Bloggosaurus vs. the Science-TV Megalodon

Just this last week, the Discovery Channel was playing a documentary called “Clash of the Dinosaurs.”  I was too busy to watch it, but now it looks like I should wait to get it off Netflix when the DVD comes out. Why? Read on …

Carl Zimmer relays a heartening story about a little science-blogger that could. 

Matt Wedel, a paleontologist, has been blogging about his experience with a television show on the Discovery Channel called Clash of the Dinosaurs. It didn’t go well. The producers edited Wedel’s interviews to turn his words around 180 degrees. For example, remember that old notion of big dinosaurs having a second brain along their spinal column? Not true! Wedel explained this, but if you tune into the show, you see Wedel essenitally saying, True!

Thankfully the show eventually responded favorably.  But, Unfortunately, only after the show had aired.  Apparently the DVD version will contain more actual facts, and not just hype.

Science shows are getting better and better in a few ways.  And they are getting very bad in others.  On the one hand the image quality, and excitement level, is through the roof.  And the CGI is amazing (dino’s really do look like dino’s … I think).  This is all good, since getting people excited about science has been a major struggle since the days when Plato was forced to use puppets to keep Aristotle entertained.  (OK, I made that up.  But, I wouldn’t put it past him!)

The bad thing is that science TV shows have become so mainstream that they are now forced to deal with what every other TV show has had to deal with:  advertising dollars.  These shows are getting more expensive to produce, and they have bills to pay.  They have to make sure that people will be excited enough to keep watching.  So, accuracy is degraded, or completely dumped. 

But today the story has another ending. Wedel now reports that someone from the Discovery Channel called him up and is going to make things right. I can only guess that blogs do actually make a difference some of the time. Or maybe just this once.

Probably just this once.  But, I am not that worried about it all.  In the end, we can’t be relying on entertainment TV to educate the public.  All it can do is wet the appetite. 


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