Children

Author Nick Arnold combines horror and humour to make science appealing

For over 20 years, Nick Arnold has combined horror and humour to make the sciences appealing to children and adults alike

Nick Arnold recalls the time during a Horrible Science show when he had an idea for an experiment: he stood on a table, balanced himself and practised being a tree sucking water. Unfortunately, one of the table’s legs tipped over and he fell and broke his arm. Nonetheless, he completed the show before he was treated for the broken arm. There is a lot he is willing to endure, for the sake of science.

Nick was in Bengaluru at Stonehill International School. The elements of ‘horror’ and ‘humour’ are the reasons why the books are so well received. “Children love to be excited. They love to use their imagination. With Horrible Science, I can be both scary and funny. Sometimes, you see something and you think it is scary and then you realise it is not and you laugh, so I can be scary and funny and get children get excited about science.”

He adds: “If you read the books, you will see that is me talking and thinking — that is my personality. I love to make people laugh and to perform.”

At Stonehill, he entertained the students with his favourite experiments — many involve putting water on people’s heads. “A simple experiment is to get a plastic bottle and make some holes in the bottom, fill it with water and put the cap. You tell people, ‘this bottle has holes, put it on your head and the water will come out.’ It doesn’t, until you take the top off! It is like turning on a tap, and all the water falls on your head. Children find that very funny. They are constantly amazed at how exciting things happen with simple, everyday objects.”

Author Nick Arnold combines horror and humour to make science appealing

The elements of ‘horror’ and ‘humour’ in his books are why they are so well received. “Sometimes, you see something you think is scary, but then you realise it is not and laugh. With Horrible Science, I can be scary and funny and get children to be excited about science.”

Making a case for the sciences, Nick says: “I predicted the emergence of new viruses in the Far East in my book Deadly Diseases, about 10 years before it happened. The threat of new viruses is just one example of changes affecting the whole world. Science is essential if one has to combat scares such as the coronavirus. That’s why it is so important for children to learn about science.”

Nick says he likes to ‘over research’ his books. “Researching is like packing a bag for a journey. When we think what do we need for a journey, we try to find everything and put it into the bag. I do that all the time with my research. I do not know what I am going to use so I want to take everything. But I go through what I find and select the best and most important things.”

His research sources include everything, from books and magazines to newspapers and the internet. “Also I have been fortunate to meet some real scientists, and I always ask them ‘So what is the most horrible thing that has happened to you? And I put that information in my books.”

Though Nick studied history at University, he enjoyed Biology in school. “I had a very good Biology teacher. I was also very interested in writing horrible stories so I loved my English lessons. I discovered that the other sciences, Chemistry and Physics were just as exciting as Biology, when I started writing books and researching science for myself.” Nick says he loves all the sciences for different reasons. “I love the way Physics can explain everything in simple ways as long as you can understand the way of thinking of Physics. I love Biology because it is so diverse and there are these gross, disgusting details. I love Chemistry because I love the way that you can mix things up and make amazing things out of them. But most of all, I love it when children get excited about science, because they are the future, and we need more scientists, we need more doctors, we need more engineers.”

Imagination is key to science, Nick says: “Consider this, some of the most amazing discoveries come like a flash. A scientist’s imagination helps develop new ideas. And for children learning science, imagination encourages them to understand the facts .”

Nick’s approach to his books have changed a little bit over the years. “Science is changing all the time, and so each year I have to change my books a little bit with new discoveries.” ” He, however, disagrees that children aren’t reading as much, in fact he says that is completely untrue. “Children always like to read books. The big change is of course the internet has become much more common. Although the internet is good for getting information, you can only get little bits of information. If you want to be entertained and if you want something that will talk to you, that you want to come back to, you need a book. Nick also contributes to the Wild Lives series, in which there is an Indian connection. “The idea was that people would write diaries about a particular wild animal. I am very pleased to have written about tigers in Ranthambore. It is a story about particular tiger but with lots of facts, which if children read they become experts on tigers.”

Nick says his brain is constantly buzzing with ideas. “I am always learning about interesting facts, especially horrible science facts. Once I find have these facts, I then have these dreams about them. So I imagine stories about them and ideas and people doing things that I can put in my books.” So what is next for the Horrible Science series? “I am not sure, it is up to the publishers. I hope they will be a big celebration of 25 years of Horrible Sciences. “We will have to see what happens.” And his favourite scientist? He was a horrible, nasty man. If I met him he would have been nasty to me because I am not a scientist, but I would still admire him because he discovered how everything in the Universe works without a computer, just using his mind and thinking about it. He is Isaac Newton.”

Why you should pay for quality journalism - Click to know more

Recommended for you
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Apr 8, 2020 9:06:22 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/children/i-can-be-scaryand-funny/article31039093.ece

Next Story