Science on TV – Having Your Say

Recall that I told you about the pilot for the upcoming show Wired Science in an earlier blog post. It airs today, (Wednesday, January 3) on PBS. It was made by KCET here in Los angeles, and as you may recall from the post, in August I learned some interesting things about the context in which the show sits. It is rather interesting. It’s all part of a head-to-head competition, or “experiment” as PBS are calling it.

You see, there are two other shows being piloted on PBS over the next couple of weeks too. One is Science Investigators, made by WGBH, Boston, and the other is 22nd Century, made by Towers Productions (I think). They are three different takes on a science TV show format. The casting, scripting, presentation… all these things vary a great deal.

They’re really trying to come up with newer, more accessible formats, with the aim of getting science out there to the general public. This is a great thing. Only one show will “win”, sadly. The prize is the go ahead to make more episodes, and have them air on PBS. The judges…. this is the important part… The Judges are YOU. Go to the PBS site […] Click to continue reading this post

Science Sense

I learned just now that there’s a charity in the UK called Sense About Science. From their website, I read:

Sense About Science is an independent charitable trust. We respond to the misrepresentation of science and scientific evidence on issues that matter to society, from scares about plastic bottles, fluoride and the MMR vaccine to controversies about genetic modification, stem cell research and radiation.

Our recent and current priorities include alternative medicine, MRI, detox, nuclear power, evidence in public health advice, weather patterns and an educational resource on peer review.

This is good to hear about. Recall earlier that I was wondering aloud whether there was anything in the UK that is equivalent to the USA’s Union of Concerned Scientists, or the recently formed Scientists and Engineers for America. This is not really an equivalent organization (they consult with scientists, rather than being a scientist-run organisation for example, and they seem relatively disconnected from the makers of public policy, where a lot of the real battles are to be fought), but they are at least swimming in the same waters.

I learned about them because they’re in the news today. ‘Tis the season for […] Click to continue reading this post

Tales From The Industry X – Wired Science

Well, there was something I could not tell you about before that I now can. There’s a new TV show called “Wired Science” about to launch. It is made by the PBS affiliate KCET, and will air on your local PBS station (on Wednesday, January 03, 2007, 8:00-9:00 pm ET). It looks like it is going to be informative and fun!

wired science banner

Here’s some of their blurb from the press release:

WIRED SCIENCE is a one-hour program that translates Wired magazine’s award-winning journalism into a fast-paced television show. WIRED SCIENCE brings Wired magazine’s cutting-edge vision, stylish design and irreverent attitude to the screen with breakout ideas, recent discoveries and the latest innovations. The pilot episode takes the viewer into the world of meteorite hunters, where space, commerce and art intersect; travels to Yellowstone National Park to harvest viruses that may hold the key to a technology revolution; and dives underwater to explore NEEMO, NASA’s extreme astronaut training program. Viewers will meet rocket-belt inventors, stem cell explorers and the developer of an electric car that goes from zero-to-60 in under four seconds. As a series, WIRED SCIENCE hopes to span the globe to uncover novel developments in biomedicine, space exploration, artificial intelligence, neuroscience, robotics and military technology.

wired_sciecne_trailerAnd you can go to the site to see stills from some of the location work they did in making the show, and some of the studio work too. You can go to this Wired blog post to see the rather nice title sequence of the show, and the teaser trailer. To the right, there’s a screen shot I made just now (click for larger).

I don’t think that they have the go ahead to make a full series yet. This is a pilot. I imagine that whether they get the full series go ahead depends upon whether it is well liked and supported by you, the viewer. I’d say support it. the people behind it really care about getting good science programming out to you.

So what’s the big deal? Why did I not tell you about it if I’ve known about it for so long? Well, nobody told me not to tell you, but it seemed the right thing to do. You see, I have a little secret. How do I put this? I’m going to get so beaten up in the playground for this. […] Click to continue reading this post


While we’re on the subject of women in science, some other news*:

Well, they’ve done it! Some of the women – Anna and Anne – who run InkyCircus (Life in the Girl Nerd World) have done what they said they’d set out to do a while back – they’ve started a science magazine.

Congratulations Anna and Anne!

It is called Inkling (…on the Hunch that Science Rocks), and here’s the banner (I hope they don’t mind me linking it for advertising purposes): […] Click to continue reading this post

Women in Science – What to Do Next?

Cornelia Dean has written a very interesting article for the New York Times about the things people are doing to change the current situation concerning the underrepresentation of Women in Science in academia. It continues on from the discussion we were having after the September release of the report by the National Academy of Science on the issue.

The key point under discussion? From the article:

Since the 1970s, women have surged into science and engineering classes in larger and larger numbers, even at top-tier institutions like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where half the undergraduate science majors and more than a third of the engineering students are women. Half of the nation’s medical students are women, and for decades the numbers have been rising similarly in disciplines like biology and mathematics.


Yet studies show that women in science still routinely receive less research support than their male colleagues, and they have not reached the top academic ranks in numbers anything like their growing presence would suggest.

In fact, it is only in the social, behavioral or life sciences that the proportion of women full professors has risen into double digits – 15 percent or so. Something goes wrong. What is it?

at each step on the academic ladder, more women than men leave science and engineering.

The current article reports on a number of gatherings on various campuses – conferences organised to network, share, and brainstorm a bit on the issue. There are interviews with several people, and experiences and anecdotes are shared. Very much worth your time to read. Discussed are a wide range of topics, the most central being that it is still the case that women are judged by different standards than men. Even though often times it might seem to be something as simple as what to wear to a meeting – it makes a difference. These things all add up. Other things mentioned are the two-body problem, mentoring, letters of recommendation, children and motherhood, and negotiating skills, among others.

I’ll let you read the article, but do come back and let us know what you think. We’ve been through a lot of this discussion before, so one aspect I’d like to hear about is the following: What are you doing about the issue in your own sphere of influence? Are […] Click to continue reading this post

Odd One Out?

When I first came to the USA, I recall being scared and shocked upon going to the hobbies section of a magazine shop and seeing all the different gun magazines. Come to think of it, it still scares me a bit, but I suppose I’m used to it – cultural differences and all that. Today I found something I’d not noticed before in the magazine section of Borders at Sunset and Vine that scares and shocks me a bit. I’m not sure I should just leave it at cultural differences. It seems more like a problem, to me. Let me see if it jumps out at you:

Is it just me, or is one of these magazines scarily out of place?* (Click for larger).

bible study and science

[…] Click to continue reading this post

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!

[image from 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 reason 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 to help them bring the cornerstones of all 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 […] Click to continue reading this post

Some Observations at Griffith Observatory

So I must apologize. I went to the preview of the Griffith Observatory so long ago now and did promise to blog about it with more than just one nice picture, but it did not happen. Partly because I had to go back across the Atlantic to do some work, and then got ill over the weekend I was planning to do it, and then…

Griffith Observatory

Anyway, here are some of my thoughts. First note that my two week delay means that this is no longer a scoop, since even the LA Times had a spread on the whole thing on Thursday. A rather nice one as well. I urge you to consult it for a lovely pull-out graphic of the whole site. There is also a special website with picture tours, nifty 360 degree interactive shots of the spaces, and other information. The Griffith opened yesterday.

What they’ve done over the last four or five years is simply shut down the entire building and rethink and redo a great deal of it. How to preserve the lovely 70 year old landmark, while making it even better? Simple question – simple answer: Get $93 million for your project (I find this number, the earth-sun distance in miles, suspicious), and then go underneath the existing building and hollow out about the same amount of space that is has, but underground. Fill it with lots of goodies. And I mean lots and lots. What goodies? We’ll see. […] Click to continue reading this post

Government Gets Stern

Well, as you can tell by looking in the “environment” category here, I’m likely to be pleased to hear about the Stern report, released yesterday (Guardian article and links to report here) and also pleased to hear that the UK government is taking the report seriously…. more or less.

I’d have a lot more to say, but I’ve said so much about this already, and I’m not really up to a long post on this right now. But I could not let this excellent (and hopefully landmark) event go unmarked. The point, as has been said before:- Nobody is going to get going on this because it is “the right thing to do”, since it is difficult for individuals and businesses to act in a way that makes things less than convenient for yourself for a cause that seems so abstract. Pure market forces will not do it either. We need actual leadership from the scientists -which has more or less happened for a while now- and action and structure put in place by the people who will really get things going: economists and then governments (because they follow the money).

Well, Stern is a major figure in the “economists” group, and so this is good news. I must admit though that it really did make me cringe every time I heard the announcers on BBC Radio 4, while trying to emphasise how significant the report’s findings were, saying things like […] Click to continue reading this post

More Scenes From the Storm in a Teacup, V

At the (K)ITP the other day there was a journalist-led discussion/presentation on the largely-media-driven “controversy” about string theory. You know my opinion on this -it’s a largely made up story based on two inaccurate chariacatures (in book form) of research in the field- told by the same journalists and editors who some time earlier brought you the glossy stories about string theory that played up the excitement and promise, and played down the often-said but often-ignored cautionary remarks. The irony of all of this seems to have been lost on most. (I’m not saying that string theorists are entirely blameless in this, but I’ve seen how hard it is to get a balanced remark -about the basic process of seeing a complex scientific program through to its end- survive next to a glossy one-liner).

The point is that the story being told now in the press is simply the one that journalists and editors want to tell now – a David vs Goliath story. It has little or nothing to do with what is actually going on in the science research. The journalist -George Johnson- does a good job of pointing out supporting evidence for this by going through a number of stories from a decade ago and looking at their structure. […] Click to continue reading this post

A Positive Sign

I’m always pleased to see this sign. It is at Heathrow, on the walk down the perpetually dingily lit underground corridors connecting the terminals, the tube, the extortion Heathrow express, and the parking lots.

For a start, I generally like the idea that the ground floor of a building (the one you walk onto off the street) is the “zeroth” floor. (I mean no disrespect to this splendid country I live in, that has largely chosen otherwise, although every now and again in older buildings you see it.) So it is just great to see […] Click to continue reading this post

The Lives Of The Stars

Well, I’m back from the visit to the preview of the Griffith Observatory that I mentioned to you I was going to. It was a rather good visit. They organised it well, and -boy!- have they done a great job on the restorations! I’ll try and assemble the several pictures that I took into some sort of narrative for you, and report soon. While you wait, here’s one of my favourites:


This is particularly poignant, in my opinion. The children are looking at the lovely […]
Click to continue reading this post

Brown and Nerdy

Well, here’s an amusing response to Weird Al Yankovic’s video* (see my earlier post on the issues I had with it). He makes his point with charming clumsiness, but… he makes the point.

Still here:


…and YouTube links here, and here. (Watch them in order for maximum hilarity.)

[…] Click to continue reading this post

Strings on Sunset

So I heard something on Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip just now. (This is the new show written by Aaron Sorkin that I instinctively started to watch a couple of weeks ago because I like his writing, and it is actually a drama about the process of writing, so what’s not to like? -Ok, I’m a bit bothered by the overall annoyingness of the lead actress’ performance, but I imagine she’ll get better.)

I caught a line that went something like “we’re not looking for a girl with a phd in… string theory or anything, ok? There’ll be at least half a dozen women there who’ve […] Click to continue reading this post