William Rudling Illustrator-Designer

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science poster

BBC Material World’s Challenge (2012)

As one of four finalists out 1000 applicants I want to say a’ big thank’ you to all who participated in the ‘Faces and Voices Experiment’; This was part of the BBC Material World’s Challenge ‘So you want to be a Scientist?’ The finals took place on 16th June at The Times Science Festival Week in a very wet Cheltenham.


Before I talk about the highlights, I’ll briefly explain what my theory is about. I’ve drawn faces at many events as a caricaturist and discovered my theory that you are born with a pitch of voice that is influenced by the shape of your skull, the structure of your mouth and the larynx – a soundbox? Dialect and accents come later with social interaction. See detailed poster

I didn’t win, but to be one of four finalists was special and the experience of promoting and researching the Faces and Voices experiment was amazing. During the Spring Bank Holiday I was in Sheffield as part of the ‘Bang Goes the Theory’ Road Show event. During the run up the Science Festival, finalists attended a Road show event in Birmingham or Edinburgh. I loved ‘working the crowd’ persuading them to use one of the computers and choosing random faces and voices. Eight hundred and eighty five Sheffield folk helped us that weekend- the highest number out of the four experiments.


Two encounters l will always remember, the first one was a man complaining that ‘We shouldn’t be doing it at all!  Why I asked incredulously? Waste of money’, he replied. ‘The BBC is a public service and promoting science- look at kids enjoying themselves- why don’t you enjoy too?’ He looked at me, smiled and said ‘Have a good day, comrade’. I didn’t give him a clenched fist salute.
A lady left me with a golden nugget of information in my second encounter. She recalled her father had throat cancer and underwent successful surgery, but it left him without the power of speech. But she remembers the noise he produced was of a pitch similar to his voice!’ I think you’ve got something worth investigating here’, she said.


Another highlight was a visit to the BBC Academy and all four finalists travelled to London for a crash course in speech and drama. Our coach was an actor and she puts through various exercises for relaxation and voice projection. I wouldn’t have missed that for all the pen nibs in Cornelissen’s. It certainly gave an insight into actors prepare themselves.


The results of all the preparation work? Online, we had 2258 people who took part via the web.


There is a positive effect of 60.6% which is significantly greater than chance (probability<0.0001 in a binomial test). 
Now that finals are over and the deadline met, my mentor and I can investigate three-dimensional face recognition and the academic interest the BBC challenge has stimulated. There certainly wasn’t time before the 16th June (2012).  

I’ll keep you in the ‘loop’ for future developments.