a new radio show for the low-power radio station, Radiopio. The show, called “Astrofacts“, explores questions about the universe and creatively reports findings on air in short, highly entertaining spots. The kids at PYCC produced each segment of the show, now numbering about 30, together with the Laura Civitello, the program director for Radiopio at PYCC, and Adam Burgasser, assistant professor of physics at MIT (and full disclosure, my husband).
The spots take a fresh look at some important questions about the universe. If you’ve ever wondered what black holes colliding and duking it out might sound like, Michelle and Mason, PYCC members, re-enact such a scene in their segment “Black Hole Showdown“. (If you have no idea what a black hole is, not to worry, the kids will make you laugh anyway.)
In another fun spot, Charae and Mekena sing “Happy Birthday” to the universe, only to realize that 13.7 billion candles will never fit on a cake. Even intergalactic weather gets its due with a series of spots that humorously report the local (and bizarre) weather conditions around the Milky Way.
The show also includes interviews with scientists, such as Roy Gal and Robert Jedicke, both assistant professors of astronomy at the University of Hawaii. Charae reached out to Maui phenom Harriet Witt, the official astronomer of the Maui Film Festival. In her interview with Witt, Charae finds out how one person of science can embrace both astronomy and astrology and explain it all in a way that most people can understand easily.
When the program first started in March 2009, the kids recorded the spots using scripts. But after a few segments, the PYCC members really took off running with their own ideas, according to Civitello. Thanks to PYCC’s mission of providing a forum for fun–not more school work–for its members, the program has stayed true to its core mission of recreation. The program has evolved accordingly into something much more creative and innovative than originally envisioned, says Burgasser.
The stated purpose of Astrofacts, as posted on the blog, is to “touch on all aspects of astronomy and space science, as well as science-related topics relevant to the Maui community…guided by the principals of ‘oli ‘oli (fun and enjoyment), kipaipai (encouragement and inspiration) and akamai (good old smarts!).”
You can listen online to Radiopio and try to catch the spots when aired. Alternately, you can hear the spots on demand on the Astrofacts blog. Either way, the spots are likely to make you laugh out loud. Listening may alter your view of our universe, at least temporarily, through the lens of kids having fun.