The Quantum Pontiff

The Scienceborg is all abuzz about some Sizzle movie, with all sorts of good and bad reviews, and gnashing of the teeth about whether the movie stunk or whether it was the best thing since the invention of sliced ham (few know that this event was much more important than the invention of sliced bread, which is vastly overhyped.) A good way to waste your time, I suppose, but I thought I wasn’t going to get much out of it, you known, in terms of actually getting any good insight or educational crap like that. But then I discovered Chris C. Mooney’s post on the whole thing. (Chris is lucky, he can use his middle initial. If I use mine, my initials are DMB. As in not so bright.)

Chris, who is most well known for a book about the war on science (to the battlestations, dear physicists! You must sacrifice your bodies and equations to beat back the waves of hording antiscientists! Antiscientists with missile launching prayer mats, oh my!) is on the best thing since sliced ham side of the gnashing. Fine. I mean, it is just a movie, and well people are sort of known to not necessarily all like the same movie. But Chris went beyond this and tried to nail down the reason that a large number of his fellow sciencebloggers panned the movie:

And so I’d like to make a suggestion: Could it be that, for some of these hypercritical bloggers, Randy Olson’s documentarian character in Sizzle is really their reflection in the mirror? After all, the character is basically a caricature of someone who repeatedly demands facts, facts, facts, and can’t relate to non-scientists, have a good laugh, enjoy a good story.

Which is awesome! Here is someone who is supposed to be helping scientists learn to communicate, telling them that they are humorless old farts, in a blog post which had not a single joke in it, and wherein he gives us the facts about why some bloggers didn’t like the movie. Priceless! And nearly deadly because it caused my irony organ to hemorrhage and spray jokes all around my office. I also saw a kettle go totally Zebra on me.

But don’t look to me for insight on this debate. I’m just a humorless scientists who only cares about facts, facts, facts (they only come in threes you know.)

Note: any comments in this post must include a joke. If they don’t include a joke, then non-scientists won’t read them, and they will be invisible to the vast majority of the blogosphere.

Comments

  1. #1 Greg Laden
    July 18, 2008

    You really ought to try to be funny sometimes. I mean, really.

    Of course, everyone has total freedom to like or not like a movie. The idea that scientists were looking for something that was not there and thus did not like it (Sizzle) is not especially offensive or surprising. From that perspective, one could say that Citizen Kane was a really crappy documentary about sleds.

    (Now, THAT is funny.)

    On the other hand, what if this had been a film about a couple in Hollywood who gets hooked up with some other people to make a documentary, and it was all about the interaction between documentary film makers and hollywood (first half of film) and reality (second half of film) with a side helping of gay and black stereotypes meeting each other, science, and reality. And it just happened that the film was about global warming. But the entire science community was unaware of it.

    Then, like a year later, somebody discoveries the film, passes it around, and next thing you know it is a CULT CLASSIC among science bloggers!

    (OK, that is less funny)

    Finally, all this talk about Sizzle makes me want to watch Expelled! and see if I can be objective about it as a movie. The (evolutionary biologists) I know who saw it claim that it was not well made. But the trailers are brilliantly made. Is the film really not well made?

    I guess I can put it on my netflix list and see how that goes.

    (back to very funny again).

  2. #2 Dave Bacon
    July 18, 2008

    I think someone should do a mashup of Expelled and Sizzle and then we can all turn into monkeys and throw more poop at each other (Monkeys and poop are always funny. Which is why 2001 wasn’t funny. Sure it was the dawn of man, but with no poop flinging, it just didn’t seem, you know, realistic.)

  3. #3 Orac
    July 18, 2008

    From that perspective, one could say that Citizen Kane was a really crappy documentary about sleds.

    (Now, THAT is funny.)

    Uh, no it isn’t. It’s actually rather dumb. Sorry, just saying it’s funny doesn’t make it so.

  4. #4 Dave Bacon
    July 18, 2008

    Dude I so need to read what I write before I post it, it’s not even funny.

    Oh crap now I have to put a joke in here.

    What do you call a cow with no legs? Ground Beef.

  5. #5 Dave Bacon
    July 18, 2008

    *Ahem* Orac. Joke?

    What do you call a cow with one leg stuck in the ground? Steak.

  6. #6 Greg Laden
    July 18, 2008

    Uh, no it isn’t. It’s actually rather dumb. Sorry, just saying it’s funny doesn’t make it so.

    Very funny.

    Where do cow detectives look for clues?

    A steakout!

  7. #7 Dave Bacon
    July 18, 2008

    Greg, that joke was an udder disaster.

  8. #8 Matt Hussein Platte
    July 18, 2008

    With you two guys dominating the thread, it’s impossible to get a herd in edgewise.

  9. #9 Coriolis
    July 18, 2008

    This a physicist’s blog, about jokes, and still no one has mentioned “spherical chicken”?

    This affair reminds me of when Feynman’s publishers wanted to put a picture of him playing a drum “to show that scientists are human too” (If I recall correctly, it may have been another of his books). Feynman’s response was something along the lines of basically, you can go screw yourselves, we’re human without the drum.

  10. #10 Dave Bacon
    July 18, 2008

    I have a sign outside my office which reads “Spherical Cow Crossing.” In a computer science building, this creates lots of confusion. That and my sign which warns that my office is an “Ocaam Free Zone.”

    What do you call a grumpy cow?
    Moo-dy.

  11. #11 Ryan
    July 18, 2008

    A guy named Dave BACON tells me the invention of sliced ham is more important than sliced bread, and I’m supposed to take him at his word?

    I doubt it.

  12. #12 Dave Bacon
    July 18, 2008

    Bacon is actually French for “bread”, so yeah it is with great pains that I say that sliced bread isn’t all it’s cut out to be.

  13. #13 Jon
    July 18, 2008

    My joke only works when you say it. Because you think eyes instead of i’s.

    What do you call a pig with three i’s?

    Piiig

    In defense of Dave, on first viewing Citizen Kane is a really crappy sled documentary. But viewed another way a sled after all is but a vehicle for storytelling, and therefore, using the metaphor of the sled we can see Orson Welles’ character in a new light. As the story unfolds, we can also come to appreciate the sled which carries the story as transcending its own physicality, transporting us, the viewers, into the world of the film. (http://xkcd.com/451/)

    Also, I would like to hear comments on my assertion, since 1979, that spiral cut ham is the most important invention since sliced ham.

  14. #14 JohnQPublic
    July 18, 2008

    The whole point is moo.

  15. #15 TimJ
    July 19, 2008

    All of these cow comments certainly steered this blog a new direction…

  16. #16 chezjake
    July 19, 2008

    Let’s get back to the pork. I personally think that sliced bacon is far more significant than sliced ham.
    http://icanhascheezburger.com/2008/07/18/funny-pictures-omg-bacon/

  17. #17 Jonathan Vos Post
    July 20, 2008

    When you discuss sliced ham, and sliced bread, I presume that you are citing:

    arXiv:0807.2839
    Title: Uneven Splitting of Ham Sandwiches
    Authors: Felix Breuer
    Comments: 18 pages, 2 figures
    Subjects: Combinatorics (math.CO)

    17 July 2008

    Let m_1,…,m_n be continuous probability measures on R^n and a_1,…,a_n in [0,1]. When does there exist an oriented hyperplane H such that the positive half-space H^+ has m_i(H^+)=a_i for all i in [n]? It is well known that such a hyperplane does not exist in general. The famous ham sandwich theorem states that if a_i=1/2 for all i, then such a hyperplane always exists.

    In this paper we give sufficient criteria for the existence of H for general a_i in [0,1]. Let f_1,…,f_n:S^{n-1}->R^n denote auxiliary functions with the property that for all i the unique hyperplane H_i with normal v that contains the point f_i(v) has m_i(H_i^+)=a_i. Our main result is that if Im(f_1),…,Im(f_n) are bounded and can be separated by hyperplanes, then there exists a hyperplane H with m_i(H^+)=a_i for all i. This gives rise to several corollaries, for instance if the supports of m_1,…,m_n are bounded and can be separated by hyperplanes, then H exists for any choice of a_1,…,a_n in [0,1]. We also obtain results that can be applied if the supports of m_1,…,m_n overlap.

  18. #18 John Sidles
    July 21, 2008

    I have been on the island of Piig … in Micronesia … it is a remarkably out-of-the way place!