8 October 2010

Science Friday Needs Our Help

Posted by Dan Satterfield

Unlike the UK, where a TV and Radio license  fee pays for the BBC’s slew of excellent educational programming, we have only NPR and PBS here in America. I’ve frequently compared NPR to the BBC with no money. That really about covers it….except.

NPR is still fabulous.

If you see Wonders of The Solar System on in your area, then make plans to watch it. This BBC program is full of fabulous science. (image from the BBC)

In an era where scientific ignorance seems to be at it’s peak, we have very few excellent programs on Science available. Yes, NOVA and NATURE are great. Hopefully the BBC series Wonders of The Solar System by Astronomer Brian Cox will make it here soon as well.

Some of the programming I’ve seen on the History channel and Discovery are absolute junk. Especially the 2012 stuff. In reality there is a slew of junk science programs on backwater cable. Trust me, if it’s about UFO’s, aliens from space helping to build the pyramids, or Nostradamus, then you are being sold a bag of fertilizer.

Discovery does get a kudo from me, and that is for Astronomer Phil Plait’s Bad Universe. Science is, and can be shown to be, rabidly interesting and Phil Plait makes it so.

Before you think that nobody takes those programs seriously, let me tell you something. I was getting a danish in the Albany airport, when the girl behind the counter found out I was a meteorologist. Guess what she asked me?

What is the dew point? Will it rain tomorrow? What does 40% chance of rain (answered here) really mean?


The actual Question: “Is the world really going to end in 2012???”

My answer: “Trust me, it’s not.” I wanted to add “you should cancel cable.”

Consider, that hundreds of thousands of gullible folks are buying bracelets that harness magic fields that do not exist. Add in the school boards who are trying to ban science books based on solid  science because they are politically unpopular, and you know we truly have a problem.

American students rank with 3rd world countries now in math and science. I’m not exaggerating. A Canadian high school graduate has more science and math knowledge than many college seniors in America.

Now, comes news that Science Friday on NPR has lost some of it’s funding. I rate that program the best regular science program on radio (U.S. at least). Good solid science that is fascinating and timely.

It turns out that if you make a donation this year to the program they have grant that will match it two to one! The word that their funding might be in trouble has already gotten them an outpouring of support. You can find out more about how you can help here. You can listen to today’s (Friday Oct 8th 2010) program here.

Trust me, they will get a donation from me!

So will my local NPR station that carries the program.