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Science on Screen

You know, I’m pretty happy with the present state of science on the small screen. This week, we had the opportunity to choose between three excellent shows with real scientists explaining fundamental principles to a wide audience. These shows are:

Cosmos with Neil Tyson

Your Inner Fish with Neil Shubin

Wonders of Life with Brian Cox

 

ImageOf the three, I think Brian Cox is probably the best spokesperson for science – meaning he has a very casual and unassuming presence and speaks in a slow, measured pace that draws the listener in, eager to hear what’s coming. The camerawork in the Wonders of Life series is also good. It’s more artsy than you would expect from a science show, often putting the Sun behind Dr. Cox’ head to create moments of strong flares that’s muted post-production (I suspect). This technique works wonders when properly utilized. It creates drama and a bit of mystique because it flies in the face of one cardinal rule of photography. In many ways it reminds me of the cooking show Nigella Bites. Besides its production value, the science is solid, well presented and clearly explained. Here Dr. Cox explains the apparent retrograde motion of the planets (wanderers).

 

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Cosmos works well because it is a reprise of a previously well-received series by the much-beloved Carl Sagan. How could it miss? So much is done well. I especially like the simple animations that bring history alive for us. People are hardwired for storytelling, so I firmly believe that science is learned best when it is part of a well-crafted story – and the stories told in Cosmos are right on. And one last word: wow. This is on Fox! Frankly, I’m amazed. Maybe Neil can teach O’Reilly why the tide goes in and out.

 

ImageYour Inner Fish was initially a book that I use every semester I teach General Biology. As a book it functions well, the story is clear and filled with examples – although we do get lost in the details from time to time. Overall, I like it and think it’s a great introduction to scientific thinking. As a series, the same story is told, but with a greater clarity and excellent use of digital effects to complement the story without getting in the way.

 

All three are excellent – and more than anything, I just enjoy knowing that popular television, reaching a wide audience, is seeing a surplus of high quality, entertaining, educational material that is not soft on science.

 
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Posted by on April 23, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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A pointer into the past

Opps – post removed to alternate blog.

 
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Posted by on April 21, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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The Returned is wickedly good

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I’ve fallen under the spell of the Sundance Channel’s ‘The Returned’ (Fr. Les Revanants).

What started as a slow-paced introduction to a small city in the mountains of France dominated by a large dam on the outskirts of town that provides power to the city and appears to be hiding some secrets.

What separates The Returned from other thrillers like it is that it introduces us to the Living Dead in a way that is entirely new, these aren’t horrors that are out to sate their appetite for human flesh, instead, they are just like the rest of us. Perhaps a little more confused and alienated, but really just trying to find meaning.

Why am I here?

The Returned don’t seem to know any more than we do. They once lived in the city, they died and now – they’ve returned. In the first episode we are introduced to Camille, a girl who died when her bus swerved to miss a little boy and left the road to plunge off a precipice killing all aboard. Camille walks back into town remembering nothing of the accident and thinking that it just happened, when in fact she had been dead seven years.

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Why Can’t I Leave?

I expected the rest of the bus’ occupants to make up the remainder of the returned, but I was mistaken. The rest come from a number of walks of life and they’ve died at various times. None seem connected at first, but some similarities do appear as the season progresses.

I’ve watched all but the finale, which I look forward to eagerly. Recently, the last several episodes have altered my expectations and given hints of a variety of influences. Apparently no one can leave, and a horde is amassing…

 
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Posted by on April 2, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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New Blog to watch – 100 Films in 100 Days

100 films is a brand-spankin’ new blog I’m following. Tonight is night one, so join me and get in on the ground floor as this poor sap tortures himself through 100 consecutive nights of movies.

 
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Posted by on July 15, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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