Call him “Neutron Bob” or even “Bob the Science Slob” and he won’t mind. Those are just a few of the nicknames Bob Hirshon has adopted during his appearances on the “Absolutely Mindy” radio show.
Once a month, Hirshon, senior project director for media programs at AAAS, appears as the science expert on the kids’ radio program. Mindy Thomas hosts the segment, which is a part of the “Kid’s Place Live” channel on SiriusXM Satellite Radio. Hirshon and Mindy talk about the latest scientific developments and answer kids’ science questions.
Hirshon is no stranger to radio. The award-winning executive producer and host started the 60-second science feature, “Science Update,” at AAAS in 1988. Today, the show is broadcast on hundreds of U.S. radio stations.
In January, Hirshon began a guest spot on “Absolutely Mindy.” He brings in a few kid- friendly stories from “Science Update” and shares them in the “Absolutely Mindy” studio every month. The program gives Hirshon the opportunity to interact with Mindy’s audience of kids and parents. Mindy encourages the kids to call in to the studio and join in on their conversations, which tend to be highly animated. Hirshon receives a wide range of questions: Do ants sneeze? Do fish get thirsty? Why is dirt brown?
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Watch Bob Hirshon in the “Absolutely Mindy” studio at SiriusXM Radio.
As Mindy plays a song and answers the packed phone lines, Hirshon sits down in front of the studio mic, pulls on pair of sticker-covered headphones and prepares to go live.
“It really keeps me on my toes and there’s sort of this adrenaline rush where you’re on the air,” Hirshon said. “You can’t let too many seconds pass and you have to come up with a satisfying answer.”
Hirshon also encourages the listeners to call in to tell him about their own experiences relating to his science news. After Hirshon reported on new developments with creating a seedless cherimoya, a fruit with seeds as large as coffee beans, a listener called to the studio to tell Hirshon she had tried a chocolate covered cherimoya at school.
Just as entertaining as the science stories is the interaction between Mindy and Hirshon. Mindy adds to the conversation with contagious enthusiasm that creates a fun and lively atmosphere for teaching kids about science.
“The rapport she has with kids and the energy she brings to it is amazing,” Hirshon said. “She’s very curious, like a kid herself, so she’ll have great follow-up to the questions the kids ask and keeps it lively.”
During his studio visit in April, Hirshon talked about why birds occasionally fly into man-made objects. He described research on bird vision showing that many birds that fly into things have eyes placed far to the sides of their heads, and don’t see in front of them very well. Mindy playfully suggested there should be some sort of invention that helps the birds see in front of them.
“We could sell it to birds,” Hirshon added.
“That’s a good idea, but they don’t have a lot of money,” Mindy replied.
“That’s true,” Hirshon agreed. “They’d have to trade earthworms for it or something.”
Hirshon believes that people who work in the sciences develop that interest when they are young. Having a positive experience in the science world at an early age can shape the way they view the subject in the school curriculum.
“I met a dolphin-trainer when I was really young, and I would watch the NASA missions,” Hirshon said. “That really got me inspired, and I like to think that there are kids listening to ‘Absolutely Mindy’ that will get inspired to do science, too.”
“Absolutely Mindy” airs weekdays at 3:00 p.m. ET on SiriusXM Radio 78.