Nut Up or Shut Up

By Sean Carroll | September 22, 2010 8:45 am

Observe as a striving young author demonstrates how to fluster an innocent morning TV host by dropping quotes from Zombieland. (If you don’t get the first clip, press pause and go to the menu on top.)


There is a lesson here, in the reaction to the title The Calculus Diaries. You write a book to emphasize the fun and conceptual side of math, to reach an audience that doesn’t traditionally pick up science books. How do you get them to buy a book with “Calculus” in the title? Zombies and Vegas help, but it’s an uphill battle.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Science and the Media
  • Rhacodactylus

    Excellent, another hackneyed morning show starting with the premise “math and science are boring.”

    Someone fire that schmuck and hire someone with a central nervous system.

  • spyder

    Like most cities, San Diego Living, is a video magazine mashed together with snippets of this and that to promote the week’s events in that city. The fact that they would help promote Jennifer’s new book, The Calculus Diaries is quite noteworthy actually. LA has twenty or thirty stations that do this sort of production and they don’t invite her. Props to her for taking advantage of the opportunity to share her thoughts.

  • Matt

    First, I watched like three and a half minutes of a chef with diabetes before realizing I had to load a different clip but….

    I didn’t think that interview was so bad. A lot of people think math is hard and useless, so having a host start from that premise isn’t the worst because it gives the viewer someone to identify with. All in all, I think that was a fine advertisement for a book I hope to read soon.

  • KiwiDamien

    I had a question for your wife based on this interview. She claims that the exercise of catching a baseball is really one of taking a derivative. But given what we are looking to do (take an initial speed and initial position, and then find a position as a function of time so that the catcher can intercept the ball) isn’t it closer to integrating a differential equation?

  • Tevong

    Good rapport and enthusiasm comes across, the interviewer seemed genuinely interested in the book by the end. Overall a positive impression!

  • Jennifer Ouellette

    @KiwiDamien: You’re correct. I meant to say taking an integral. It’s very very easy to mis-speak when you’re talking off the cuff like that, and correcting midstream ruins the flow of conversation — which is a critical element of TV. I’ve been very careful in subsequent interviews to get that particular example correct. :)

  • Jennifer Ouellette

    Also? What Spyder said. :) I was delighted when San Diego Living had a last-minute cancellation and asked me to fill in — math and science get zero time on many of these kinds of shows. The people there are kind and friendly and competent. I loved chatting with them. They’re just like your neighbors, probably, who also mistakenly assume math and science is boring. Baby steps. :)

  • Ellipsis

    Great job Jennifer!

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  • Jennifer West

    Great job, Jennifer, I love when he starts laughing…did you just say “nut up or shut up???” By the way, you’ve written three books now, from the outside it no longer appears that you are striving…can’t we just say adorable young author and leave it at that? Sean could still be striving, after publishing two books, but after the next one he’ll have to leave it at adorable as well.

  • ix

    “We’ve got three hot momma’s here…” Why does he want me to watch this again? Oh… select the first clip.

  • Gammaburst

    Rule number one: Cardio….


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Cosmic Variance

Random samplings from a universe of ideas.

About Sean Carroll

Sean Carroll is a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Physics at the California Institute of Technology. His research interests include theoretical aspects of cosmology, field theory, and gravitation. His most recent book is The Particle at the End of the Universe, about the Large Hadron Collider and the search for the Higgs boson. Here are some of his favorite blog posts, home page, and email: carroll [at] .


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