atomic_fungus (atomic_fungus) wrote,

#688: Tonight on Nova....

Back when I was living in Iowa and working at Rockwell-Collins, one of the TV highlights of my week was to watch Nova. Tuesday was a wasteland on TV, even with cable, and Nova has always been a show I tried to watch, from the time I was about 10.

But something happened.

I wish I could remember it. I probably could find the detailed explanation of the situation somewhere in my old e-mail files, but it's sufficient for me to remember that something happened and the local PBS station decided to show "The Proof" again rather than offend peoples' sensibilities with this new episode that was tangentially related to some tragedy or other.

Look, the guy that proved Fermat's Last Theorem--okay, the guy's a genius, I grant him that. And the story of how he proved it was interesting the first freaking time. Okay, but after the fifth or sixth showing of that episode in a three-month period AND I AM NOT EXAGGERATING it gets rather stale.

There have been so many great episodes of Nova over the years--I never got to see the one about Einstein, but I have the one about Feynman on tape, and the other one about Cliff Stoll's attempts to foil Internet spying. And there were plenty of recent eps that they could have shown other than "The Proof".

I was getting tired of Nova anyway because about 2/3 of the shows were wildlife shows--this or that species in its natural habitat, blah blah blah, etcetera. When they weren't showing "The Proof" they were showing this or that story about some animal or other.

Around that time I was lamenting Nova's increasing reliance on wildlife for material, and how boring I found it; and in an e-mail to a friend I characterized it thus: "Tonight on Nova: 'Leeches of the Serengeti'."

Nova didn't used to be all about animals. In fact, for a long time it was about all kinds of science, not just biology. I learned a lot about space, particle physics, nuclear physics, chemistry, biological theory (like genetics and evolution) and a host of other hard science topics, just by watching Nova when I was a kid.

But when I was living in Iowa? "Leeches of the Serengeti" was what I had to look forward to every Tuesday night. That is, if they weren't running "The Proof" again.

...come to think of it, I think it was an episode about the science of explosives--which I had been looking forward to seeing--and it was due to be shown the day after Columbine happened, but they substituted "The Proof" instead because they didn't want to be "insensitive".

As far as I know, no episode titled "Leeches of the Serengeti" has ever been aired or even made; it was meant to be hyperbole. I think it rather nicely illustrated my frustration with Nova becoming an "animal show".

This evening I recalled "Leeches of the Serengeti" and could not stop laughing. Hence, this post.

...later on I went back to Nova but the damage had been done. There was a two-part episode about string theory (the "anthropogenic global warming" of the physics world, to hear some people tell it) and it was so incredibly dumbed-down that I couldn't stand to watch it.

"All matter is made of tiny particles called 'atoms'--" WHAT? WHAT THE HELL IS THIS? SCIENCE FOR RETARDS? WTFF!!!

I mean, come on! You're doing a show about freaking string theory, and you're starting out with the atomic theory of matter? Christ on a crutch! If you don't already know that matter is made of atoms you have no business trying to comprehend anything like string theory.

I can just about guarantee that anyone who doesn't already know "matter is composed of tiny particles called 'atoms'" isn't going to be interested in string theory anyway. If anything, they'll be too busy voting for their favorite on American Idol even to think about learning something about science.

And so it's now been several years since I watched any episode of Nova, or even part of one. I just don't need the aggravation. Besides, PBS sucks. I'd rather watch the guys on Mythbusters blow shit up.

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