Interview: A ‘Fake Science’ Lesson With Phil Edwards

Through his Twitter feed and Tumblr, Phil Edwards is devoted to making the world around us less understandable, and more confusing. That’s because he’s the world’s foremost expert in “Fake Science.” With a new book hitting stands this month, we chatted with the Not-Doctor about how to get into the field, what subjects are off limits for Fake Science, and more:

MTV Geek: Many kids start out with a feigned interest in fake science, but what kept you going through the years?

Phil Edwards: With real science, if you fail to do your homework you fall behind. With fake science, you actually get better the less you do. It took a steady schedule of procrastination, napping, and looking at the ceiling to develop my fake knowledge.

Geek: Where did you study fake science? And how difficult these days is it to get funding at a Pretend Science Lab?

PE: Academically, my fake science is heavily influenced by classic cartoons, a misunderstanding of ancient myths, and a lot of yawning. Subconsciously, there might be a little “Calvin and Hobbes” thrown in as well.

Geek: Seriously though, folks, what led to the creation of “Fake Science?” And what has the response been like?

PE: I started “Fake Science” because a friend and I would walk around and just shout “Science” at any phenomena we didn’t understand. The world is more confusing than ever, so I felt there was a market to understand it without the burden of facts. The response has been generally positive, though I still have people who think even my dumbest fake science facts are real. I worry about them.

Geek: Have you had any interaction with non-fake scientists? And if so, what was their reaction?

PE: I have! They scowl a little, especially when they realize I’m more well-versed in ancient tapestries than physics. Usually, however, they’ll supply a joke that’s more accurately absurd than anything I could come up with.

Geek: In a sense, you probably have to know a lot about actual science in order to create fake science, right?

PE: The pleasure of doing the site has been to think about, research, and learn science at a very basic level. The book has a chapter about Physics, and if you want to make jokes about that, you have to do a little legwork. String theory is crazy enough on its own, so I had to make sure I was getting the fake facts right.

Geek: Do you have a favorite bit from the book? Anything that got cut for being TOO fake?

PE: I didn’t put this in the book, but the instinct of any bourgeoning fake scientist is to explain everything with “tiny people.” The first or second week of the website, I couldn’t use that any more.

For me, the first and last chapters are the best. Called “What is Science?” and “You’re A Scientist!”, they satirize history, academia, the media, and other institutions that I’m all-too-familiar with.

Geek: What about going forward? What fields of fake science deserve more exploration?

PE: I’d say theoretical physics and dinosaurs are fertile ground for fake scientific studies. After all, the only thing you need to connect the two is a working time machine.

Fake Science 101: A Less-Than-Factual Guide to Our Amazing World” by Phil Edwards hits book stores from F+W Media this month!