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Annual science dumbed down on again!

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Annual science dumbed down on again!

Old 26th Dec 2016, 20:48
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Annual science dumbed down on again!

Aaarrgh. I am driven to distraction by the glaring inaccuracies broadcast to the nation and the youngsters in the audience during the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures. Within minutes of the start there was an attempt to compare the power consumption of the lecture theatre (lights, sound systems, air-con etc) to that produced by an AA cell (which they kept calling an AA battery! It doesn't become a battery until two or more cells are connected togther). This comparison didn't suggest how long the huge number of AA cells would provide the equivalent power for. Without knowing how long it will provide the power for it is a meaningless number, after all, a single AA cell has a finite amount of power. Dumb, dumb dumb.....
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Old 26th Dec 2016, 21:02
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Well if you're going to be pedantic...

An "ideal" AA cell could indeed develop an infinite amount of power - power has no time dimension and what you are talking about is energy, which is a different thing entirely.

A "real" AA cell cannot develop an infinite amount of power, but the limitation is not the cell's capacity - it's the cell's impedance which limits the rate at which the cell can deliver energy and thus limits it's maximum power.

This off-the-cuff pedantry can be a bitch, can't it - get it wrong and you can look SO dumb...

PDR
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Old 26th Dec 2016, 21:07
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get it wrong and you can look SO dumb...
but keep up the good work as you make the rest of us think
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Old 26th Dec 2016, 21:27
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...limits it's maximum power.
Well if we're going to be pedantic, that should be

...limits its maximum power.
<grin>


...but I'm all for not confusing Power with Energy.
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Old 26th Dec 2016, 21:31
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You are quite correct, PDR1. However, the programme didn't mention maximum power output of the AA cells, it just said you would need more than 21,000 cells to power the studio/lecture theatre. If you really want to consider the impossible "ideal cell" then you would not even bother making it AA cell size, you would make it smaller than that.

I do know a little about these things, I was sponsored through my degree course by a manufacturer of lead-acid and nickel-cadmium cells, I was employed in their test labs at the time. On my first day at work I was asked to bring in, for testing, the cell outside the door. I stepped outside expecting to find something I would pick up with one hand and was faced with a single, 2 volt cell of 2,000Ah. It was bigger than a filing cabinet and somewhat heavier. it had been in service in a submarine for some years and we were interested to see how it had fared. I managed to find a fork lift truck small enough to fit through the lab door and it could only just lift the weight. Got it inside though and we did test it.
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Old 26th Dec 2016, 22:23
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That was the worse dumbed down Royal Institution Christmas Lecture that I have ever seen.
This may have been OK on Blue Peter, but for anyone interested in science it would have been a huge let down.
Why on earth have it reduced it down to such a simple level.

Very disappointing.



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Old 26th Dec 2016, 22:40
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If you think that was dumbing down, the BBC 2 musical The Entire Universe was the biggest load of shite I've ever funded with my licence fee
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Old 26th Dec 2016, 22:45
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The Beeb continues its remorseless dumbing down by sending members of the young audience on pointless tasks when the time could be better spent on science.
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Old 26th Dec 2016, 23:03
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It was nothing short of appalling. First order childish drivel. Blue Peter? Please don't insult them, this was for infants and imbeciles.

How dare they break the spirit of Eric Laithwaite when he dared to question folk who'd been beating the same drum for generations? At least it was interesting, but the reaction all but destroyed the man. Now in this plastic representation of science for the gormless, an ill-prepared ramble with a mass of party tricks, will no doubt be cast as the new standard for our tick-the-boxes children.

Grief, they even had a guest appearance of Dr Richard Dawkins who allowed a spiked sphere to pendulumate* back to his nose. If I'd been God, I'd have interferred with spacetime for a moment and had his eye out.

*Under certain circumstances some words can be powerfully enhanced with just a tad of modification.


The gyroscope, an engineer and the CHRISTMAS LECTURES | The Royal Institution: Science Lives Here


I challenge the powers that be that I could offer a better program for almost no cost. Just me, and one assistant. Props? The same set of tools my science master used just after the war plus perhaps a DVM or two and a set of fine scales.

The world is full of magical science mysteries, yet kids just don't seem to get fired up about them - probably too busy ticking those boxes.

You know when you've captured a young audience - unblinking eyes above stilled breath. The kids today must have been aching to let loose the looooooongest of sighs.

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Last edited by Loose rivets; 26th Dec 2016 at 23:23.
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Old 26th Dec 2016, 23:17
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This off-the-cuff pedantry can be a bitch, can't it - get it wrong and you can look SO dumb...
... especially when you can't spell its ...
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Old 27th Dec 2016, 00:38
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As a good friend of mine used to say, the price of pedantry is eternal vigilance ....
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Old 27th Dec 2016, 04:19
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I grabbed it to view later. Perhaps I can better spend the time doing something else based on the reviews here.
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Old 27th Dec 2016, 11:46
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I thought it was just me thinking the lecture was superficial without really explaining much.
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Old 27th Dec 2016, 13:54
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I thought it might be vaguely interesting, given the subject, but is was, as others have said, dumbed-down drivel that was full of inaccuracies.

Oh how I long for the days back when Eric Laithwaite lectured! (as mentioned above by LR).

The media consistently confuse power and energy, in fact I reckon they misreport those two more frequently that pretty much any other parameters. That doesn't surprise me, as having worked with TV production companies (including the BBC) they are almost 100% populated with arts-type graduates, who wouldn't know a scientific fact if it bit them in the bum.

I do not expect the RI to get it so horribly wrong, though. At the very least I would have hoped that someone peer-reviewed the lecture before it got so far as to be approved for broadcast. Sadly it seems they didn't.

My ex-boss years ago was a Fellow of the RI, and kept pestering me to become a member. I'm exceptionally glad I never took him up on the offer, as a year or so ago the RI abolished Fellows and got rid of the all and any membership requirements, so any idiot can join. I have to say, having watched that Christmas Lecture, that this policy shows..............
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Old 27th Dec 2016, 14:26
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I'm saddened to hear that the Christmas Lecture is not what it used to be. I remember Lawence Bragg's lectures.

Islandlad, I have only just discovered Brian Cox's videos and I've been viewing many of them recently.

Here's the one I first saw. It could not be accused of dumbing down science:

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Old 27th Dec 2016, 14:36
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"AA" defines the general dimensions of a series of "batteries" so you can actually purchase a 3.6 volt version.

http://gloimg.gearbest.com/gb/2015/2...-P-2558960.jpg
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Old 27th Dec 2016, 15:02
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Yes, Brian Cox is cool. Played in a rock band, too.

He's too young, but he should have played in The Tornados and made a hit with Telstar.
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Old 27th Dec 2016, 16:29
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rans6andrew
I've not yet seen 2016 lectures, but I have watched yearly since I was a kid myself (30yrs+)
You must remember that they are always targeted at CHILDREN/future scientists!

How many children refer to AA as CELLS, when they have been advertised for 40+ yrs as 'Batteries' by Ever Ready/VARTA/DURACELL/product manufacturers et al???

The pedant in you, also lives in my 69-y-o Electrical Fitter Father too - "It's a LAMP, not a BULB!"

Having him as a Father, I have learnt to live with the pedantry within IEE regs v Media v Education v The World!!!


I also agree with I42, that the lectures have been dumbed down over the last 20-or-so yrs from teenagers to pre-teens (which may explain why GCSE grades at A/A+ have gone through the roof = The Exams Are Getting Easier!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

If the GOV.UK have reduced/failed to increase the Exam pass limit, then so have the SI reduced/failed to increase their target audience!

Successive GOV.UK's in the EU have been aiming for EU Targets, so have surrepticiously reduced Pass Marks in order to achieve in better league tables - This has failed to address the apathy which has crept into to the UK social order and allowed 'Jeremy Kyle' and such like to flourish, portraying the true decline in social standards within the UK,mocking the social under-class, much to the hilarity of the REAL population.
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Old 27th Dec 2016, 18:03
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The problem is not just minor trivia, like confusing cells and batteries, it was serious stuff, like confusing power and energy. This is really fundamental to teaching kids about science - if they are being taught that power is energy, or vice versa, they will grow up with a fundamental misapprehension about how everything around us works, from our own bodies, through their ubiquitous mobile telephones, to big transport systems.

It really is so fundamentally wrong that it should have been corrected before it was allowed to be broadcast, but sadly it seems that no one with even O level physics glanced at the script before it aired.

OK, I've enjoyed a career in science, have had a love of science since I was a very small boy and was lucky enough to be born and grow up at a time when science dominated our lives. That does tend to make me just a little critical of science reporting and programmes aimed at educating people about science, but the "gold standard" for making science entertaining (which is damned hard) used to be the RI Christmas Lectures. No one could fail to be impressed by the amount of stored energy in a small rotating flywheel when Eric Laithwaite dropped it on the floor and it climbed to ceiling height up the wall behind him. Similarly, children loved his demonstration of gyroscopic precession by sitting in a swivel chair and holding a rotating flywheel, which he then moved to demonstrate precession more effectively than any amount of mathematics.

The closest we've got is Brian Cox, a very good communicator, who clearly has a passion about science that comes across well. Sadly, I fear, some of the very best demonstrations that educated so many, so well, in the past have almost certainly fallen foul of the H, S & E brigade now...........................
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Old 27th Dec 2016, 19:01
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The problem is not just minor trivia, like confusing cells and batteries, it was serious stuff, like confusing power and energy. This is really fundamental to teaching kids about science - if they are being taught that power is energy, or vice versa, they will grow up with a fundamental misapprehension about how everything around us works, from our own bodies, through their ubiquitous mobile telephones, to big transport systems.
Yup .... and this gives us enjuneers more work at higher wages to keep things running while at the same time helping to pay the bills to these kids to make our computer soft ware work for us.
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