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‘Why is science so… dark?’
Posted: 28 September 2012 10:29 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Asked my 12 year old son last night as we were watching an episode of Nova about volcanoes. Indeed the episode, while informative and very interesting to me, did have a bit of drama as the narrator ominously told of the millions who would die and the state of the planet if Vesuvius or Mount Rainier erupted again. As an adult, the possibility of such destruction does bring about some concern, but not fear. I can see the potential eruption as just that, a possibility not an absolute. I then went on to explain to him, that all the scientists who were studying volcanoes and other phenomena, were attempting to learn as much as they could so we would all be better protected. That didn’t appear to be much comfort to him…

So we switched to the Cooking Channel and learned about noodles. LOL

Take care,

Derek

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Posted: 28 September 2012 11:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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The narrators and editing on a lot of those pop-science shows bugs the hell out of me. Over-dramatic, repetitive tripe. They take 15 minutes to explain unclearly what can be explained clearly in two. The worst, most aggregious is the present-a-question-over-and-over-again-without-answering-it-for-ten-minutes format. I feel like those kinds of approaches assumes an IQ of about 50 in the target audience.

[ Edited: 28 September 2012 11:33 AM by TromboneAndrew ]
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Posted: 28 September 2012 04:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I had already worked up a good amount of anger as I read the first post, but TroboneAndrew did an excellent job of saying everything I had planned to say. Unfortunately, our whole mass communication system is peopled by enough morons that anyone there who tries to slip in something intellgent has the idea vetoed.

Occam

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Posted: 28 September 2012 04:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Reality is indifferent science is just figuring it out.

But the real threat is the Yellowstone supervolcano.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yellowstone_Caldera

Now that is scary!

How many people died in the tsunami in 2004?

The media does have a problem with how it presents science. If they make it to dry then they lose some, maybe most, of the audience.  If you know about the subject by just reading a decent book then even good documentaries can seem kind of shallow.

psik

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Posted: 28 September 2012 04:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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TromboneAndrew - 28 September 2012 11:30 AM

The narrators and editing on a lot of those pop-science shows bugs the hell out of me. Over-dramatic, repetitive tripe. They take 15 minutes to explain unclearly what can be explained clearly in two. The worst, most aggregious is the present-a-question-over-and-over-again-without-answering-it-for-ten-minutes format. I feel like those kinds of approaches assumes an IQ of about 50 in the target audience.

I should have been more specific. This was an episode of Nova.

psikeyhackr - 28 September 2012 04:11 PM

Reality is indifferent science is just figuring it out.

But the real threat is the Yellowstone supervolcano.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yellowstone_Caldera

They mentioned that one. grin

Here’s the transcript if anyone is interested:

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/earth/deadliest-volcanoes.html

I was fascinated by the scientist who used muon detection to create a 3D model of a volcano’s throat.

Of course, looking at the title of the episode again, perhaps I should have had some ‘warnings’. I’ll certainly finish watching it. But I really wish the narration could have been more neutral and less dramatic. <shrug>

Take care,

Derek

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Posted: 28 September 2012 05:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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harry canyon - 28 September 2012 04:23 PM
TromboneAndrew - 28 September 2012 11:30 AM

The narrators and editing on a lot of those pop-science shows bugs the hell out of me. Over-dramatic, repetitive tripe. They take 15 minutes to explain unclearly what can be explained clearly in two. The worst, most aggregious is the present-a-question-over-and-over-again-without-answering-it-for-ten-minutes format. I feel like those kinds of approaches assumes an IQ of about 50 in the target audience.

I should have been more specific. This was an episode of Nova.

So, maybe my criticism doesn’t apply to this episode? Your description did imply a bit of over-dramaticism. Of the Nova shows I’ve seen, some of them have been decent (generally the older ones) and some of them have been bad in exactly the way I described.

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Posted: 28 September 2012 06:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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So, maybe my criticism doesn’t apply to this episode? Your description did imply a bit of over-dramaticism. Of the Nova shows I’ve seen, some of them have been decent (generally the older ones) and some of them have been bad in exactly the way I described


My greatest fear is that the Nova series will fall prey to the cheapening of info for profit that Greystone now exhibits. The “History” (hysterical) channel is now a pastiche of stories about Nazi aliens and Akaskan truckers. Where’s the history? They dropped it for entertainment purposes as sensationalism sells. It’s now the tabloid channel. Area 51 stories and Pawn Stars where the owners google info for background material. My advice, download a book.


Cap’t Jack

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Posted: 28 September 2012 06:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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I agree that some of these shows are unnecessarily dark and sensationalized but there are some good ones too. The new “Making Stuff” series which just started on NOVA has been very good so far and the Elegant Universe series with Brian Greene was also very good. You just need to pick and choose what you watch.

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Posted: 28 September 2012 08:17 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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TromboneAndrew - 28 September 2012 05:01 PM
harry canyon - 28 September 2012 04:23 PM
TromboneAndrew - 28 September 2012 11:30 AM

The narrators and editing on a lot of those pop-science shows bugs the hell out of me. Over-dramatic, repetitive tripe. They take 15 minutes to explain unclearly what can be explained clearly in two. The worst, most aggregious is the present-a-question-over-and-over-again-without-answering-it-for-ten-minutes format. I feel like those kinds of approaches assumes an IQ of about 50 in the target audience.

I should have been more specific. This was an episode of Nova.

So, maybe my criticism doesn’t apply to this episode? Your description did imply a bit of over-dramaticism. Of the Nova shows I’ve seen, some of them have been decent (generally the older ones) and some of them have been bad in exactly the way I described.

No, your criticism was appropriate. I clarified because I really didn’t expect it from Nova. Some ‘science’ show on Discovery? Yes. wink

Take care,

Derek

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Posted: 29 September 2012 03:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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I agree with everyone above.  Pop science shows do seem to be all about making scientists and/or science “lovers” appear as neckbeards.

Luckily, even with today’s crappy programming, it’s still possible to find decent science programs - like NOVA.

That said, the physical world that science studies does have an ugly side, and it should not be censored in the least.

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Posted: 29 September 2012 05:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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I agree with everyone above.  Pop science shows do seem to be all about making scientists and/or science “lovers” appear as neckbeards.

Luckily, even with today’s crappy programming, it’s still possible to find decent science programs - like NOVA.

That said, the physical world that science studies does have an ugly side, and it should not be censored in the least.


Science and censorship are oxymorons and while I do like the Nova specials, especially those on the climate, Morgan Freeman’s Through the Wormhole is the most intriguing. I miss programs like Sagan’s Cosmos series and while they’re a bit dated are still used in science classrooms. The series was progressive and the serialized so you anticipated the program each week. We watched the whole thing with our kids and eventually bought the companion book, which I still have. The pictures alone were incredible. The question for producers today however is how do we reap the most profit? Enlighten or entertain? Of course that’s been problem since TV was invented. Viewing a Science program might create enough curiosity to read a book or essay about the topic. If they know the truth, then kids will be better able to handle the situation if and when it happens. Case in point, everyone’s still fearful of the Mayan calendar catastrophic World ending event scheduled for December. How about a program totally debunking this urban legend by showing the kids where this cobbled together story originated? Maybe they could preempt Suvivor just this once!


Cap’t Jack

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Posted: 29 September 2012 06:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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I see two problems here. The first one is that they make the programs so dreadful these days, because people simply like them that way. I guess I could go into trying to guess why that is, but that would take this thread into a different direction.

The second factor why nobody seems to be able to come with anything even close to Sagan’s Cosmos, is because they just don’t know how to. Sagan was not only a scientist, but also an artist. (A great artist, IMO.) He simply set the standard too high and it will be extremely difficult for anybody try to match that.

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Posted: 29 September 2012 12:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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I see two problems here. The first one is that they make the programs so dreadful these days, because people simply like them that way. I guess I could go into trying to guess why that is, but that would take this thread into a different direction.

The second factor why nobody seems to be able to come with anything even close to Sagan’s Cosmos, is because they just don’t know how to. Sagan was not only a scientist, but also an artist. (A great artist, IMO.) He simply set the standard too high and it will be extremely difficult for anybody try to match that.


I totally agree George, but I think Neil Degrasse Tyson might have a shot if they let him. I’ve heard him on NPR, apparently he knew Sagan, and on Bill Maher and his manner of explanation of scientific phenomena mirrors Sagan’s in a way. As to him being an artist, I’m not sure there. He may lack Sagan’s storytelling eloquence but that could be developed. At least he appeared on Big Bang. Sagan wasn’t only a scientist however; he was also a writer and a damned good one too. Not certain what Tyson has written apart from academic papers.


Cap’t Jack

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Posted: 29 September 2012 12:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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I like Tyson. He is funny and witty, and a great communicator. But he—how would I say it?—doesn’t touch my soul.

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Posted: 29 September 2012 02:27 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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I like Tyson. He is funny and witty, and a great communicator. But he—how would I say it?—doesn’t touch my soul.

 

George, how can I say this seriously? You don’t have one. Like I said, he’s no Sagan but he communicates the same message, just not with the panache That Sagan had. Maybe a CFI seance? Ya never know!  wink


Cap’t Jack

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Posted: 29 September 2012 10:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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George - 29 September 2012 06:09 AM

The second factor why nobody seems to be able to come with anything even close to Sagan’s Cosmos, is because they just don’t know how to. Sagan was not only a scientist, but also an artist. (A great artist, IMO.) He simply set the standard too high and it will be extremely difficult for anybody try to match that.

Brian Cox has been involved in some fairly decent science documentaries. They seem to be the exception to the rule.

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