Tag Archives: Television

Slaughtering some sacred seasonal cows

It’s about time for a bit of seasonal humour. And who better than Tim Minchin, who staunchly defends science and reason, to administer it. Here is a video which ITV cut from the Jonathan Ross show – apparently by direct orders from ITV’s director of television, Peter Fincham.

It’s called WoodyAllenJesus – and watch it while you can (or download a copy. Tim thinks he may be asked to take the video off line

Thanks to Tim Minchin: I’m NOT on the Jonathan Ross Show

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Cultural effect of The Big Bang Theory

I have often thought that we just don’t get enough science in our popular culture. Perhaps people would understand and be more supportive of science, for example, if we had a regular TV soap opera based around the life and work of scientists.

So I feel a little vindicated by the news reports that there is a current resurgence of interest in physics among A-level and university students in the UK. And  The Big Bang Theory, a California-based comedy that follows two young physicists, is being suggested as an important factor (see Big Bang Theory fuels physics boom).

Some students are saying as much:

Tom Whitmore, 15, from Brighton, acknowledged that Big Bang Theory had contributed to his decision, with a number of classmates, to consider physics at A-level, and in causing the subject to be regarded as “cool”. “The Big Bang Theory is a great show and it’s definitely made physics more popular. And disputes between classmates now have a new way of being settled: with a game of rock, paper, scissors, lizard, Spock,” he said.

And so are some of the experts:

Institute of Physics (IoP) spokesman, Joe Winters, said: “The rise in popularity of physics appears to be due to a range of factors, including Brian’s public success, the might of the Large Hadron Collider and, we’re sure, the popularity of shows like The Big Bang Theory.”

Alex Cheung, editor of physics.org, said: “There’s no doubt that TV has also played a role. The Big Bang Theory seems to have had a positive effect and the viewing figures for Brian Cox‘s series suggest that millions of people in the UK are happy to welcome a physics professor, with a tutorial plan in hand, into their sitting room on a Sunday evening.”  [Prof. Brian Cox who has been fronting a series of very popular science documentaries Wonders of the Solar System and Wonders of the Universe.]

Brian Cox

Apparently there has been a 10% increase in the number of students accepted to read physics by the university admissions services between 2008-09, when The Big Bang Theory was first broadcast in the UK, and 2010-11. Applications for physics courses at university are also up more than 17% on last year.

Jim Al-Khalili

I know documentaries of the type presented by popular scientists like Brian Cox and Jim Al-Khalili (who has made Secret Life of ChaosChemistry: A Volatile History, Science and Islam,  Atom,   Shock and Awe: The Story of Electricity, and others) are invaluable in motivating and inspiring young people. But there is something special to be said for soap operas. And The Big Bang Theory is a very entertaining and effective soap opera.

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Science on New Zealand TV

Maori Television has been very successful. As well as the coverage of Maori issues many viewers have been pleased at their programming of quality foreign films.

I came across another gem of theirs recently: 411 - a locally produced programme on innovation, science, technology and design. (See 411.net.nz for information).

Presenters Tumamao Harawira and Taupunakohe Tocker

It’s a fast moving but quite informative programme. Often covering local companies and research institutes.

Recent stories have covered subject like Lense Innovation, Car Recycling, The Synchrotron, Cinematic Games, Kiwifruit Innovation, Maori Digital Art, Virtual Learning, Reef Design, Interactive Books and Wireless Mobile Device Learning.

Future programmes will cover Supercars, Honey Innovation, Bio-Engineering, Gaming Development, Custom Ear Monitors, Appliance Innovation, Building Technology, Observatory Technology and Advanced Materials Manufacturing.

It’s about time we had something like this.

If you are interested tune in Fridays 10:30 pm on Maori Television.

The presenters are Tumamao Harawira and Taupunakohe Tocker

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Car pool, string theory and human genetic history

I have been enjoying a weekly internet TV show produced by Robert Llewellyn, the actor who portrays Kryten 2X4B-523P in the popular TV series Red Dwarf. Its called Car Pool. And the idea behind it is novel and very successful.

Basically it’s a half hour interview with a personality from the worlds of science, theatre, televisions and technology. The intriguing feature is that the interview takes place while Llewellyn drives the subject somewhere in his car. The produces a very informal, even laid back, and friendly interaction. And it’s surprising how much information can be conveyed in this format.

The videos are available for viewing or downloading at Llewtube and Llewtube on blip.tv. If you follow Llewellyn on twitter you can also suggest questions for upcoming interviews.

The video below, this is car pool, includes snippets from the series

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The Big Bang Theory and sexism?

Of course, I mean the sit-com - not the cosmological theory.

It’s a favourite of mine. We have almost reached the end of series 2 in New Zealand and I have watched every episode.

The production has general been reviewed well by pro-science people so I was intrigued to hear some critical assessments on a recent podcast of the Skeptics Guide to the Universe (Podcast 211 – August 2009). Rebecca and fellow Skepchick Carrie Iwan were criticising the stereotyping of the main female character, Pennie, as sexist. They felt she is cast in the role of the dumb blonde as a foil to the intelligent nerds Sheldon, Leonard, Rajesh and Howard. The complaint was – why don’t women get more roles as intelligent characters.

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