Kill The Science

This week we’re taking a short break from the usual so I can talk about Doctor Who. Specifically, last week’s Doctor Who Episode ‘Kill The Moon’.

Before you animal lovers scurry away, let me give you a brief, spoilery synopsis. If you don’t want to know the score, look away now . . .

Doctor Who, a sci-fi/fantasy show, told a story last week where the Doctor discovered that the moon was, in fact, the alien egg of some strange species which gained 1.3 billion tonnes of weight, hatched, then laid a brand new egg the exact same mass and dimensions of the old moon.

There was also some kind of half baked abortion allegory in there too, but none of this is really important.

You can google 1.3 billion tonnes. Even better you can Wolfram Alpha it. There’s an ex-NASA scientist I know of who I’m pretty sure would LOVE to explain what would happen if the moon gained ‘all’ that mass. You can think of all the examples where animals lay eggs immediately post-birth (there are few). It may be a famous trope that Writers Cannot Do Math, but in this day and age, should we really expect them to be unable to Google either?

I used the mathematical symbol ‘≠’ in an email conversation recently and had to explain it. It was decided that it was too complicated to use for the members of public we were communicating to. This kind of thing makes me incredibly irate, especially in an educational context.

But have we trained people to stop looking these things up? To fear things they don’t understand?

Or should we not expect this kind of research from an allegedly science fiction show?

I run a welfare science blog, I’m clearly biased about this. Research comes easily to me. In fact I’m one of those people who gets sucked into wikihopping and thinks Randall Monroe might be one of the greatest science communicators out there, but I’ll give Jorge Cham a salute. But should we be demanding a greater level of science communication in our media?

The Guardian published an article this week discussing how recent animal rights ‘expose’ were overhyped and, in parts, outright lies. At one point, Fiona Fox says:

However, the huge discrepancy between the allegations reported prominently in national newspapers and the truth should worry anyone who cares about the accurate reporting of science in the media, and should raise questions about the way these undercover exposés are covered.

Is part of this not because we have, as a culture, no respect for science on our screens?

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