I remember, some time back, when Brian Cox's Wonders Of The Universe series was on the goggle-box for the first time, having several conversations with various people about how bloody dire the series was. I gave up on it—literally switched off in disgust—when he prepared to explain some of the effects connected to the speed of light by indulging in a ten-minute-ish segment, almost devoid of any useful commentary, wherein he sat in the back seat of a fighter-jet travelling at some multiple or other of the speed of sound. Which doesn't, no matter what the uninformed may think, based on phrases like "the sound barrier," share any resemblance with, or make any useful analogy to, the speed of light. The whole series, or at least the bits that I watched, seemed to be like that—visual spectacle, inserted at the flimsiest of excuse, taking precedence over the explanation of scientific theory and fact which was the ostensible raison d'être for the show. One suggested alternative title at the time was Brian Cox's Travelling Circus—with much reason.
"Good TV," it seems, is more important than TV with substance, even while it gets miss-sold as having substance. I'd disagree, both on what constitutes good science or educational TV, and on what constitutes substance, but that's not really the point I want to make here. Well, it is, but not by whinging about what constitutes bad science television. I did that already, in the post linked above.
What irks me in Cox's case is that he is, when all's said and done, a very good presenter of science. Get him away from the big-budget spectaculars and the opportunities to pose in front of sunsets, and he can pack an awful lot of information into a few minutes' worth of video. As in the one embedded below, in fact. The science, to anyone who's taken even a passing interest in the subject, is pretty basic, but pay attention to the sheer amount of information packed into those eleven minutes. And it's presented very well, too—it's easy to follow and is easily understandable, at the level appropriate for an audience ignorant of the maths it would take to go much deeper (including, I hasten to add, myself). Anyway, here it is:
Just think how awesome it would have been, if that kind of information-density, along with his obvious skill in presentation, had been applied to his BBC shows, instead of the "look at the pretty pictures" razzmatazz we ended up with.
Next time, Auntie Beeb, can we have Professor Brian Cox instead of Rawk God Brian Cox?
If you've not come across it before, Newton TV is worth a gander. They have a pretty good collection of science shorts. On that subject, I've been thinking of making a page linking online science video repositories. It might come to nothing, but does anyone have any recommendations? Entire YouTube channels, individual series-playlists, whatever. No individual videos though.
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