posted by Joe Anaya on July 15th, 2013

With no empirical data to back up my claim, I’m just gonna act like it’s true and that I know what I’m talking about. Television, especially cable TV, has saved science. I’m sure all the smart people will balk at the suggestion that the low-brow wasteland that spawned the Kardashians, The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, and Swamp People has done any good for humanity, but hear me out.

In the 60s, the broadcast of the lunar landing and sci-fi shows like Star Trek sparked interest in young people to pursue science and be part of these amazing happenings. The image of Brainiacs in short sleeves and pocket protectors was spreading. Many engineers have referenced things like the Star Trek communicators as models for the design of the flip phones or the Enterprise’s computer cartridges as models for the 3 ½ inch floppy disks. (Only old people will remember those.) At the time, these items were science fiction come to life. It was like living in the future.

Maybe some of the science was still around for the Six Million Dollar Man during the 70s. But through the 80s, anybody with a brain was encouraged to go into Wall Street and figure out how to make money without inventing, discovering, or even making anything, but simply by shuffling money around. Geeks were bad; greed was good.

Add to the stigma of being into science, the increasing external pressures on schools. As an example, animal rights awareness eliminated the dissection of frogs, cats and what have you. Budget cuts eliminated construction of engines and model planes. Insurance liabilities eliminated exciting and possibly dangerous chemical experiments. All the things that could have excited a kid about science were being eliminated. Science was dying a long slow death. Until cable TV was desperate for content, then everything changed.

Shows like, but not limited to, Myth Busters, Through The Wormhole or even The Big Bang Theory have put the fun back into science. Myth Busters uses the scientific method to prove or disprove urban legends and they usually involve blowing things up. Through The Wormhole blows your mind with scientists describing the world of multi-verses, time space theories, black holes and more. And of course, everyone knows as least one theoretical physicist in Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons) from The Big Bang Theory.

Now instead of hiding their love of science, kids debate the feasibility of a rocket car. They discuss the quantum likelihood of disappearing homework and recite jokes about the size of the universe. It’s cool to be good at science. It’s good to watch TV, well at least Science Channel.



File Under Mr. Cool