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Ask A ScienceBlogger, October 20

What’s the best science TV show of all time?


  1. #1 Robert Huckabee
    October 21, 2006

    Mr. Wizard

  2. #2 david1947
    October 21, 2006

    Americans only? Bloggers only? James Burke’s early science shows in the UK really left a mark on me. Not Connections, although that had lots of slick appeal. I mean the Science Specials (1972 – 1976). For example, in one of them at the beginning he placed a volunteer in a chair in front of a counter with a $ sign leading it, and told him to “make as much money as you can”. No other instruction was given. Every so often during the show they would cut to the counter, and each time the frequency with which it counted up had increased. By the end of the show it was going several counts per second. We then got to see the volunteer’ face. The counter had been tied via a hidden camera to count every time the volunteer blinked. Not TK after all! Bio-feedback.

    But it’s a tough call. I would more list the people than the shows. James Burke. Carl Sagan. Jacob Bronowski. Isaac Asimov (more books here though – “Mass length and Time” was important to my development).

  3. #3 Dior
    October 21, 2006

    David Suzuki’s, “The Nature of Things” did it for me. Less pomp and bad thermin music than Cosmos. And he decided to become a biologist (genetics, UBC) because of his internment in a Canadian/Japanese internment camp in WWII.

  4. #4 flounder
    October 21, 2006

    I always loved Connections, it told a good story and I learned some obscure science factoids. Then I could use them to score babes.

  5. #5 Zach Wilson
    October 22, 2006

    Anyone here for the mad hijinks of Mythbusters?

  6. #6 Avery
    October 22, 2006

    I was thinking of the connections series also. I think I might have to re-watch it now…especially in light of flounders experience.

    Mythbusters is good because it attracts people who would not sit down and watch a science show.

  7. #7 Gerald Fauske
    October 22, 2006

    This is such a no-brainer question, I’m surprised at the answers. Far and away, with no competition, was Dr. Jacob Brownowski’s ‘The Ascent of Man’ series. A (distant)second choice would be Carl Sagen’s ‘Cosmos’– fluffy on the edges, but good science as well. ‘Connections’ while interesting, does not rate as it has all the rigor of an S.J. Gould argument, Intellegent Design ‘theory’, or Alternative History Science Fiction– for the same reason. It all ultimately depends upon where the presenter chooses to make the links. That is not to deny cause and effect, nor to deny a progression of scientific discoveries, i.e. present advancements absolutely do depend upon past findings. Using the battle phalanx or Pike men as the starting point on a path leading to the Saturn V makes a good story– but so does the Dodo tree. Equally valid starts might be urns dredged up in the Mediterranean or the ill fated Viking colonies in the New World.

    With even more hubris and expanding the question slightly, one of the best documentaries of all time is Sir Kenneth Clark’s ‘Civilisation’ (Brit. spell.). In this somewhat different context, I would rate ‘Connections’ a strong second.

    David Suzuki’s series ‘fouls out’ pun intended-read on. His series, had an ‘anthropocentric element’ or more plainly- if he (the author) could not see scientifically how a thing could be done it either was not true or reasonable.
    And now we come to the ‘fowled out’argument.

    In one episode he held a female Blue-winged teal and (I believe but it has been more than 30 years) a female Shoveller stating that on a foggy day hunters could not be expected to tell the difference but, under game laws, they were. His laudable goal was to bring science into common experience and application in everyday life. All he succeeded in doing, however, was illustrating that he was no hunter, birder, nor field biologist.

  8. #8 Antiquated Tory
    November 7, 2006

    I have a soft spot for David Attenborough’s Life on Earth series, which I used to slip downstairs to watch on Sunday mornings back in 7th and 8th grade.