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15 minutes with... Mark Lewney 15 minutes with... Mark Lewney

FameLab2005 brought a new face to the front of science - Mark Lewney, a guitar-playing scientist with something to say. The Null caught up with him on a break from the media.

NH - Mark welcome, Have you been busy since FameLab?

ML - Yes, with various science festivals and events and the like, as well as the arrival of my son Woody.

You played the guitar in the FameLab final last year! Is music all about physics?
I started at age nine and practised a lot during my teens because I was scared of girls. Nowadays, I carry out anthropological research by playing guitar in Welsh pubs. Music is all about vibrations and the simple maths behind them - there’s no magic, but that doesn’t diminish music’s effect on us. I can make a person cry with a single note, if it’s loud enough.

So apart from music, what do you think is the most important invention?
The computer, for the advances it has allowed in almost every field of science and technology. My finest achievement has been completing all ten levels of electronic Scramble. 

Congratulations! What’s your favourite piece of research? 
I have discovered that when you wiggle your fingers in your ears very quickly it sounds like you’re in a helicopter. 

Nothing to do with dropping buttered toast or Marmite then, are you a fan?
No, I hate it, but we always fear that which we do not understand.
Science rocks with Mark Lewney
 Profound. Is that the discovery which made you enter FameLab?
Well, I entered for a laugh and had many more than one. I also thought there was a small chance of me winning. 

Would you like to do TV work full time?
Oh, full time telly would be great - and I’d still be home most evenings and weekends. But I’m realistic about how long it takes to establish yourself such that you can give up the day job - I'm just starting out. 

Yes, your day job is currently with the UK Patent Office. Do you like it there?
Yes, I’ve been here five years now. It’s a low-stress, family-friendly job which works your brain over and keeps you informed of the latest trends in technology. The Patent Office is also very accommodating with my FameLab duties - science ultimately fosters innovation and new inventions. 

Have you seen any really bizarre patent ideas there? Such as we feature in our patent lunacy section?
Well, my patents aren’t that weird really since I work in telecoms - I tend to get the tricky encryption or coding cases rather than the more colourful stuff. 

Who do you most admire in the world of science presenting?
Patrick Moore, a xylophone-playing scientist whose monocle I am not fit to polish. 

What advice would you give to this year's FameLab entrants?
Don’t give two hoots about “what they’re looking for”; just do what you’d like to see done.

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