Bobby Friction falls for Galileo

Bobby Friction Bobby Friction liked science before he became immersed in music

Bobby Friction has a secret. The Asian Network DJ loved a bit of science as a child. 'Everyone has little hobbies or secret obsessions on the side. Growing up I had a microscope and chemistry kit,' he confesses to Ariel. 'I just loved astronomy and all that sort of stuff and gave it all up for music.'

This early love partly explains why the radio personality chose to champion Italian astronomer Galileo for an episode of Great Lives.

Presented by Matthew Parris and produced by Perminder Khatkar, the Radio 4 series asks guests to pick someone who has inspired their lives.

Parris found Friction's choice hard to swallow, apparently. 'He kept saying, why would an ex-Radio 1 DJ ever pick a historical figure from the 16th century?'

Friction laughs this off, explaining that he rediscovered his love of science while he was travelling the world as a DJ. It wasn't a microscope which rekindled the passion but 'trashy' science fiction.

'I was spending so much time on trains and planes and, believe me, if you are about to go play a gig and have your ear drums blasted, what you don't want to do is plug in your iPod and listen to music.'

'Proper science'

So he read and read some more. He started with Arthur C Clarke and graduated to 'proper science'. He naturally became curious about Galileo, who he calls 'the father of modern science'.

'Galileo is like a running theme for a lot of scientists and that's why I started reading about him,' he explains.

Matthew Parris, David Berman and Bobby Friction Matthew Parris, David Berman and Bobby Friction

Although he was confident about his choice for Great Lives, he became less sure of defending it in front of a theoretical physicist invited onto the show to discuss the astronomer's life.

Friction started to revise, manically referring to a book for facts about Galileo and his accomplishments. Eventually, he decided this wasn't the right approach. He said to himself, 'Look, this is not how you make great radio. That's not how you make anything in life.'

He decided to forget the cramming; instead, he walked into the studio and talked from the heart.

A natural

His passion came across. David Berman, a reader in theoretical physics at Queen Mary College, was so impressed with Friction's argument he believed he should look into presenting science documentaries for kids. The idea had some appeal.

'Wow, maybe I should,' he says with enthusiasm. 'Maybe I should drop all my music and get a job explaining science to kids on CBBC. It would be amazing.'

Friction has a very young audience with which he can practise his TV presenting skills; he's the new father to one-year-old twins. One of them, in fact, has the middle name of Galileo.

He admits that his infant son might not be very thrilled with the name when he's at primary school - but he believes there might be future advantages.

'When he's a young student at university he can actually slide up to girls and say, "My name's Galileo."' The remark makes him roar with laughter. 'I like that there's a story behind it.'

  • Great Lives with Bobby Friction, April 9, Radio 4

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