Alok Jha Hosts the Guardian Science Weekly podcast from the RI
The Royal Institution is arguably the home of ‘Science Communication‘. From 1965 onwards, the broadcasts of the Christmas Lectures gave eminent scientists several hours in which to explain their work and place it in a context that could be readily appreciated by younger people. This unique format has had an enduring impact on UK culture.
But in this modern age the RI has had a hard time re-inventing itself. Producing a series of 6 lectures once a year is not enough. I am not sure it is quite there yet, but watching the podcast at the head of this article over at the RI Channel, I get the feeling it might be getting close.
I have written previously that if the RI were really committed to science communication it should leave its hyper-posh headquarters in the most exclusive part of London, and move to the Midlands. Maybe I spoke too soon. This kind of podcast brings a topicality and accessibility to modern science communication that television – with its obsessions with short punchy ‘packages’- just can’t touch. And the location definitely adds a little something.
The features I liked were:
- The relaxed and informal atmosphere: Alok Jha does a great job, acknowledging the posh surroundings, and then ignoring them.
- Some great, simple, demonstrations and excellent conversation that brought the demonstrations alive.
- I loved Anna Starkey’s ‘perception’ demonstrations (9 to 24 minutes) and Alom Shaha’s simple motor (24 to 30 minutes) – I have ordered the magnet already!
- The self-consciousness, showed particularly by Alom, that science demonstrations need to be more than Scientertainment
The things I didn’t like were:
- The random explosion using liquid nitrogen trapped in a bottle (47 to 49 minutes). This is a seriously dangerous demonstration and in this context is pointless.
- The condescending attitude towards the ‘technician’ Andrew Marmery. There is a fair chance he was the most knowledgeable scientist in the room.
- The fact that the combined intellects of the demonstrators could not explain why the bottle explodes (56 minutes to the end). It has nothing to do with the ‘critical’ temperature!
Watch the full video with related content here: http://richannel.org/alok-jha-guardian-science-weekly-live. And while you are over there check out the back catalogue of Christmas lectures and the excellent ‘Tales from the Prep Room’.