Full of Hot Air

I really hate it when TV presenters are the face of science programmes.

You might be wondering why I actually care enough to make an entire blog post about that. Firstly, I should probably put things into perspective and combat the ills of society, and secondly, I should probably get a life. That said, this post (hopefully) develops into something vaguely important.

The thing is, as a general rule TV presenters know nothing, or very little, about science. A programme may try to remedy this by interviewing actual scientists working in the field, but it still seems to come off as some Z-list media personality talking to the token egghead that they have to put in because it's about science and they have to make sure that it's factually correct, if grossly oversimplified. This does really not help public understanding of science - which is already sorely lacking.

It's absolutely infuriating: people who know nothing about science get to show off some "gee whiz!" science and contribute almost NOTHING to public knowledge, while for the most part actual scientists have to content themselves with blogs and sometimes publishing books. There are quite a few science programmes presented by scientists working in that field, which I am very thankful for - but it's still not enough.

To be honest this entire rant was sparked by a programme my mother told me about, in which some past-it windbag got to be the face of a documentary about the effects music has on the brain and even got to - gasp! - go through a CT scanner! Apparently one data point is enough to illustrate the numerous effects music can have! (As someone who's done more science practicals than I care to remember, they quite frequently go wrong - so no, one data point really isn't enough.) Now, not being a neurologist or a psychologist, I can't say I know much about the effects of music on the brain, and I wouldn't even claim that I knew more than the presenter. What I would claim, and quite vehemently, is that having someone who doesn't know what they're talking about presenting a science programme is bad for scientists and bad for science communication.

I don't know about you, but I'd certainly find it much more interesting if, say, a neurologist or a psychologist were presenting this kind of programme - it is their field, after all. Hell, I'd be even more interested if people from different disciplines presented it - why not have a musician, a mathematician, or a statistician help out, too? Why not have more disciplines than that? These people know these subjects; these people can see the vital links, too. These people could talk about it at length and with passion, and they probably would if they were given free reign to. If anyone could make science accessible, they could. Not some has-been pseudo-celebrity who wouldn't know that science if it slapped them in the face.