Playing with Planets

Somewhere in all the craziness (that has partly been responsible for the light posting of late), yesterday I had time to rush over to a lab to do some demonstrations for a new TV show that is upcoming. It went rather well, since some time was found to prepare all the logistics for it, and one of our lab demo experts, Angella*, did a great job of sourcing the things needed and testing it out beforehand. My job (after helping with the logistics of getting the operation off the ground and connecting some of the dots to make the shoot happen) was to show up and talk about the science and do the demonstrations.

It was about conditions on some of our popular neighbouring planets, and so in addition to holding models of the dear things and talking a bit about them to camera, I engaged in some demonstrations. The demos were simple enough – showing how to boil water at room temperature by simply dropping the pressure, and showing how sulphuric acid wreaks havoc with sugar by sucking the water out of it, making an impressive black column of carbon… fun!

I was glad to be doing some science discussion for public consumption again as we did not shoot any new episodes for The Universe this Summer (as in previous years)… They are still working through the backlog of shows we shot from last year, apparently. Part of the recent craziness was dashing off to another part of town last week to shoot some segments for another show entirely (some online material for a TV channel), and to be honest I felt less good about that work. It was entirely my fault. I was not flowing very well (possibly due to being a rusty?) and was not as in command of all the background material as I like to be (although I did not have to talk about the background material). I was talking about subjects (not physics) that I had warned that I was only going to feel comfortable saying fairly general things about, and everyone involved understood that, but I still felt less than at peace sitting there saying broad-brushtroke sorts of things. I’ve no idea if they will use it – maybe it read as slightly stilted as it felt.

On the other hand, when it came to the demos yesterday, I was very pleased with everything… Maybe I was deluding myself, but it seemed to flow pretty well and the demos made some sense along with the words I said off the cuff. I don’t know if that is because I knocked the rust off, or because I had a better idea of what was needed from me and where it all fit… not sure.

Anyway, back to electromagnetism now…(Stay tuned for news of an upcoming public conversation about science matters that I just got a call to do…)


*Thank you Angella for all the photos posted here!

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5 Responses to Playing with Planets

  1. Rob Jaworski says:

    This is the main reason I follow your blog, your efforts of outreach and educating the public in areas of science. I’m part of the San Jose Astronomical Association, and we hold monthly meetings where we invite professional astronomers and researchers (among others) to come give a talk to our members and the local amateur astronomy community.

    If you are ever up in the bay area, around the time when we have our meeting (usually a Saturday evening during full moon), we may want to discuss having you come speak. We’d love to have you.

    Thanks and regards,
    Rob Jaworski
    San Jose Astronomical Association

  2. Clifford says:

    Hi Rob,

    Thanks for the comment… great to hear from you. And indeed, I’d love to come and speak some time!



  3. Rob Jaworski says:

    Excellent, Mr Johnson, I appreciate it. We’ll keep an ear/eye out for you. And at some point, you may be contacted by my colleague who manages our speaker schedule.

    Rob Jaworski

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