Theatre of Science

Note: This review is from 2002

Review by Steve Bennett

A comedy show about probability theory and the psychology of deception might sound frighteningly academic. In fact, it turns out to be just plain frightening.

Richard Wiseman and Simon Singh will make you question your own judgement with a series of simple, but astonishing experiments.

And what's more, it'll shake any confidence you may have in the legal system, health screening and even your own eyes.

It's more of a spectacle than a comedy show, as the surprising conclusions are revealed with a magician's flourish. But our two boffins are entertaining and engaging speakers, and the 'lectures' are peppered with enough witty asides to keep things resolutely upbeat.

Singh is the statistician - and as such demonstrates how to win cash in a seemingly fair game of chance.

'Counter-intuitive' is his buzzword, as occurrences you consider highly unlikely are, in fact, surprisingly frequent.

It's backed with real-world examples - such as evidence from OJ Simpson's murder trial, and the failings of Aids testing - to back up his plea for more training in statistics for those making such vital decisions.

Obviously the chances of that happening are negligible - you'll have to ask him for the exact odds - but at least the message is supported by some amusing mathematics (and it's not often those two words are written so close together).

Wiseman, on the other hand, is a psychologist, a member of the Magic Circle, and a big fan of the optical illusion.

His section is a lot lighter on the science, though it does provide a fascinating insight into how we perceive things and process information about the world around us.

This is quite an astounding show - with amazing spectacles pulled off not with some clever sleight-of-hand, but applied science.

Don't fear the men in white coats, this is an entertaining hour for even the most scientifically illiterate.

Review date: 1 Jan 2002
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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