MSM tackles the need to explore… and gets it very right

By Phil Plait | July 21, 2012 7:00 am

BABloggee Steven Avery on Twitter sent me a link to a story about astronomy done on MSNBC… and it’s great. Seriously, it’s worth the 11:30 to watch it. They show not just what we’re doing, but why we’re doing it. It’s rare for any mainstream medium to cover this well, but it’s extraordinary that they delve into the philosophy and sheer joy of exploration.

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Fantastic. The short segment after, with Brian Williams talking to Harry Smith is simply wonderful. It’s uplifting to see two news people talking about how much they love this sort of thing. I wish we had more of this. I spend a lot of time shaking my head and gritting my teeth over science coverage in the news in this country, so something like this is a breath of fresh air so sweet it’s staggering.

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Comments (25)

  1. Charles

    Thanks VERY much for posting this, Phil. I would have missed it otherwise.

    NBC news has just earned my regular viewing.

  2. jearley

    I hope that this stays on line for a while. I want to show it to my students in the fall. Thanks, Phil.

  3. Mark V2

    “Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before.” E.A. Poe

  4. That was very cool! I am very glad to see at least one mainstream news channel trying to teach instead of just instilling worry about the latest non news story.

  5. EQ

    Wow. I think what blew my mind most was the utter lack of controversy during the report. I was practically on the edge of my seat waiting for them to cut to someone who thinks all of this is a waste of money. Informative, accurate, inspiring, significant. Good reporting. Damn, I’m impressed.

  6. Keith

    You’d never in a million years see anything like this on Faux News. Their by-line would be “The Republicans say God did it, so why are they wasting their time on this?”

  7. Thanks so much for your kind words, Phil. I’ve passed them along to Harry Smith and my other colleagues at NBC News. Keep on fighting the “Bad” fight.

  8. MaureenM

    “We can’t stop reaching.” Thank you, that was awesome.

  9. Grand Lunar

    Thank you for the find, Phil!

    Keith beat me to it in writing that Fox News were never air a story like this.
    At least, not in this fashion.

    And to think my aunt likes Fox news. No wonder she doesn’t understand a thing about space exploration.

  10. Gary Ansorge

    When humanity loses the urge to explore, it will die.

    Thanks for reminding us why we’re still here.

    Gary 7

  11. James

    It’s a bit dumbed down isn’t it?

  12. MadScientist

    That reminds me – is there any recent news on the orbiting Russian radio observatory? I can’t wait to see the results of their interferometric measurements.

  13. Tom

    Very interesting, to bad MSNBC is so far to the left and not really a news network by any stretch of the imagination anymore that very few people actually watch it anymore.

  14. Menyambal

    Tom, if you’d spend a little more time learning and a little less time reinforcing your delusions, your writing might improve.

    Great, great video! Thanks, Phil, and thanks to the folks who made it. That young astronomer will go far.

  15. Chris

    I remember going to a talk a few years ago about the ALMA Observatory. Nice to see it’s almost finished. One thing I remember about the altitude. The astronomers would have liked to build it higher, but the Chilean workers charge extra if they have to work above a certain altitude.

  16. kat wagner

    O, that was so cool! And to think it’ll be done in a year! This piece reminds me of Pioneer Cabin, a hiking destination in the Sawtooths that has a big sign painted on its roof that says “The Higher You Get, the Higher You Get.”

    Tom, what the heck? MSNBC has the courage to speak the truth. In arguing facts verses fiction, truth wins out every time.

  17. Fantastic!
    And to those who claim that MSNBC is slanted to the left, I would reply, as Stephen Colbert so elegantly stated, that reality has a well-known liberal bias. The sort of approach that most Fox news viewers would label as flaming leftism is (to most of the rest of the 7+ billion people on this planet) common-sense centrism.

  18. Gunnar

    I agree with Joseph G and Stephen Colbert that scientific reality has a very strong liberal bias. The older I get and the more I learn about science, history and religion, the more obvious that becomes to me.

    Joseph G, I like your blog, BTW! :)

  19. Jay29

    Awesome stuff, definitely a breath of fresh air to see a segment like this on a network news show. Love seeing a clip of “Cosmos” in there. I just finished watching it for the 2nd time (it’s free on Hulu, people!). This world would be such a better place if everybody watched that series once.

    “If we do not destroy ourselves, one day we will venture to the stars.”

  20. @19 Gunnar: Thanks!! 😀 I just went back and read through it a bit. I can’t believe I put that much energy into a film review! 😛 That doesn’t sound like (lazy) me.
    Of course, like most blogs, I wandered off and forgot about it after a few months. I should really try to resurrect it. The only thing I’m worried about is that as the election approaches it will become nothing but political rants. In fact, they might not stop at the election. In which case I should really re-title the blog “Astro-Snarker” or something along those lines.

  21. Some of the comments here suggest that it was a good move to rebrand as MSNBC the website was very different from MSNBC the cable channel. The website served and continues to serve as the online home for MSNBC on cable, but it also has lots of other news from NBC and other sources. The video we’re talking about here, for example, aired on “Rock Center” on NBC. We’re in the process of transitioning from the URL to … so stay tuned for more changes ahead.

  22. Brian Too

    Good stuff. Did anyone else notice that they never once mentioned how much ALMA costs? I sorta liked that. In an overview piece to the general audience, they chose to spend their broadcast time on what motivates people to make such a thing. Start talking about costs and the discussion can so quickly devolve into “there are starving children in Africa” sort of directions.

  23. Skydaddy

    As noted in an ancient Middle Eastern book of wisdom…

    “For He is the living God
    and He endures forever;
    His kingdom will not be destroyed,
    His dominion will never end.
    He rescues and he saves;
    He performs signs and wonders
    in the heavens and on the earth.”
    –Daniel 6:26-27

    “The heavens declare the glory of God;
    the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
    Day after day they pour forth speech;
    night after night they reveal knowledge.
    They have no speech, they use no words;
    no sound is heard from them.
    Yet their measuring line goes out into all the earth,
    their words to the ends of the world. ”
    –Psalm 19: 1-4

  24. Wzrd1

    Brian Too, one can approach this from another aspect that sells today all too disturbingly well.

    Fear, fear, FEAR!
    Fear the unknown!
    The best defense is a strong offense!
    Defend against the unknown!
    Study and learn the unknown and defeat it!


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