Friday, September 25, 2009

Weekend television: The Secret Life of Scientists

Nanoscientist Rich Robinson on The Secret Life of Scientists

A child-prodigy medical researcher who loves to run. An engineer who practices back-flips in his spare time. A nanoscientist who takes soul-searching photographs.

These are a few of the scientists profiled so far on the new NOVA Web series, "The Secret Life of Scientists." NOVA explores the different facets of each scientist's life, including their passions, their research, their experiences, and their opinions. The videos are short and minimalistic, and there are no hosts or voice-overs, keeping the viewer's attention on what the individual has to say.

Every two weeks, the Secret Life team puts a new scientist under the microscope. When a scientist is profiled, viewers have a chance to submit questions and, after a couple of weeks, get some honest answers.

The team's just getting started, but they already have a couple of great videos in the can. The idea behind it reminds me vaguely of a certain US Weekly column. I can see it now - Scientists! They're just like us! Brian Greene shops at Target! Steven Hawking enjoys ice cream and the occasional bad science fiction movie! It also has echoes of the Washington Post's awesome Web video series, onBeing. At any rate, it's refreshing to see science media that focuses on people. It's so easy to forget that a new telescope, medicine, and or technology doesn't just get churned out by some alien science machine, but comes into being through days and months and years of people living out their lives. Which are just like the lives of the rest of us...with a bit more test tubes, or balled-up pieces of paper, or blinking lights, perhaps.

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