I have long said that science fiction on television, even when it’s bad, can serve as inspiration for a budding scientist. Heck, I watched some pretty phenomenally bad scifi TV and movies and a kid, and it fueled the fire of interest and love I had for science. Do I wish the quality of science in the entertainment media were better? Sure! But that doesn’t mean it’s not serving a purpose.
Science in other media, like the news, is another matter. There, it’s critical that it be accurately represented. And it gets worse when someone makes a documentary that’s actually a polemic – a persuasive piece meant to change or guide opinions.
That’s why I really like this talk by scientist Brian Cox, who makes science documentaries for the BBC and is becoming a science celebrity in the UK. It was the Royal Television Society Huw Wheldon Memorial Lecture which he gave earlier this month on BBC2. he has a lot to say about the difference between documentaries and polemicals, and it’s worth your time to watch.