The offerings this week are thin, and reruns are coming for most shows for the rest of the year.
I mentioned Ascension yesterday. One of the stars of the show, Tricia Helfer, will be on with Carson Daly late tonight (Monday). Helfer is perhaps the best known of the cast, having made a name for herself in the reboot of Battlestar Galactica. On Tuesday one of the panelists on @midnight is Brooke Van Poppelen. She will host a forthcoming show on lifehacks called Hack My Life. Given the nature of @midnight, it’s unlikely much time will be spent on the upcoming show.
It should be noted that this is the last week of shows for two mainstays in these pages: The Colbert Report and The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. Continue reading
Tomorrow night (Monday) the SyFy Channel in the U.S. will premiere a three-night miniseries called Ascension. It’s a Canadian-American production about a murder mystery on a generation ship that launched from the United States 50 years ago. Canadian readers will need to wait until January to see it on the CBC.
The show is set in an alternate present. The generational craft started its mission in 1963, almost as a hedge against the threat of nuclear apocalypse. So for me at least, the murder mystery will take a back seat to seeing a generational craft. Unless we do manage to find some ‘Star Trek’ way of traveling faster than light, human colonization, if not exploration, of space will require sending out groups of people and expecting some kind of follow-through from their descendants. The sociological challenges of this may well dwarf the technological ones.
Ascension also offers a retro conception of the future. Much in the way that science and technology policy is often seen from a (limiting) ‘high-tech’ perspective, science fiction can often be seen from a single perspective – the future. But more often than not we are really seeing extrapolations of our present. Whether or not the folks producing Ascension will be able to pull off an extrapolation of the past into the present remains to be seen. But the possibilities are enough to catch my interest.
There are two weeks left for both The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson and The Colbert Report. While listings for Ferguson’s program have clearly indicated an effort to bring back favorite guests, there has not been a similar trend with the Report. It is possible, however, that return visits by favorite guests may not be publicized. So I’m pulling for Neil deGrasse Tyson to come see Stephen one last time (before CBS, anyway). I just don’t know when it will happen. (Heck, with an unannounced guest for Thursday as of this writing, it could be this week.)
There aren’t that many repeats this week, but one of note is Isabella Rossillini’s latest appearance promoting her theatrical and film work involving animals. That will be on late Friday night with Carson Daly.
In a break from tradition, we lead off with The Talk. The show’s tech correspondent, Chi-Lan Lieu, was scheduled to appear on today’s program (Monday). Alan Alda will appear Tuesday, primarily to promote his current Broadway play. However, with the latest edition of The Flame Challenge just introduced, talk on The Talk might turn to the contest.
Later on Tuesday The Daily Show offers a double shot of science and technology guests. Kathryn Bigelow is on to discuss her new short film, which covers ivory poaching. Juan Zarate will talk about financial warfare, a focus of his current book. As Bigelow’s film also touches on how the funds from ivory poaching support terrorists, there may be some synergy between the two guests. Come Thursday, Kunal Nayyar returns for his last visit with Craig Ferguson. He plays one of the scientists on The Big Bang Theory.
In my perennial effort to catch up on several late night programs, I point readers to the November 12 edition of The Colbert Report, where Stephen spent a segment covering advances in civilian drone applications and the fears of Tesla CEO Elon Musk over how artificial intelligence may doom us all.
Alan Alda has announced the latest topic for his Flame Challenge – sleep (H/T LiveScience). This is the fourth year of the challenge, which is a contest for scientists to try and explain scientific concepts to an 11-year old. Entries are judged by students. The topics for previous years were flame, time, and color. The deadline for entries is February 13, 2015.
While scientists are the contestants, the organizers need students to judge. Teachers can sign up their classes to help review the entries, which can be in written, video or graphic form. For the purposes of this competition, scientists can be retired, currently employed in doing scientific work, or working on (or holding) a graduate science degree.
There are two divisions for entries: written and visual. Written explanations must be no more than 300 words, and videos can be no longer than 5 minutes long. Winners in each division will receive $1,000 and a trip to New York City. There the winning entries will be recognized at the World Science Festival and the winners will have a chance to meet Alan Alda.
The contest is sponsored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Chemical Society. Alda, when not acting, is a visiting professor at his eponymous Center for Communicating Science at the State University of New York, Stony Brook.
Some programs opted to go with repeats this week rather than last. Repeats of note are Friday’s Late Night episode, which is a repeat of neuroscientist (and Big Bang Theory actress) Mayim Bialik’s latest appearance. Later that same night you can catch a repeat of Megan Amram’s appearance on Carson Daly’s program. Amram is a comedy writer and has written a science textbook that spoofs women’s magazines, Science…For HER!
In new programs this week, there is a Mike Rowe sighting. He will appear on the Queen Latifah program tomorrow (Tuesday). The Comedy Central shows have apparently run through their election guests, as they have science guests this week. The head of Doctors Without Borders, Sophie Delauney, appears with Jon Stewart on Tuesday. Interstellar director Christopher Nolan will appear with Stephen on Wednesday night. The Talk‘s tech correspondent, Chi-Lan Lieu is on the program Friday.
In the sort-of category we have Dominic Monaghan. I do not know if there’s another run of episodes in his wildlife series, Wild Things with Dominic Monaghan. If a new season is coming soon, I would expect it would be brought up tonight (Monday) when Dominic cuts loose with Craig Ferguson.
As usual, I am behind with the Comedy Central programs. There were segments in the November 6 edition of The Colbert Report worth passing along. In light of Senator James Inhofe’s likely ascension to chair the Environment and Public Works Committee, there were two science related segments that night (and a science writer for a guest, Steven Johnson). One focused on the new fad of Members of Congress citing a lack of scientific knowledge when asked to comment on matters of policy that interact with science. Another was the latest edition of Cheating Death, a semi-regular segment of the program. It reported on a study on aging and a struggle over Chilean water quality.
With Thanksgiving on Thursday, many programs are taking some or all of the week off. In this week’s repeats, there aren’t any guests of particular interest to science and technology enthusiasts.
I’ll jump right to the big name. John Holdren, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, is making his third (and final) appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman on Wednesday. Holdren first appeared with Letterman back in 2008, prior to joining the Obama Administration. He hasn’t been on the show since 2009. Based on his last appearance, I expect next to no publicity for the appearance. Of course, at least some of that is due to it being the day before Thanksgiving. The discussion will likely focus on climate change, as it has in the past.
There are other guests of note this week. While Almost Human was cancelled, Michael Ealy, who played the lead android, will visit with Craig Ferguson Tuesday night. As Ferguson is assisted by a robot sidekick, I’m crossing my fingers that robots might be a topic of conversation. The only chef I include in these listings, Alton Brown, will be on with Meredith Viera on Wednesday. Thanksgiving cookery is certainly the focus.
If you find these offerings wanting, and have access to The Science Channel, I recommend the marathons of MythBusters episodes on Thursday and Saturday. Of course, there are likely many other programs on that channel you will enjoy, including the annual-ish pumpkin launching special on Saturday night. Former MythBusters Kari Byron and Tory Belleci host.
Next Friday Uwingu will beam messages to Mars, in commemoration of the first mission to that planet on November 28, 1964. As part of its Beam Me To Mars campaign, Uwingu is including comic strips. The first one announced was Pearls Before Swine. In the month since, at least three other comic strips have indicated they were headed to Mars. Joining Pearls Before Swine are strips from The Brilliant Mind of Edison Lee, Red and Rover, The Pajama Diaries, and Prickly City. (If I’ve missed any, please point me to them in the comments)
While Pearls Before Swine is not known for covering space in its panels, most of the other strips being broadcast next week have featured science, space and/or technology as themes in their strips.
With the beaming scheduled for next Friday, submissions are now closed. But I’d take an extra close look at the funnies that day. Maybe there will be some surprises to see.