What happens when a current Jeremy editor interviews a previous Jeremy editor?
Dr Ben Fulcher is a researcher and senior lecturer working in the Complex Systems Group here in the Department of Physics. But before this he was an undergraduate studying a B.Sc. (Adv) (Hons) majoring in Physics and Nanoscience and Technology here at the university. During this time, Dr Fulcher was an editor of the Jeremy magazine so we decided to ask him a few questions regarding his time on the team.
Hi Dr Fulcher, thank you for talking to me today.
Thanks for having me.
Now first things first, why do you think Jeremy is called Jeremy?
I don’t have a conspiracy theory. I think it might have been named after Harry Messel’s crocodile, but I’m not sure.
Why did you join Jeremy in the first place?
I’d just done a year of doing the Scisoc publication, Aquaregent, in 2005… 2006, maybe, and my friend Felix wanted to revive the Jeremy magazine in the physics department so because I’d just had that year of writing he brought me on and it was really fun. I really enjoyed doing the Scisoc one; I kind of revived that, and we were doing heaps of satire articles. In the past, that magazine had been very serious, as in here are some serious, budding science communicators telling stories about science and we kind of emphasised the community or the fun aspect of being a student doing science. It was more joke stuff, reviewing music or talking about what made scientists tick outside of their studies and building a more diverse community than just dry reporting on scientific topics. It was really fun to do, and we then brought that to Jeremy… so basically my friend roped me into it. But it was so fun, I’m really glad I did both of them.
Did you change Jeremy the way you changed the content of Aquaregent or was Jeremy already running satire etc?
We didn’t have much to work off [because Jeremy hadn’t been run for a few years]. I hadn’t seen a previous one, I think Felix might have. I basically just did it in the image of the Scisoc one but made it physicsy. If I looked at the older versions they may have been a little drier, maybe so I also wanted to bring the community aspect with it. I should probably go back and read some of my ones, they’d probably be embarrassing. Back in the day, the physics tea room was vibrant. It was a big room. At the top of the stairs, when you go up the stairs from Slade, all those offices were just one big tea room and people were always in there. Students were in there, academics had their morning and afternoon tea there and it was just constantly full of people making coffees and chatting. It was just a really special place so we always put the Jeremys in there. So it made jokes about the academics, it teased idiosyncrasies of different academics, and they loved being teased because they thought they were in with the student culture. And we used to give it to students coming out of Slade, like as they walked out of the lecture. We mastered the technique of what angle to give such that they’d be least likely to push it away. There’s an angle you can present the paper at where, when someone’s walking towards it, it’s easier for them to take it than leave it. And we had enough puzzles on it so that, if it was an end of day lecture, some people would see the puzzles and think “oh, I’ll do that on the train”, so people would get hooked on nerdy puzzles. I think we started equation spot the difference and the face merges of a mystery academic and three undergraduate.
Maybe we need to start those back up again…
I had one big article on scalar energy.
Do you think that’s the one you’re most proud of?
Maybe. It was a three page, triple column piece on pseudo-science. No one cared about it though...
You mentioned the cultural side of Jeremy, how do you think being a member of Jeremy influenced your university experience specifically?
I think it’s getting easier to o through a whole degree where the university experience is just the lectures and tutorials – the contact hours, and especially in Covid you don’t get the banter, you don’t get the sense of community, you’re not chatting to your friends before and after the lecture, you’re not going to lunch and talking about what makes you curious, what makes you who you are, what you’re passionate about. And meeting unique people and learning what they’re thinking about, what they see in the world and refining your own sense of who you are is so important for living a fulfilling life going forward. The uni experience can’t let go of that, it’s almost more important [than the contact hours]. You could learn a lot of the content online yourself or reading textbooks, but you can’t substitute that element of sitting in Manning Bar and just hanging out – it’s the irreplaceable part of an in-person uni experience. So for me being part of the Jeremy team was a confidence building thing because now I had a little role to play in this most important part of the modern university so you feel that responsibility to make it good for others because, you know, that’s what we’re there for. I think it really taught me to treat that bit seriously and it’s a proud thing too because it’s something that the academics can’t do, the student’s have to do this for themselves. And you learn leadership and how to motivate, or how to get people involved and break down those barriers where it’s easier to just say “oh no, I’ll just go to the lecture and go home”. Especially when people are introverted, because in physics you get a wide variety of personality types so you’re catering to those where the generic university social clubs of “come and get hammered”, “come and get trashed”, “come and make out with randoms'' don't appeal. So Jeremy fills a bit of that catering. Though looking at my old Jeremys I don’t know if I lived up to that… but being part of these societies in a way where you’re responsible for building community is a really important thing to do.
What is your favourite all time Jeremy article?
I don’t really know many others apart from my own, but one of the best one we did was one called “Brew Space '' where we went to all the coffee shops around campus and we plotted their coffees in a higher dimensional space. What’s another one…? I liked the “Theory boys” which wasn’t one of mine, but they photoshopped the theory group onto the Beastie Boys, that was a great image. Mine weren’t very good looking back on them. I was proud of “Fusing Physicists” and “Equation Spot the Difference”, but my front pages weren’t very high quality.
Now in our quote competition, we know that Prof. Bedding is very invested. Did you have the quote competition and was anyone a standout in that?
Yeah, we had it. I used to love it, but I think it works best when the lecturers don’t know about it. The funniest ones are the ones that come out of an awkward professor where they don’t realise they are being looked at on that weird line that they say. The genuine ones that are unexpected, I used to like those ones.
Thank you for sharing your experiences with Jeremy.
Thank you for having me.