What has happened to Horizon ? Forgive me if I seem like a grumpy old man, but as a child I seemed to remember that Horizon used to communicate information. The latest episodes seem to have been taken over by the video editors leaving ‘content’ to be inserted episodically by a random scientist depicted non-stereotypically writing equations on a Blackboard. A BLACKBOARD! Who uses blackboards? The programmes are now made by people whose scientific credibility is zero. Their aim is to distract rather than engage; to give an impression rather than communicate an idea clearly; and to portray scientists as utterers of soundbites. It is dumbed-down science at its worst.
I had to switch the television off as I watched a programme about Black Holes this evening. The programme was APPALLING.
- It showed evidence of a black hole as a dark space on a photographic image. This is evidence of the absence of a bright thing or the presence of a dark thing but is not evidence for the existence of a black hole.
- It said that the so-called singularity within putative black holes was troubling for the theory of general relativity. Call me easy going if you like, but I think a theory that describes gravity flawlessly over 60 orders of magnitude of length scales is pretty good. That it breaks down at very small length scales is not surprising or perturbing. We don’t know how to deal with this, but may be we will. Or maybe we won’t. We don’t know everything.
- At the point at which I switched off it had failed to point out that while there are many candidate large objects in the observable universe – there is no observation of ANY kind of singularity.
And it just went on and on with tiny amounts of content trickled in. They spent a significant fraction of the programme at Niagara Falls yet failed to describe the key analogy that waterfalls embody: the existence – but undetectability – of the event horizon.
I’ll stop here: I want to go to bed. But what has happened to Horizon is indicative of a general lack of will – or ability? -to communicate complex scientific concepts. I say: sack the video editors and bring back the talking heads and the well drawn diagrams.