The Onion on Science Programming

Yes, it’s very funny*, and awfully close to the truth as well, at least in terms of the final product. More seriously, it is worth noting that what they get wrong is the blaming of it on audiences. It is actually more about the channels (not just the Science Channel) themselves and the sort of business models they run. We, the scientists who care to, must carry on contributing where we can as well as encouraging and supporting the film-makers as much as we can. It’s not really their fault so much as the people who call the shots at the head of the money food chain. Most of the film-makers I’ve worked with on the many shows I’ve helped with (either in front of or behind the camera, or both) are passionate about the science, are keenly interested in understanding it more so as to tell the story to the public as well as they can, and are capable of doing so. They most often can’t get their shows past the people at the top who believe that the material is too inaccessible or not interesting to the public. (I’ve heard the same complaint from science journalists working in the print media too.) On the other hand, I get recognized and stopped on [...] Click to continue reading this post


I’d take the slower train a lot.

They’re discussing a newly announced long term plan to build a new rail network in the UK that will slice huge chunks of time out of the long distance travel times between London and points North. There are many reasons why this is good news (and some bad, since there’s going to be impact on parts of the country side – this is not upgrade of existing rail lines), and these include the benefits that will result from people choosing rail over cars, and even planes, the possible further decentralization of the country (although I doubt this – I think the overall change in that regard might well be neutral. It might in fact have the opposite effect), and so on and so forth.

The national discussion that has been taking place has been interesting, of course, but I’m not hearing enough about one aspect: That travelling from point A to point B as fast as technology allows is not always the best option. I don’t think that the UK is a very big place, frankly, and I’ve got to the point where I think that the long journeys that I sometimes do on either corridor (West or East) have improved quite a bit over the years to the extent where they are about as fast as I want them to be. virgin_trainI care more about them leaving and arriving on time than I do them getting there much more quickly. Yes, I know that some people have urgent business in London and need to get there fast from Glasgow or Preston or Newcastle…. but would the extra 45 or even 60 minutes really make that much difference? Well, sure it might for some, and I do not mean to remake the world [...] Click to continue reading this post