Amidst the promotional onslaught for the new Star Wars film you can catch word of a film that is both fantastical and appropriate for mentioning here. Guillermo del Toro’s new film, The Shape of Water, premiered in the U.S. earlier this month. The action takes place during the early years of the Cold War at an underground research facility. Stars Michael Shannon (Late Night, December 5) and Octavia Spencer (Jimmy Kimmel Live, December 7) promoted the film this week. It should be noted, however, that neither actor plays a scientist in the film.
The December 3 edition of StarTalk was all about celestial navigation. The featured guest was Nainoa Thompson, a Native Hawaiian navigator who has worked to revive the ancient navigation techniques used by his forebears to cross large stretches of the Pacific Ocean. Tyson wisely let Thompson do much of the talking to explain the old knowledge and contrasted that with an in-studio expert in modern(ish) celestial navigation, Frank Reed. Dava Sobel, author of the book Longitude, joined the show for a segment to discuss the challenge involved in determining longitude and the value of having a reliable method of finding it.
Also of note is that the Friday (December 8) repeat of The Late Late Show includes perennial late night guest Jim Parsons from The Big Bang Theory.
If you’ve not been watching the latest season of MythBusters (with new hosts) in the United States, you will have a chance to catch up with a marathon of the new episodes on Sunday the 10th.
Most of the late night programs were out of their Thanksgiving-induced breaks, just in time to start the hype machine for the new Star Wars film premiering December 15. Regrettably, this means no science and technology guests to speak of this past week. (While Kumail Nanjiani of Silicon Valley was on many shows this week, it was to promote the home video release of his latest film, The Big Sick.) There was, of course, another new MythBusters episode.
The November 26 edition of StarTalk featured James Cameron, director and deep sea explorer. The interview with host Neil deGrasse Tyson was from the 2017 National Geographic Explorers conference. Cameron is an explorer-in-residence at National Geographic and StarTalk airs on the National Geographic Channel. This episode is a natural follow-on from the previous edition, which featured ocean explorers Fabien Cousteau and Sylvia Earle. Cameron’s love of the ocean was discussed at length. This included not just his exploration of the Marianas Trench, but also how his time diving influenced his movies in ways both obvious and subtle.
With Thanksgiving happening in the U.S. on November 23, many late night programs were in repeats for at least part of the week. Among the repeats was the October 2017 appearance of StarTalk host Neil deGrasse Tyson on Last Call with Carson Daly. You could have caught that if the Thanksgiving festivities kept you up late. On the 24th you could have watched The Late Show repeat where Mr. Robot actor Grace Gummer talked with Stephen about the show and how she and her character interact with computer assistants.
The November 19th episode of StarTalk focused on the oceans. Breaking from usual practice, the episode focused on not one, but two interviews conducted by host Tyson with noted ocean explorers. One was Sylvia Earle, a marine biologist who, among many different jobs, served as chief scientist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association during the Clinton Administration. The other was with Fabien Cousteau, one of the many members of the Cousteau family of oceanographers and ocean explorers.
As I sort of expected, the Thanksgiving week provided no new science and technology guests from late night. Perhaps that will pick up after the holiday.
Yes, I’m way behind…
We’ll start with the November 12 episode of StarTalk, which featured an interview with pop singer Katy Perry. Arguably Perry asked more questions in the interview than host Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Tyson then used those topics for additional conversations with in-studio guests comedian Sasheer Zameta and StarTalk regular and astrophysicist Charles Liu.
And, as noted in my last post, the new season of MythBusters premiered November 15th on Science Channel in the U.S. While the graphics and setting are somewhat different (mainly because much of the show had used former host Jamie Hyneman’s San Francisco shop for filming), the formula is essentially unchanged. New hosts Brian Louden and Jonathan Lung are effective explainers and skilled builders. I suspect they will get better (or I’ll just get more used to them) as the series progresses.
Thankfully I was able to write on this much. As it happens, the week of November 13 was weak on science and technology guests on late night. With my next blog post focusing on Thanksgiving (U.S.) week, expect the drought to continue.
This past week featured yet another appearance from astronomer Neil deGrasse Tyson, whose StarTalk television show continues its fourth season on the National Geographic Channel in the U.S. On November 8th he was a guest on The Late Late Show. (The November 5 edition of StarTalk featured Tyson’s interview with former head of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency Dr. Arati Prabhakar. However, the interview was conducted while Prabhakar led the agency.)
The other major science and technology guests of the week were the new hosts of MythBusters, which premieres a new season in the U.S. on November 15. Jon Lung and Brian Louden, selected during a reality competition show that ran earlier this year, take over the show, which now airs on the Science Channel (as do reruns featuring the previous hosts). A lot has changed in television and in science communication since MythBusters premiered in the early years of this century. Having watched The Search, I agree that the new hosts have the build skills to fit in with the show. What I have no idea about is their chemistry together.
Finally, on November 9, The Late Show had one of its irregular segments on technology matters, called Cyborgasm. This segment was focused on sex robots, so I’d treat it as NSFW.
This past week was not the strongest for science and technology guests, since one of the highlights is probably Live hosts Kelly and Ryan getting a flu shot on the November 2 episode. The other may be the semi-regular appearance of a cast member of The Big Bang Theory. This time Jim Parsons was on with Late Late Show host James Corden on November 1.
The October 29 episode of Star Talk took a look at geek culture through host Neil deGrasse Tyson’s interview with filmmaker and geek Kevin Smith, but you might be frustrated at the limited efforts to apply some anthropology to a fan convention. What might be more satisfying are the interview portions with Smith where the filmmaker expresses regret at how he rarely, if ever experiences science as something cool, especially as a youth.
Well, Neil DeGrasse Tyson is still promoting his latest book and the new season of Star Talk. (Katie Couric was the guest on Sunday the 22nd). Monday night (the 23rd) he was on Last Call with Carson Daly.
This week is pretty strong for science-y demonstrations. “Science Bob” Pflugfelder is back on Live With Kelly and Ryan Thursday morning (10/26). Former MythBuster co-host Adam Savage is on the Wednesday edition (10/25) of the Late Show with his Brain Candy tour co-host Michael Stevens.
Former Daily Show correspondents have also made this week big for science. Samantha Bee dedicated the entirety of the October 25th Full Frontal to climate change topics, including a segment on persuading those who are not persuaded by the evidence. The Opposition host Jordan Klepper continues to engage science topics through the lens of the so-called alternative media (think InfoWars). On Tuesday’s program Bill Nye was the guest, and the show has recently discussed Amazon’s business practices and the re-emergence of the National Space Council.