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'Mythbuster' Kari Byron urges girls to pursue science careers

by John Rabe | Off-Ramp®

Off-Ramp host John Rabe, KPCC Chief Engineer Lance Harper's Tesla coil, and Mythbuster Kari Byron, in the KPCC engineering shop on Nicolai Tesla's 158th birthday. John Rabe

The Discovery Science Center in Santa Ana is hosting an exhibit based on the Discovery Channel's "Mythbusters," which uses practical science to challenge common myths. The show asks, for instance, will a penny dropped from the Empire State Building shatter your skull if you're on the sidewalk below? 

Mythbuster Kari Byron is in town to help open the exhibit, and she spoke with Off-Ramp host John Rabe.  (You can hear their entire interview by clicking the button on the left.)

"Sometimes, when science is taught, it's taught in a way where it's a talking head that makes it feel like it's not accessible, when science is something that everybody experiences all the time," said Byron, who is, in addition to being a Mythbuster, a mom.

RELATED: Brains On! from KPCC's Sanden Totten, a science podcast for kids

"Mythbusters" host Adam Savage has said on Off-Ramp before that he's really worried about the withering of science teaching in America. The show is also very conscious of making sure science teaching is diverse.  This year, Byron hosted the National Science Fair at the White House, where the theme was women and girls in science, technology, engineering and math.

Byron met with many young women who want to be scientists. "I spoke with one girl who said to me, 'Sometimes just the overwhelming pressure to fit in is so much greater than the need to be smart,'" Byron said. "And this was heartbreaking, because they're exceptional girls."

Byron said she usually goes to the openings of the traveling show, and kids love it.  But "what's even more fun is watching their parents, because they will push the kids aside and jump into the exhibit."

Byron's interview at the Mohn Broadcast Center came on the 158th birthday of inventor Nicolai Tesla, and Bryon delighted KPCC's engineering staff by coming into the shop to watch a demo of a home-made Tesla coil.

VIDEO: Watch KPCC Chief Engineer Lance Harper's Tesla coil in action

Mythbusters: The Explosive Exhibition is at the Discovery Science Center in Santa Ana through Sept. 7.

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