Interview: Dr. Carin Bondar of Stephen Hawking’s Brave New World

Dr. Carin Bondar in a Faraday cage at the Boston Museum of Science

She didn’t get to meet Stephen Hawking, but in the Discovery World series Stephen Hawking’s Brave New World, Dr. Carin Bondar did get to explore how Nikola Tesla’s dream of wireless power is being realized, how biomechatronic prosthetic limbs can create enhanced human beings, was embedded with a virtual SWAT team, and drove one of the fastest accelerating electric cars.

“This was a dream job for me, probably one of the coolest jobs I’ve ever had,” she said in a recent interview.

With the second season premiere “Inspired by Nature” airing tonight in Canada, viewers can oooh and ahhh along with the team of scientists who investigate breakthroughs in science, technology, medicine, engineering and robotics, and their implications for the future.

Tonight’s segments include an adhesive modeled after gecko skin and all-terrain robots. The investigative scientists are assigned story topics based on logistics more than their particular areas of expertise, lending them the same sense of wonder as their audience in discovering these cool new technologies.

Plus, “we’re doing jobs like this because we genuinely are blown away by stuff like this, and we want to learn more about it,” said Bondar, whose wireless power segment had her driving a wireless electric BMW (“I’m glad they didn’t tell me how much it was worth of I’d have been way too nervous to drive it”) and charging a phone and various electronics without those pesky cords.

An evolutionary biologist from Chilliwack, BC, Bondar is an online and TV host for Scientific American, PBS Digital Studios and Earth Touch Productions, as well as her own independent web series and various shows.

She gravitated toward video and short-form writing as working with her greatest strengths. Since promoting scientific literacy and wonder among the public is a goal, she balances the need to be accurate and the need to be understandable.

“Shows like The Big Bang Theory have made it ok to include a lot of that geekspeak, as long as you’re clear about it and your audience understands,” she explained.

Part of her work at Scientific American includes reviewing popular media for scientific accuracy, and she pointed to Rise of the Planet of the Apes as a particularly egregious example of the opposite. Yes, she realizes much of it was meant to be ridiculous, “but even the science was ridiculous and I felt they were mocking what scientists do.”

With Stephen Hawking’s Brave New World, she’s thrilled to be part of a show that celebrates rather than fears new technology.

“I’m a mom of four who lives in Chilliwack, so for me to be involved with an international show of this calibre, I’m just so happy.”

Stephen Hawking’s Brave New World is a six-part documentary series airing Fridays on Discovery World.