Spider vs. Bee

Matthew Chatfield (aka The Virtual Ranger) makes some observations about the stylistic differences in presentation between nature programs on the BBC and on American television (specifically National Geographic):

And yet both clips were superbly photographed, both accurately explained some quite complex information, and both clearly provided good entertainment to their viewers. So why are they so different? . . . To The Ranger’s British eyes, this American clip seems almost patronising and childish in its presentation. And yet the content is little different; the difference is purely stylistic.

This is a phenomenon I’ve noticed time and time again.  It’s not that I don’t enjoy content on Discovery Channel and NG and others, but as The Ranger notes, their productions always seem to value drama and flash over forthright delivery of content.  I often find myself literally yelling at the teevee to STOP DUMBING IT DOWN.  For a 1-hour program, that’s 44 minutes of screen time for maybe 18 minutes of actual Scientific Content, with the rest of it being flashy CGI, poorly staged re-enactments, and dramatic voiceover filler1.

Given a choice between investing an hour of my time in a BBC program2 or an American equivalent, I’d take the BBC offering pretty much every time3.

  1. I can hear Peter Coyote intoning “Will man ever set foot on the Red Planet? Will our children colonize the stars?” Seriously, bleh.
  2. Horizon, for example.
  3. With the exception of perhaps Nova, but even that show is starting to lose a bit of luster.
posted 7/30/08 at 10:07am to Science!, Teevee · 0 replies · permalink

A second look at Mercury

What’s larger than Delaware and twice the size of Rhode Island?  The first volcano discovered on the planet Mercury by the spacecraft Messenger during a flyby.  The volcano is 60 miles in diameter and is capped by a 14 mile diameter crater.

Might be fun to climb, but I’d recommend taking water and sunscreen.

posted 7/9/08 at 12:42pm to Science! · 0 replies · permalink

Stuff of thought

Steven Pinker, talking about language, social relationships, causality, and swearing:


And Steven?  Might be time to ditch the ‘fro.  Just sayin’.

(via New Scientist)

posted 6/17/08 at 8:15am to Science! · 0 replies · permalink

We need to teach the teachers

We are so fucked.  Submitted without further comment:

Despite a court-ordered ban on the teaching of creationism in US schools, about one in eight high-school biology teachers still teach it as valid science, a survey reveals. . . . US courts have repeatedly decreed that creationism and intelligent design are religion, not science, and have no place in school science classrooms. . . . “It seems a bit high, but I am not shocked by it,” says Linda Froschauer, past president of the National Science Teachers Association based in Arlington, Virginia. “We do know there’s a problem out there, and this gives more credibility to the issue.”

(via New Scientist [there’s more on the original study at Pharyngula])

posted 5/20/08 at 3:41pm to Our Doomed Planet, Science!, Wingnuttery · 0 replies · permalink

Not only am I the Hair Club president, I’m also a robot.

I, for one, welcome our new follicle-sucking surgical robot overlords:

A robot that can pluck and move individual hair follicles on a person’s head makes hair transplants look more natural than those performed by humans, a US company claims.

Oh, the wonders of modern medical science.  Don’t you just get a happy little tingle every time you see the words “robot” and “pluck” together in a sentence?  Neither do I.

Once the “harvest” is over, the patient sits up to let the robot implant the follicles into the top of their head.

Again, another word that is just sinister when paired with robot: “harvest”.  Shudder.

posted 5/15/08 at 12:02pm to Science!, Snark, WTF? · 0 replies · permalink