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!
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:
(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:
… 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!
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.