Tales From The Industry, IX

Friday saw me involved in the shooting of two more segments for a television show. Seems that the ones from last time did not work out too badly, so the program makers wanted to do more. Hurrah!

Friday shoot

This session was also a lot of fun, and one of the segments (especially) could end up being a particularly good example of getting a good chunk of a whole science story – showing the actual processes involved in doing science – on TV, er, depending upon how it is edited, of course. This is one of the major reasons that I do this sort of thing. At least as important (in my opinion) as talking, as I also sometimes do, to the press about the fancier things we do (perhaps involving the origin of mass, and whether the universe may or may not have extra dimensions, etc) is the process of getting involved with people in the media (the “Industry”) to help them bring the foundations and cornerstones of science to a general audience. No fancy stuff, just the basic but ever so important connection between the physical world around them and simple scientific reasoning. This achieves some very important things, which I bet will last longer in a person’s mind and everyday life than random facts about the structure of the universe (although there’s great value in talking about that too, of course). Here are some things about which they might come away with some better understanding: What is science? What does it do? How is it done? Who does it? Who can do it? What can it do for me? What can it not do for me? I really care about this sort of process (“outreach” if you must…), since it contributes crucially to the process of getting people out of their fear and mistrust of science and of scientists – bringing science more into the mainstream, and also (since science and policy on scientific issues dominates our everyday lives) moving us all a little closer to being a society where we all take part in the democratic process, instead of leaving the “sciency” bits to be decided upon a relatively few powerful individuals whose motives might not be in their interests.

Ok. That’s enough seriousness. After all, this is a comedy show I’m appearing on, I’ve been led to understand. (But that’s part of the point!) Why did I like the pieces that we did (with, by the way, a really great crew and excellent producers – thanks Allison and Patti!) on Friday?

The show had a question about how a particular feat (ahem… you won’t believe me if I told you…) was performed, and I put together a bit of physics to illustrate it. I did some measurements/estimations:

Friday Shoot

(Further evidence of Murphy’s Law: – Do a rough version of the measurement before the cameras run…. it works perfectly….. you get an estimate that allows you to run some ball park figures that you’ll use in the interview portion. Having done the interview portion… run cameras on measurement process. Guess what? Refuses to work, again and again… until cameras aren’t running. Then it works. Start all over again…. repeat an nauseum. Sigh.)

… And after measurements and discussion of the theory in general terms, I did a real computation on the board, all of which was filmed, and connected to the problem in hand:

Friday Shoot

… The numbers from the calculation (after some annoyingly misleading numerical coincidences -centered around the number 22- that kept popping up were banished 🙂 – funny how those happen when the camera is running and you’re doing mental arithmetic on the fly) came out rather nicely and gave more or less the result that was seen.

The other segment was fun too, since it involved a pump, vacuum and balloons!

Friday Shoot

As is often said: – What’s not to like?!

Thanks must go to teaching lab directors Joe Vandivier and Angella Johnson for helping me find good demos for camera use and for background decoration.


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12 Responses to Tales From The Industry, IX

  1. Plato says:

    Clifford:This achieves some very important things, which I bet will last longer in a person’s mind and everyday life than random facts about the structure of the universe (although there’s great value in talking about that too, of course).

    I’m glad you added the “in” brackets.

    [….snip…. less relevant part of Plato’s long comment snipped out by -cvj]

    Balloons, as bread rises and distance between galaxies based on the laws of dough making?:) Vacuum, used against the expansion?

    Where do we see these recordings and when?

  2. Plato says:

    Was watching Mad TV last night with my wife, where one of the actors was interviewing Danny DeVito and the other two(sorry it’s early) and the actor saids, “You know, you’ve taken this….. to a whole……nother …….level,” as his hands raise to the height of perfection. 🙂

    “Word play,” is fun of course.

  3. Clifford says:

    Plato… not sure when they air. Jan/Feb or so, on a channel you probably don’t watch. Since I’ve no idea what the final product will look like, maybe it is best that nobody knows 🙂

    I cut your comment up a bit since your trademark long comments with lots of links and connections to other ideas tend to stall things a bit. So one right at the top of a comment stream is not conducive to discussion of the actual subject in hand. Sorry.


  4. Plato says:

    clifford:[….snip…. less relevant part of Plato’s long comment snipped out by -cvj]

    Then, see here.


  5. John says:


    Are you sure this will be a comedy show? It does not sound like it at all from your description. Anyway, still looking forward to seeing it. Will it be on the Discovery channel?

  6. Clifford says:

    Hi John!

    I’ve no idea. But are you saying you can’t imagine some science in a show that is billed as a comedy? 🙂 Excellent! This is one reason why it might be fun to see the finished product… If someone has found a way of gettign a little science into a show that people are not expecting some science to be in, this is good news.

    I’ve really no idea how they are going to use the bits they filmed involving me. So I really cannot say.

    No, it is not on the Discovery Channel. I will tell you more when I can. And more later about some other (possible) projects. I can’t really talk with any definiteness about things that are in early stages, since I do not know where these things are going… and I must be cautious since I am not in control of the shape of the final “product”.

    In terms of other projects… It is very easy for things to not go anywhere… this happens more often than not. So I will tell you about things when I can, as much as it serves to be interesting insights/views on how these things are done, but sometimes I must be annoyingly vague about the details.



  7. John says:


    Well, usually in a comedy show involving science, people often make fun of science or scientists rather than have fun. It, in fact, will be fascinating to see you playing a scientist explaining (or teaching) science in a comedy show. Best luck to you and the show.

  8. Clifford says:

    We shall see, John, we shall see. Actually, a lot of the comedy I expect will be the stuff I am commenting on, and not me or scientists per se. Funny stuff happens… I come on and explain it. everybody wins….

    I hope! (perhaps the joke is on me…)


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