Society’s unequivocal fascination with science and scientists, reflected by a growing presence as staples of film, television, and popular culture, has only been magnified by the enigmatic (and seemingly impenetrable) aura in which they are enveloped. Their studies decidedly abstruse, their coded language unintelligible, their habits quirky and eccentric, the world of the scientist has been an audiovisual shroud of mystery—until now. In perhaps the most authentic, unfiltered, extemporaneous portrayal of scientists in their environment ever recorded, new documentary Naturally Obsessed: The Making of a Scientist welcomes the lay audience into the laboratory as silent observers. No reservations, no restrictions, no preconceptions. The result is an emotionally stunning masterpiece that connects us to scientists as people, reaches out across professional divides, and places PhD students, the backbone of the modern scientific laboratory, under the microscope for the first time. ScriptPhD.com recently screened the movie with a group of UCLA PhD biology students. Under the “continue reading” cut is our review, along with an honest roundtable discussion that included reaction to the movie, its parallel to their lives, and the training of modern scientists.
The Human Spark is a new three-part documentary special on PBS in which Alan Alda soldiers after the genetic and cognitive elements that make him smarter than your average chimpanzee. In the first episode, he travels to numerous archaeological sites and many of the world’s finest research centers to look at how humans diverged from neanderthals and why we’re the ones writing the history books. Episode two tracks a series of experiments on chimpanzees and human children to illustrate the psychological differences. The final installment shows off some of the latest brain imaging studies and and linguistics research to postulate a theory on the nature of the ‘human spark’. With an interesting scientific premise as a basis, a hot field in which a lot of exciting, new information has been discovered within the last decade, and financial sponsorship by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, one of the most generous and prestigious in all of science, this should have been a knockout for PBS. Sadly, the finished product is merely another example of a strong concept with poor execution, punctuated by bloopers that the documentary’s creators were too pressed for content to take out.
Well, it’s that time of the year again, folks! Summer is fading, the leaves are starting to change color, the last of the barbecue coals has been extinguished, and you know what that means. The return of fall television. And we here at ScriptPhD.com are committed to previewing the best of science and science-fiction that the boob tube has to offer. From educational, to informational, to just downright fun, over the next two weeks, we will preview our picks of can’t-miss fall shows. While the majority of the season’s lineup is set to debut towards the end of September and beginning of October (coverage of which we’ll bring you next week), this week sees the return of Bones, Fringe and a Jim Henson favorite for the kiddies, Sid the Science Kid. Our exclusive sneak previews, under the jump.