I have been fast enough to criticise poor science programming in the past, so I feel obliged to praise good programming when I see it. And I would just like to call out four very different examples of science programmes, all of which I feel succeed. And so the nominations for the Oscar for Best Science Programme are:
- Inside The Human Body (BBC)
- Bang Goes the Theory (BBC)
- Science on Science (Discovery Science)
- Mythbusters (Discovery)
Bang Goes the Theory is a 30-minute popular science magazine programme shown at 7:30 p.m. on BBC1. It is hosted by a pretty boy, a pretty girl, an apparent geek and the genius Jem Stansfield who is the actual star of the show. If you asked my children they would tell you that I shout at the TV during these shows, but the truth is: this programme is not made for me! And I admire its ability to present real scientific topics in prime time and still make it to series 2 – and now series 4!
Science on Science is a new magazine programme on Discovery Science and so is under considerably less pressure to keep an audience than Bang Goes The Theory. The hour is divided into typically four segments which are narrated but we never see the narrator. The characters are the scientists and engineers who present their own work through the frosted glass that is the modern style of television presentation. Seeing the actual scientists and engineers brings this programme alive and makes it more ‘real’ than many of the presenter focussed shows.
Mythbusters is now in its gallizionth series and has gone global. The two presenters Adam and Jamie were special effects designers before creating this programme, and they use their very practical skills and scientific intuition to design and build experiments to test urban myths.
- Goldfinger Movie Myth: Do you suffocate if painted all over in gold paint? Glorious Jamie was painted and – with paramedics attending – he did not suffer at all.
- Poppyseed drugs test myth: Do you test positive for heroin if you eat a poppyseed muffin? Amazingly, you do!
- Cement Mixer Myth: Can you use dynamite to clean out the inside of a cement mixer in which the cement has solidified? No, not without evaporating the cement mixer.
And the winner is… we all are. These programmes all make you want to stop watching and … well DO something. These programmes all bring the genuine joy of discovery and understanding into people’s lives, and for this I am genuinely grateful to them all.