StarTalk Season 3 Begins September 19

I noted yesterday in the listings that Neil deGrasse Tyson is making the talk show rounds.  Today he was on the ESPN program SportsNation to promote the upcoming third season of the StarTalk television show.  Still on the National Geographic Channel in the U.S., the program will now premiere new episodes on Monday nights at 11.  This puts the program in direct competition with a few of the traditional late night programs for the first time.  In its previous timeslot on Sundays, StarTalk‘s major late night competition was Last Week Tonight on premium channel HBO.

(The StarTalk Radio program has expanded of late, with several of the program’s frequent guests and/or guest hosts now hosting episodes of Star Talk AllStars.  If past practice holds, episodes of the television show eventually end up on the podcast, which may also be available in your local radio market and/or Sirius XM satellite radio.)

Right now the only guests linked to a specific date are Whoopi Goldberg (September 19) and Mayim Bialik (September 26).  According to this publicity release from July, other guests for Season 3 will include:

Buzz Aldrin (astronaut)
Mayim Bialik (actor, “Big Bang Theory” and neuroscientist)
Ash Carter (U.S. Secretary of Defense)
Terry Crews (actor and former football player)
Brian Greene (theoretical physicist)
Herbie Hancock (musician) and Wayne Shorter (musician)
Simon Helberg (actor, “Big Bang Theory”)
Jeremy Irons (actor) and Matthew Brown (director)
Robert Kirkman (comic book writer and executive producer, “The Walking Dead”)
Jay Leno (comedian and talk show host)
Christopher Lloyd (actor) and Michelle Gomez (actor)
Bill Maher (comedian and talk show host)
Philippe Petit (tightrope walker)
Hope Solo (U.S. Soccer Team goalie)
Ben Stiller (actor and director)
Kathy Sullivan (astronaut and head of NOAA)
Jill Tarter (SETI astrophysicist)
Andy Weir (author, “The Martian”)

(Since the date of this press release, Hope Solo has been suspended from the U.S. Women’s National Team and may not return.  It’s not clear to me when the interview was recorded, so there may or may not be a proverbial elephant in the room.)

While I can’t guess why every single guest was booked, I can shed some light on a few.  Matthew Brown directed The Man Who Knew Infinity and Jeremy Irons starred in the film, which chronicles the life of mathematician Ramanujan (played by Dev Patel).  Both Christopher Lloyd and Michelle Gomez have played characters who do a lot of time travel (in Back to the Future and Doctor Who, respectively).  StarTalk has had talk show hosts and musicians as guests before, and we’ll see what links to science or technology might exist with either Ben Stiller or Terry Crews.

With 18 listed shows, this season of Star Talk will certainly run into 2017, possibly extended by no new episodes during the Thanksgiving and/or Christmas holidays.

You might find out more if you catch Tyson’s appearances on The Late Late Show (Wednesday night) or on Chelsea (released Wednesday on Netflix).  Or just wait for Monday’s new episode.

Blow Your Kazoo For A New Kids Magazine

The first issue of Kazoo premiered last month (H/T Mic.com).  Aimed for girls between 5 and 10, the magazine is chock-a-block full of activities and interesting articles, with lots of science and adventure thrown in.  The quarterly was founded by Erin Bried and funded in large part through a Kickstarter campaign.  Based on this interview at Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls, she intends Kazoo to be vast and contain multitudes of things young girls can’t find in other magazines.  Bried has more than 16 years experience as a magazine writer and editor, and has also written three books full of how-to goodness.  Clearly some amount of that will seep into Kazoo if it hasn’t already.

Take a (quick) look inside the first issue.

By all means, check and see if it’s at your local bookstore (and ask them to carry it if they don’t).  Subscriptions and individual issues are also available online (along with some swag).  (For those who might balk at the price, think about how much time young readers will spend immersed in the pages.  It’ll be worth it.)

The Science Guy Will Be A Talk Show Guy

Apparently writing kids books and being CEO of The Planetary Society isn’t enough work for Science Guy Bill Nye.  Today it was announced that Netflix will start airing a talk show hosted by Nye in spring 2017.  While arguably Nye never really left, this will be his first regular television gig since Bill Nye the Science Guy ended in 1998.

(I do not yet know whether the program will be available through Netflix (or other sources) outside the U.S.)

Netflix (at least in the U.S.) recently started airing talk shows with Chelsea, which premieres new episodes three times a week.  Bill Nye Saves the World will focus each episode (no word yet on how often they will premiere) on a topic, examining it from a scientific point of view.  It will tackle any myths or claims on the topic that can be scientifically disproven.

Befitting Nye’s own start on Almost Live!, the two head writers of the show will bring comedy and science experience to the show.  Mike Drucker is leaving The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon to join the show.  He has also written for Saturday Night Live.  Joining Drucker is Phil Plait, also known as The Bad Astronomer, is an astronomer and frequent talking head on science documentaries.

As I mentioned, Nye is no stranger to television, having guested regularly on talk shows and news programs over the last two decades.  Esquire has a few clips from his more recent appearances.

Needless to say, every episode will be mentioned in my late night listings posts on Mondays.  As it happens, former Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson showrunner Michael Naidus will serve in the same capacity on Bill Nye Saves the World, and be one of the executive producers.  Add to that the fact that Phil Plait appeared on The Late Late Show, and now I have a feeble excuse to embed one of Nye’s appearances with Ferguson.

Calling All Rhyming Maxs

Tom McFadden, fresh off of his featured appearance as Joseph-Louis Lagrange in William Rowan Hamilton, has a rhyming quiz going on at his YouTube channel.  That’s right, a rhyming quiz, and it’s called Fill in the Planck.

There are two quizzes so far, one on the JUNO spacecraft and the most recent on water.  The idea is to complete each rhyme in the verse.  Tom has also set up a verse in the comments that you can complete (as opposed to filling in a blank).  Make sure to read the comments and full video description to get all the necessary information.

No word on how long the series will be, but Tom is teasing some new longer content in the near future.  For this academic year Tom has been able to commit half of his time to Science With Tom, so more video goodness is on they way.

Science TV Corner: New Einstein Cast & New Season Of Project MC2

National Geographic has a few series with Genius in the title.  But its latest project with that name, Genius, is a scripted anthology series expected to air next year.  The first season will focus on Albert Einstein, and serve as an adaptation of the Walter Isaacson biography.  This is the first scripted series for the channel, but that has not prevented it from attracting top talent.  Ron Howard will direct the first episode, and it was just announced that Geoffrey Rush will play the older Einstein.  Johnny Flynn will play Einstein as a younger man, and it sounds like the project will focus primarily on the scientist’s life before he achieved international acclaim.

A second season of Project MC² has started streaming on Netflix (H/T cast member Danica McKellar).  The show focuses on a group of young girls involved in a spy agency that requires them to use their science and technology skills.  There’s also an interactive website and series of toys and experiments available for purchase.  Sure, I understand anyone who feels a bit put off from the synergistic commerce, but I think the show sends a good message to teenage girls (and boys for that matter).  A third season is expected later in the year.

Science Guy To Become Science Author Of Kids Books (Again).

Earlier this week it was announced that Science Guy Bill Nye had finalized a book deal for a series of books aimed at middle grade readers.  Called Jack and the Geniuses, the first book has a release data in April 2017 and will be published by Amulet Books.  The series will follow the adventures of Jack and his foster siblings Ava and Matt.  Nye will co-write the books with Gregory Mone, who is an experienced writer of fiction and science journalism.  Illustrating the books is Nicholas Illuzada.

This is the first foray into kid’s books for Nye since his television show went off the air in the last century.  Since then Nye has written two books, one focusing on environmental problems and the other on evolution

Nye is not the first science educator to write children’s books.  “Science Bob” Pflugfelder has co-written a series of books with Steve Hockensmith aimed at middle grade readers.  The two main characters are Nick and Tesla, siblings who are also inventors.  Readers will be able to make the same gadgets that Nick and Tesla do during their adventures.

Marvel Covers Its STEAM Interests

This week Marvel announced that several of its titles will have STEAM-themed variant covers.  Readers are likely familiar with the STEM acronym – science, technology, engineering and math.  STEAM adds art to the acronym, and can be favored by some advocates (who are generally objecting to the crowding out of many subjects in American education).

In November Marvel will issue variant covers for five of its titles, each one corresponding to a category in STEAM.  As of this posting the images for four of the five titles are available, with the Engineering-themed Iron Man cover not yet available.  Each of the four titles available features a younger superheroine or superheroines, likely intended to appeal to the young people Marvel wants to see in STEAM fields.  The four other covers are:

Science – Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur
Technology – Spider-man
Arts – Champions
Mathematics – The Unbelievable Gwenpool

While I don’t know enough about comics to be certain, Marvel has perhaps more than its fair share of scientists and engineers who support superheroes or are ones themselves.  While some might complain that the titles selected are relatively obscure, I think most of the Marvel characters that have featured in the last decade of films were obscure as well.

Regardless, this is not the first time (and probably won’t be the last) that Marvel has tried to promote STEM or STEAM disciplines in connection with its comics.  For some of its recent films Marvel has held contests to encourage students (often with an emphasis on girls) to develop projects and/or inventions using STEM skills.  I suppose if someone inspired by these covers or film contests manages a scientific or technological breakthrough, they might get drawn into a panel or two.  Maybe even their own title?