Shows Like House, CSI, Numb3rs, The Mentalist etc. And Public Perception Of Science

  • #26
f95toli
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Back in the 60s and early 70s, there was an entire genre of popular sci-fi movies that protrayed physicists as being very cool. It seems that most went to Cal-Tech. :biggrin:
It is also quite interesting that most of the superheros that were created back in the 50s-70s were/are scientists in their "civilian" lives in the comics and quite a few of them are physicists, Bruce Banner (The Hulk) and Reed Richards (Mr Fantastic) would be two examples. For some reason there are also plenty of biochemists around, at least in the Marvel comics, e.g. Peter Parker (Spiderman).

And, yes, I do admit that reading superhero comics when I was a kid might have something to do with my interest in science but I suspect I am not alone.
Superhero comics and sci-fi books/series such as Star Trek have probably done more to promote an interest in science than all the government campaigns combined over the past few decades.
 
  • #27
Ivan Seeking
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Superhero comics and sci-fi books/series such as Star Trek have probably done more to promote an interest in science than all the government campaigns combined over the past few decades.
I'd believe it! Star Trek alone touts a broad base of accomplished scientists as fans. And I've heard a good number of them cite ST as a significant influence in their lives. For example, the scientist [don't know his name] who leads NASA's ion propulsion project [maybe just one of them] can recite some ST dialogue about ion propulsion by memory.

The Bat Cave was pretty cool as well. :biggrin:
 
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  • #28


True for me for many programs as well.

It is hard to beat PBS for quality science and political programs. And best of all, most can be watched online.

Back in the bad old days, before I returned to college, I used to rush home from work to watch The Mechanical Universe every afternoon.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7292513217416289653
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=7292513217416289653 [Broken]
Thanks for linking this I've been looking for something good to watch
 
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  • #29
Ivan Seeking
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Thanks for linking this I've been looking for something good to watch
Don't know happened to the YouTube window so I linked it directly.

You bet! The entire series is well worth watching. I think there were something like 80 episodes. The science is all Freshman level physics, but the history can be quite interesting.
 
  • #30
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lol well I certainly didn't mean that I expect anyone to learn something from them. the purpose of a fictional TV show isn't to teach science... but rather that they present a familiar face of the scientific community, or of being educated and "clever" in general... to many people, the notion of a scientist is very alien. If they turn on their TV every week and see a mathematician they can relate to, I don't see the harm in that.
Considering that the show turns math into magic, I do see the harm in perpetuating an ever worse stereotype. I like to watch Law & Order. That's a good show. It isn't strictly about the law, but it isn't full of BS either.


Yea, I've noticed that too.
Then isn't it nice to have characters like House and the mentalist who make being educated look badass?
I've watched this show a few times and realized its nothing more than scrubs with dr. Cox, but less comedy and more to the drama side. I honestly don't watch that show and say 'man that guys a badass for being smart'. I just say, this guys a petty jerk.


For example, I listen to WETA public radio. On ocassion they have special comercial breaks paid for by Bayer corporation. They always teach you something about science. Today in the car the commercial went as follows:

Todays commercial break brought to you by bayer is on underground vents. The deepest volcanos in the world are found under the ocean caused by hot magma that heats the rock near the ocean bottom surface. The heated magma causes cracks in the ocean floor which spew hot gases in the form of "vents".

Anyways, these are the kinds of things that promote science and learning.
 
  • #31
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I find that the same sort of people who criticize some of these shows also dislike even the ones that are clearly NOT aimed at teaching people 'real science', like MythBusters. Yes, they don't use the scientific method, inaccurate, etcetera etcetera but it still demonstrates the concept that science is actually something you use to answer interesting questions, not just some dry thing you read in textbook and scrawl out on old chalkboards, something which I feel that some professionals often forget.

To get kids interested in science, you talk about all the fascinating things you can do with it and do cool experiments; you don't bore them to death with proofs and emphasize 'experimental rigor'. Currently, not many people are interested in what I think is a fascinating and relevant discipline. If Numb3rs or CSI gets people interested in math or chemistry so that they want to go out and learn more about the actual subjects, then what's the harm?
 
  • #32
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I find that the same sort of people who criticize some of these shows also dislike even the ones that are clearly NOT aimed at teaching people 'real science', like MythBusters. Yes, they don't use the scientific method, inaccurate, etcetera etcetera but it still demonstrates the concept that science is actually something you use to answer interesting questions, not just some dry thing you read in textbook and scrawl out on old chalkboards, something which I feel that some professionals often forget.
Well, I think mythbusteres is about busting myths. Not demonstrating science.

To get kids interested in science, you talk about all the fascinating things you can do with it and do cool experiments; you don't bore them to death with proofs and emphasize 'experimental rigor'.
I don't understand this. I get the part about proofs (but I don't agree with it. Kids are not taught proofs so this point is invalid), but I dont get what you mean by emphasize 'experimental rigor'. Is that not contradictory to being taught proofs?

Currently, not many people are interested in what I think is a fascinating and relevant discipline. If Numb3rs or CSI gets people interested in math or chemistry so that they want to go out and learn more about the actual subjects, then what's the harm?
I really think your out on a limb here to say CSI and Numb3rs (whats up with that stupid 3 anyways? Compounding the problem with poor text message spelling isn't going to help matters) makes people interested in science.

There are so many good valid things people could make shows about if the audience really wanted to learn about science. I could make a show about airplanes, or space, or cooking, or chemistry, that you would tune into every week if I really wanted to.

The problem is I saw this show with an interesting premise (how things are repaired on big machines) and they were fixing a boeing 777. Interesting enough - except for the fact that the host is a moron saying things like WOW, this is AMAZING STUFF GUYS, CHECK THIS OUT, LETS GO, WOO HOO, ZIPIDDY DO DAH, TOOT TOOT, DAA AIRPLANE.

Instead of finding actual material to talk about, they just fill in feel good BS that doesn't teach anything and slap in some crapy animation graphics of an airplane moving.

I'm going to google some old videos from the 60's and 70's to show the difference between real learning and this pseudo garbage on tv today.
 
  • #33
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Cyrus: The point I was trying to make about proofs and experimental rigor is that sometimes the fun in science and math is buried under a whole bunch of dry crap. I HAVE met purists that think that if it isn't a nasally, 'high school science class'-esque program, it shouldn't even mention math or science because it's not educational enough.

NOVA is a wonderful program and I enjoy watching it but comparing it to these sorts of shows is apples to oranges. One is educational, one is entertainment. And I have met people who say that they never knew math *GASP* actually corresponds to things in real life until they watched Numb3rs (sorry for fixating on this show, it's the one I'm most familiar with. And yes, the 3 is stupid as hell) and have even gone far enough to say that they wished they paid more attention in math class. I'm not saying that it would inspire people like them to run out and become genius mathematicians but it provides a link between theory and application that is often missed. I'm not an expert and maybe it would make people who know more about math than me a tad angrier because the first time I've even heard of most of these concepts is in the context of the show, so I don't know the 'real math'.

I'm not arguing that merely watching these prime-time shows will do much for the viewers' intelligence but it provides a nice diversion. At any rate, even if doesn't teach anyone a single thing, I'm still glad there are semi-decent shows like it instead of "PIMP MY RIIIIIIDE, DAWG!!11" and crap of that sort. I think of it as a sort of stepping stone. It doesn't compete or compare with good, solid educational series like NOVA or (in my opinion) Extreme Engineering, but it's a decent gateway drug.
 
  • #34
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I agree with Cyrus House is a petty egotistical nightmare with only one redeeming feature, he's good at his job, possibly even the best. That's why I watch it, because he's a well rounded character that could exist, instead of Dr Cox, who whilst amusing is unrealistic. It's impossible to like House, that's the point.

The egotistical, eccentric, arrogant genius has been popular since Newton popularised the character. :smile:
 
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  • #35
Gib Z
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Personally, I reckon The Big Bang Theory is an awesome show! Sure, it may do nothing to help the image of physicists to the public eye, but they make it quite clear that the characters they are portrayed aren't any ordinary physicists, they are exceptional ones, so perhaps justifying the exaggerations.

And its always satisfying to see equations in the background or details in the script that are actually correct! A Professor from UCLA provides them.
 
  • #36
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Personally, I reckon The Big Bang Theory is an awesome show! Sure, it may do nothing to help the image of physicists to the public eye, but they make it quite clear that the characters they are portrayed aren't any ordinary physicists, they are exceptional ones, so perhaps justifying the exaggerations.

And its always satisfying to see equations in the background or details in the script that are actually correct! A Professor from UCLA provides them.
Meh when you have the best comedy in the world, you get a little choosy. Me it's just more formulaic pap from the American comedy institute, which apparently seem to write every comedy. It's actually nice to see something that is off the wall occasionally, but it's a rarity as comedy in the US seems to have gone all mass produced, it's a fact that good comedy generally comes from the comedians and writers, not one or another alone exclusively, take Black Adder, written by a stand up and a comedy writer. In the US even when it's good it's painfully derivative these days. How about some off the wall stuff? Please no more young people living together **** it's been done!
 
  • #37


It's impossible to like House, that's the point.
Am I the only one who actually finds House likable? :biggrin:
 
  • #38
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Am I the only one who actually finds House likable? :biggrin:
Actually secretly I admire him immensely because I mirror so much of his personality traits. If I had the guts or the job to act like he did I probably would be more like him.
 
  • #39
baywax
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So Monique... sorry I kind of side tracked your post... I've met with and worked with David Duchovny and he's actually very nice. His voice is as soft spoken as his character and he's casual and more involved with small things like his dog (at the time) than anything else.

The whole sex addiction claim seems to be a promotional ploy to put him back on the Hollywood map. Then again that's coming from me.:smile: But, generally, all round, very cool dude who's actually interested in science and the implications of science in society, in general.

Vancouver is a nice place to visit. There are the 2010 Olympic Winter Games to come and see too, if you need a good excuse! Some of the most recent X-Files Movie locations were shot where the downhill and other events will be taking place in 2010. Let's not talk about Jillian.:surprised
 

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