Archive for May, 2010

Science on the BBC

May 25, 2010

I have criticised the BBC’s crass science output previously. I think it is therefore my duty to acknowledge their successes. And there have been three recent successes that have renewed my hope in the possibility of broadcast TV making a positive impression of science. And importantly, not just being propaganda, but simultaneously reflecting the personal honesty required for scientific endeavour.

Th e programs that deserve praise are Bang Goes the Theory, The Story of Science and Chemistry, A volatile history.

  • BGTT is a topical programme aiming squarely at a young and non-specialist audience. ¬†The genius (there is no other word that comes close) of Jem Stansfield has finally reached the public eye and I feel sure this programme will become a staple of the network in subsequent series.
  • CAVH is standard science documentary fare, but nicely done. A little too bland for my taste, but sound scientifically and televisually.
  • And finally, TSoS is a delightful narrative dissection of science. The narrator – Michael Mosely – is not so full of himself – but full enough to tell a tale clearly. To my mind, this is breathtaking television.

I just wanted to post this so that I could defend myself against the accusation that I didn’t notice the good as well as the dreadfully mediocre. OK – its past midnight: bedtime!

Why no posts?

May 25, 2010
Michael de Podesta

Michael de Podesta


World Metrology Day

Since the last run of Protons for Breakfast finished I have been overwhelmed trying to cope with a backlog of ‘Things to do’. Things came to a head last week on World Metrology Day (20th May) on which NPL was open to the public. In addition to my normal work, I had to organise a temperature exhibit; produce a talk about temperature for the daytime expert audience; ¬†organise the preparation of up to 1000 ice creams using fresh ingredients; and finally give two ‘taster’ sessions for Protons for Breakfast. It took all of the weekend before, and late nights every day running up to the open day to get ready. And those precious few minutes at the end of the day; those few minutes when I relax and unload the jangle of thoughts that have echoed in my head during the day; those few minutes never arrived. Now let’s be clear: I am not complaining! All these things are things are good things, and I am glad I did them – but preparing was desperate and stressful in a way that left me profoundly exhausted. I have been napping all weekend catching up on my missing sleep.


I take my work seriously – I find it is the only way to enjoy it – but as we approach the finale of our attempts to make the most accurate measurement ever of the Boltzmann constant, I am beginning to feel the intensity of the pressure. I have been writing papers and trying to synthesize the work of myself and my colleagues and it just a really challenging activity. Having to endlessly learn new things is hard: having to learn new things that no one has ever known before is profoundly harder.


I don’t talk too much about my family here, but I try to stay in touch with them. And the combination of work and family and the Open Day has kept me away from writing my blog for just a mite too long! Back to business.

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