Naked Pseudo-Science

So last night, I turned on the TV and watched Naked Science on the Discovery Channel.  This particular show was about extreme weather and its effect on the human body.  They had segments on lighting strikes, heat, cold, floods, etc.  OK, so far so good.

But each segment featured some bimbo showing us what a victim looks like.  She sat in a car that was zapped with 750,000 volts of electricity, she walked on a treadmill in a room heated to 115F, she hung out in a room chilled to 55F, she tread water in a pool at 55F, etc.

Look, I get that TV shows have to make their topic interesting.  But sitting in a car (she was careful not to touch any metal) while it’s being zorched by fake lightning is not science.  It’s not even being hit by fake lighting–she was totally unaffected.  The show did not bother to mention that real lightning is a lot more than 750kV.

Showing her sweating or shivering is not science either.  There were many sensors hooked up to her.  But the show did not give us any data other than temperature.  I suppose that’s just as well, as the viewing audience wouldn’t have the attention span to deal with it…  Chattering teeth is interesting, an EEG is not.

This is soft human-interest show, but it’s being sold as science.  There is a subtle but profound problem with this.  It convinces people who know nothing about science that they know something about science.  There is nothing wrong if someone doesn’t understand science.  But he can do great harm if he tricks himself into thinking he does.  Especially at the ballot box.


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