Before I begin, here's a big fat tongue-in-cheek smiley in case anyone is in danger of combusting from an attack of earnestness about the topic title ---> ;-)
We're off to Jodrell Bank in a couple of weeks to see the Halle orchestra perform, and apparently there'll be lots of science stuff going on. Sigur Ros are playing on the Friday night but unfortunately we'll miss that. I believe the big telescope dish thingy is going to be used for projections. All very exciting. There'll even be fireworks!
Apparently there's lots of physics stuff going on during the day on the Saturday - here's hoping it's aimed squarely at kids so I understand it.
British Sea Power played last year, as did the Flaming Lips - I'd like to have seen both of them. I reckon Sigur Ros will be amazing, if their gig earlier this year at Manchester Apollo is anything to go by.
In reply to Tall Clare: Once upon a time, not so long ago, I used to have a job connected with stuff like this. Like this, but not *this*. However...
From what I hear, Jodrell have aimed their stuff well. Space and astronomy is a big hook for getting young kids turned on to <important voice> the exciting world of science </important voice>, and there's stuff there for everyone whether they know nothing, something or lots. I really should go sometime now I have the freedom to do so without obligation but somehow the siren voice of that extra hour in bed keeps proving impossible to resist.
Mr TC's son is a massive science geek (his mum is a physics person) so he'll be *very* excited. If it can make me re-engage with physics then that'll be a triumph - I did it at GCSE and hated hated *hated* it.
> If it can make me re-engage with physics then that'll be a triumph
I don't think it will try to. What it should do is engage you with the outcomes from physics: that the universe is more curious than we ever could have imagined in all sorts of ways, that Jodrell Bank is at the heart of all manner of such discoveries and that there are spin-offs from this stuff that improve our lives every day in ways we take for granted, leaving you inspired by the subject, engaged with the location and more knowledgable about what all this stuff does for you.
It won't make you a science supporter, necessarily; and shouldn't try to. It should inform the opinions you subsequently have about it and related topics, but that's about it.
> I don't get the big appeal of Brian Cox. I also don't like Doctor Who and all that stuff. I know, I'm a terrible person.
Ha! I have to agree with all that (though having met him on a number of occasions, I should add that Brian Cox is an extremely nice chap) and, in addition, don't like anything that has a title that starts with "Star".
And I did, amongst other things, science outreach for twenty years...
> (In reply to Jon Stewart)
> I don't get the big appeal of Brian Cox.
His programmes irritate the fcuk out of me. I know he's a nice chap and all that but the progamme structures often seem to be just an excuse for Coxy, a film crew and a couple of BBC producers to globetrot. You have gratuitous trips to Iceland to emphasise points about one of the moons of Saturn, and a trip to the Sahara to do nothing more than draw a big spiral in the sand, which could have been done just as well on Blackpool beach (or not at all). I always come away from one of his progs with the idea that the visuals and the music were the point of it all, and that 10 minutes of real science has been stretched into an hour for the sake of form over content.
In reply to Rob Naylor: I completely agree about the visuals/music over content thing. Most BBC science programmes spend far too long building up to reveal a big fact that turns out to be little more than GCSE level which we should all know! I guess that's the price for falling science graduates, less physics teachers and a huge push in arts funding... <sigh>
I can enjoy programmes on astronomy, physics etc aimed at people without my background, no problem, if they're well-made.
The best ones I can remember were the Richard Feynman ones where it was just him facing the camera and talking. My elderly aunt who left school at 14 loved those, too: without the distracting music and visuals you had to actually listen to the ideas....it was rivetting (but 30 years ago!).
Jim Al Khalili does similar things now, and again they can be really interesting, although aimed at people without my background.
> (In reply to Rob Naylor) I completely agree about the visuals/music over content thing. Most BBC science programmes spend far too long building up to reveal a big fact that turns out to be little more than GCSE level
So do their history programmes.eg. Neil Oliver decribing all the happy clappy monks in Northumberland....voice goes quiet....ominous music...drum roll......over the horizon come (dramatic pause)....the......VIKINGS...
> (In reply to Tall Clare)
> His programmes irritate the fcuk out of me...
What's distinctive about Coxy over other naff-graphics-globe-trotting-int-the-universe-brilliant-TV is that he actually gets into genuinely difficult conceptual bits of physics and explains them at a level that will really challenge anyone who doesn't have a background in physics and is actually trying to understand.
In the recent 'Life' show, he explained how "proton gradients are the key to life" and how "the chicken [points at chicken, shot in in IR camera] is radiating disorder out into the universe". These are difficult, fascinating, fundamental concepts about how the processes of life fit sneakily within the laws of physics. As far as I know, this interface of physics and biology isn't covered at GCSE. It isn't dumbed down, it's deeply challenging stuff which will go far over the heads of most of the audience but he's putting it in front of them to take what they can/want, and he explains it with (potentially irritating) charm, wit and boundless enthusiasm.
I can see why the presentation might appear silly and that you might assume the content is dumbed down, but I assure you the content of Coxy's programmes is extremely rich.
> In the recent 'Life' show, he explained how "proton gradients are the key to life" and how "the chicken [points at chicken, shot in in IR camera] is radiating disorder out into the universe". These are difficult, fascinating, fundamental concepts about how the processes of life fit sneakily within the laws of physics. As far as I know, this interface of physics and biology isn't covered at GCSE.
I definitely remember entropy being one of the "characteristics of a living organism" in my O-level biology classes. The acronym used to be "MRS NEGRI" (IIRC that stood for: movement, respiration, secretion, nutrition, energy, growth, reproduction and irritability) but by the time I was in the fifth form she had gained the middle initials E and H, standing for entropy and homeostasis.
(Google reveals that Negri is actually a genuine, if unusual, surname.)
Entropy only just came into A-level physics when I did it (I know standards have changed enormously in science, e.g. no calculus until A level), so how an O-level biology student could be expected to grasp that just seems off the wall.
But anyway, if you ask the target audience of a Coxy show to explain the relationship between cellular respiration and entropy, then I doubt that many of them could clear the first hurdle of knowing what either concept meant.
Any of the people with more sciency backgrounds who haven't liked Brian Cox's work might want to try listening to The Infinite Monkey Cage on Radio 4 (last series still on iplayer) which is pitched at a slightly higher level than the TV shows.
Also, I think the nail has been hit on the head above that it is very difficult as someone in science (I'm doing a PhD in particle physics), or even as someone who is interested in science, to remember what is the 'easy common sense stuff we all learned in school'. For instance on the subject of entropy I only properly covered it in the second year of my physics degree (unless you count Flanders and Swan), but it seems now like a very basic concept and I have to remind myself that it's not something known by everyone.
I should point out that I don't think most people are stupid, there must be concepts that other people use in their everyday work that I have no idea about that I'm sure they would be surprised weren't common knowledge.
> (In reply to Tall Clare)
> I take it all the Coxy bashing is from people who are either more gifted or just plain envious of his rock star persona and ability to engage with plebs like me?
Not bashing Coxy, or even his "rock star persona"...bashing what I see as the BBC's apparent attitude that science is so inherently dull that it has to be spiced up by padding out a show with expensive visuals and a musical soundtrack. There's just no need to take a camera crew and production unit halfway tround the world in order to film a couple of visuals with at best only a tenuous connection to the topic being explained.
> Any of the people with more sciency backgrounds who haven't liked Brian Cox's work might want to try listening to The Infinite Monkey Cage on Radio 4 (last series still on iplayer) which is pitched at a slightly higher level than the TV shows.
A good show...I don't think it's pitched particularly higher than some of the TV shows...but because it's audio you don't get the egregious visual distractions...hence you can concentrate fully on what's being said.
> (In reply to Martin W)
> Entropy only just came into A-level physics when I did it (I know standards have changed enormously in science, e.g. no calculus until A level),
Entropy was definitely a significant thing in my A-level Physics. It's fundamental thermodynamics, surely?
Conversely, I managed to skip calculus (more or less) as I didn't do A-level maths. I did cover it in an advanced maths course between O-level and A-level - enough to learn that I should avoid anything requiring advanced maths at A-level!
> Not bashing Coxy, or even his "rock star persona"...bashing what I see as the BBC's apparent attitude that science is so inherently dull that it has to be spiced up by padding out a show with expensive visuals and a musical soundtrack. There's just no need to take a camera crew and production unit halfway tround the world in order to film a couple of visuals with at best only a tenuous connection to the topic being explained.
well said- and that kate humble and the crew going to oz to capture tears in her eyes during an eclipse ffs!
I wouldn't knock the BBC too hard. Science is out there on their channels and quite strongly represented compared to what you might find elsewhere.
Horizon has been out there a long long time and I still never miss it in spite of many recent accusations of dumbing down. I have worked in many places full of scientists and engineers and the morning after a Horizon programme was rarely very productive!
"The aim of Horizon is to provide a platform from which some of the world's greatest scientists and philosophers can communicate their curiosity, observations and reflections, and infuse into our common knowledge their changing views of the universe."
Many of us who could have done without the new approach need to appreciate how damn thick the general population (or not so general: you don't need to understand entropy or photosynthesis to get an MBA) is and how much more important it is that most of them get at least some grasp of science than it was in 1964.
(The greatest mystery on Horizon of course is that Michael Mosley has had scientists prove he's not very special so often now that we're all surprised that he still has a job!)
> (In reply to malk)
> It's entertainment, with a little education thrown in. Its not supposed to be a late night Open University episode with some dull white coat stood in front of a backboard.
It doesn't have to be...look back to some of the Richard Feynman BBC talks I mentioned. They're on YouTube. He's a "talking head" but he was enetertaining enough to rivet my old non-sciencey auntie back then.
What it *absolutely* doesn't have to be, from my point of view as a license-payer, is a requirement to throw in so many gratuitious visuals that they have to fly a camera crew, a director, a producer and the talking head (whether it be Coxy, Kate Humble or anyone else) from Iceland to Morocco to Australia to capture a few shots of said person looking at spectacular scenery which they then use to make a tenuous link thst could have been better don ewith CGI or on the beach at Blackpool or whatever.
To me that's actually saying "the public is so dumb that they won't engage with this stuff unless we throw in loads of shots of exotic scenery from around the world to act as filler to the "hard" bits"....which I think is bollocks and demeaning to the non-sciency public.
> (In reply to The Lemming)
> It doesn't have to be...look back to some of the Richard Feynman BBC talks I mentioned. They're on YouTube. He's a "talking head" but he was enetertaining enough to rivet my old non-sciencey auntie back then.
Going in a different direction, why don't we have just one Talking Head for the 6 O'clock news?
Surely all we need is somebody to sit upright, behind a mic and read the news. That would save a fortune in license payers money and inform us at the same time. But no, presenting stuff has moved on from a Talking Head to children's Newsround on prime time. We can have up to 7 or 8 people in a 30 minute slot spouting the news. And then there's the weatherman, he/she now has a huge plasma screen with sexy graphics. In my day, all the weatherman had was a playschool map of the UK and some stick-on symbols of the sun and clouds.
If the news is jazzed up to keep our attention and entertain us, then surely sciency subjects deserve the same attention, otherwise what's the point of making them if they are percieved as boring?
> (In reply to off-duty) almost every post you're in there with no real point- what's your game?
My point here was just that "that is what people do".
Science (and science programmes) try to explain theories behind things, explain the scientific process and try to explain why some ideas are irrational.
As a wider point the internet operates as a double edged sword, providing a wealth of information but with no filration system to weigh the credibility of that information.
The result of that is that those with no scientific background or no knowledge of the subject seem to find it much harder to discern the quality of the facts they base their argument on.
Part of the skeptical mindset should involve assessing the calibre of the information you are basing your skepticism on. Unfortunately that often doesn't happen.
When this is coupled with vociferousness on the internet not being related to credibility of the argument with a large dose of confirmation bias applied, then you get conspiracy theories, anti-vaccination lobbies, homeopathy to treat cancer, misinformation about GM and fracking.
The only way to combat an ignorant argument is to rebut it with facts. Unfortunately cramming a university degree and a large amount of postgraduate research into an discussion post can be difficult, and scientists aren't always good at explaining their work in terms the non-specialist readily understands.
PS - Not sure what your problem with me is, I've only posted a couple of times this week.
In reply to Tall Clare: Physics at school (O-level back when I did it) was pretty tedious - all that stuff about calorimeters etc. You only got the interesting bits (e.g. basic introduction to classical mechanics) if you did maths as well.
Most of the interesting bits of physics (low temperature physics, Maxwell's Equations, astrophysics, quantum mechanics, etc, etc) were never in the school syllabus in my day. Unless you simply adopt the superficial whizz-bang approach of presentation used in most TV programmes, they're mostly too hard to understand because of the maths involved.
I also think there's a big conspiracy to avoid making physics at school too interesting otherwise physics courses at university would be over-subscribed and there would be media studies courses with empty places. Then where would we be?
In reply to Tall Clare:
Would love to go to that event, but it's a bit pricey for a family and we've booked a camping trip in the meantime ...
I found out about the concerts when I googled "Bernard Lovell Centenary" and it was one of the very few references to anything to mark wat would have been his 100th birthday. I emailed The Sky at Night to ask if they were doing anything and have heard nothing, which I think is rather poor.
Apart from being the driving force behind the the building of Jodrell Bank and being a household name in the 60s and 70s during the space race he was the leader of the team that created H2S radar during WWII (the first practical radar that gave aircraft a view of terrain over which they were flying).
I've been reading his autobiography and it seems a shame we aren't celebrating him a bit more
The Halle concert at Jodrell Bank was last night - I thought it was amazing. I've never seen an orchestra live before, mind.
On a related note, I believe Mr Lemming of this forum may have been sitting approximately 15ft in front of me, with Mrs Lemming. Perhaps I should have said hello, but stumbling over a load of camping chairs and blankets to march up to a stranger and ask how his dog was seemed like the actions of a nutcase... even to me.
Did you applaud after the unannounced and rather daring abstract atonal/dischordant experimental intro improv piece which was in fact them tuning up? (a friend of mine did this once....I was there....)
> (In reply to Tall Clare)
> Did you applaud after the unannounced and rather daring abstract atonal/dischordant experimental intro improv piece which was in fact them tuning up? (a friend of mine did this once....I was there....)
I inadvertently walked out of a Shakespeare play at "half time". On a first and last date. No more posh totty for me.