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Science documentaries

  1. Jan 30, 2017 #1
    What real scientists think about science documentaries. Its pretty obvious that one cant learn science from them. So you could be wasting your time studying real science instead of watching pointless documentaries. On the other hand they are pretty interesting and can be the spark one need to motivate the area of interess, or investments, even predicting the future tecnologies. Any thoughts on that?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 30, 2017 #2


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    As soon as you have some real insights on the subjects, you can't watch them anymore. Until then they might be entertaining and at best be a spark to learn it for real. Once you've been explained the same trivial stuff for the thousandth time, you quit: superconductivity, speed of light, anti-matter, neutrinos, double split, dark matter, dark energy, gravitation, Oort cloud, Kuiper belt, Andromeda, ... - I get tired, the list is really long. Meanwhile I start to read articles after two thirds if at all. That's probably the best thing about mathematics: they rarely don't even try on it.
  4. Jan 30, 2017 #3
    Well, there are math shows but they aren't as popular on TV I guess. I tried to watch this math documentary. It's Marcus du Sautoy, so it's not like it was blatantly inaccurate, but it felt like a bit of mathematical pareidolia. PI IS EVERYWHERE! FIBONACCI! THINGS ARE SHAPES!

    I do think watching documentaries got me interested enough in math and science to want to pursue it later. Now I can't watch them. I watch only history documentaries now, probably out of a similar ignorance!

    -Dave K
  5. Jan 30, 2017 #4


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    Yes. I once watched chess matches on a minor TV channel at night. I still don't understand, whom they think watches stuff like that, that they explained over and over again what a fork is ...
    I subscribed Tao's blog, which provides me with some real math entertaining (not that I understand all of what he writes ...).
    We have a math museum not far from here which I once visited. They have some really funny constructions. E.g. you could place yourself inside a soap bubble and things like that. With kids it's o.k. And to be honest: each time I watch something from Kaku on TV, I can't help to think: good, that Peter doesn't know ...
  6. Jan 30, 2017 #5


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    I nominate this as science word of the day.
    (Never heard (or read) it before. Thanks for the link.)
  7. Jan 30, 2017 #6
    If done well I think they are necessary to inspire the public and future science professionals. I met an 8 year old kid a few years back who could almost recite everything from the NdT Cosmos series.
  8. Jan 31, 2017 #7
    In fact, even sci-fi falls under this designation, and that is categorically less factual than documentaries.

    -Dave K
  9. Jan 31, 2017 #8
    I was watching a time-travel based sci fi show (it's really bad, but I can't stop watching) last night. One premise was that certain events caused a very influential film maker to drop out of film school in the 70s. As a result, two of the main characters were never inspired to pursue careers in science and archaeology, and wouldn't be able to save the world until the film-maker was properly placed back in the time line.

    Cheesy show but I loved the idea.

    -Dave K
  10. Jan 31, 2017 #9


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    I always liked the "time-travel" episodes of various series the most, too. And the possibilities with it are far better than dialogues like

    "KIRK: I can't believe we've come this far only to be stopped by this! Is there no way to re-crystallise dilithium?
    SCOTT: Sorry, sir. We can't even do that in the twenty-third century."

    only to do exactly this the entire movie.
  11. Feb 1, 2017 #10
    By nature, scientists are curious people, I would think documentaries would be one of their favorite things to watch. They certainly are for me. I agree that once you know more than the presenter, it's boring, but nobody knows everything so I would assume scientists watch documentaries from fields other than their own.

    My expertise in computer science does not prevent me from enjoying a documentary about biology.
  12. Feb 1, 2017 #11
    Yes, but could you watch a computer science documentary?

    -Dave K
  13. Feb 1, 2017 #12
    It depends on the subject and the presenter. If it's an overview of microprocessors by some random presenter, probably not. If it's an overview of 3D graphics by John Carmack, probably.

    After you know everything in the documentary, it's simply entertainment value. If a documentary is entertaining, I'll still watch it. I have Planet Earth on bluray, same thing with both Sagan's and NDT's Cosmos. There is nothing in them I don't know already, they're just fun to watch.
  14. Feb 1, 2017 #13
    Good point at least on those two. They are ART. I've watched Planet Earth a dozen times. A second has just come out in the UK: http://www.bbcearth.com/planetearth2/
    Not sure when we'll be able to get it in the US.

    Edit: Sorry, it premiered on the United State's BBC channel. Just not sure when we cord-cutters will have access.(edit edit: ok, for FREE I mean. lol)

    -Dave K
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