Science and Technology Guests on Late Night, Week of March 2

As the February ratings period just ended, some programs are in repeats this week.  Of this week’s repeats, you can catch Elizabeth Henstridge’s recent appearance with Jimmy Kimmel on Friday.  She plays a scientist on Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, which returns in the U.S. on Tuesday night.

As is now the norm, I must report on The Nightly Show after the fact – it doesn’t announce guests or topics terribly far in advance.  On the February 25 program, the topic was the Mars One program.  This is the effort to send several volunteers on Mars by 2024 on a one-way trip.

In what is not the norm, the same night provided this little gem (NSFW) on vaccines from Jimmy Kimmel Live. 

Kimmel is, at least it seems to me, genuinely angry.  And my experience with Kimmel – that he’s usually putting something or somebody on – makes this bit hit a little harder with me.  Kimmel’s youngest child is less than a year old, which no doubt informs some of his feelings here.

This week’s new programs highlights the return of The Late, Late Show to a place of prominence.  Many of the same staff that worked with host Craig Ferguson have been working the show during the two months of guests hosts (so far).  That probably helps explains why some science guests that visited with Craig have returned to sit with this week’s guest host Drew Carey.  Tonight (Monday) Pauley Perrette, who plays a forensic technician on NCIS, stops by.  Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak is a guest on Wednesday, and everyone’s favorite Canadian bat expert Dan Riskin will be on Thursday’s program.

Finally, there is a potential wild card this week.  Conan O’Brien taped material in Cuba for an episode of his program that airs on Thursday.  What previews I have seen include a stop at a cigar factory.  While Conan remains a comedy program, it’s possible you might learn something about old-school manufacturing.

Leonard Nimoy, 1931-2015

Leonard Nimoy, most known for his portrayal of the half-Vulcan, half-human science officer Spock, passed earlier today at the age of 83.  The death was a result of his chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which he acknowledged having last year.

So, why include an actor when my obituary posts have typically been men and women of science policy?  This Tweet helps explain:

Hadfield is the Canadian astronaut who arguably has done the most to drag the rest of us into space with his time on the International Space Station.  And while the passing of other Star Trek actors will certainly prompt similar expressions from Hadfield and other astronauts (particularly Nichelle Nichols, who helped recruit astronauts); Nimoy, and Spock, linked space exploration and the scientific perspective in a way the other characters do not.  Spock’s (usually) rational approach also appeals, as does the multicultural background he contributed to on the Enterprise.  He also was part of the two recent films (any more details are spoilers, sorry)

Hadfield was not alone amongst the space community in mourning Nimoy’s passing.

Nimoy’s connection to science was not limited to his role as Spock.  In the 1970s and 1980s he hosted a documentary program called In Search Of… that explored various myths, legends and other topics.  While the subjects can lend themselves to pseudoscientific ramblings, In Search Of… was an earnest effort to cover what was known and what evidence existed on these subjects.

If you visit the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, you can sit in the Leonard Nimoy Event Horizon Theater.  It’s a small token of appreciation for Nimoy’s support of the Observatory’s renovation.

And then there’s his influence on me.  I doubt I’d be involved in science policy, or even in this Washington, were it not for Star Trek, and Nimoy and Spock were critical in getting me into that program.  I read his first autobiography when I was 9 or 10, and cajoled my father into driving me over 100 miles (each way) to see him when I was 12.  In the intervening time, I was trying to mold myself into Spock, at least in terms of rigor of thought and approach to the world.  I’m still trying.

Science and Technology Guests on Late Night, Week of February 23

The guest hosting on The Late Late Show continues for another month.  The host for Wednesday through Friday is Kunal Nayyar, who plays a scientist on The Big Bang Theory.  As you might expect, one of his castmates, Simon Helberg, stops by on Friday.  As Bob Newhart played a Mr. Wizard type science educator on the show, I’ll note his appearance with Kunal on Thursday.

Continuing this week’s trend of actors playing scientists and/or engineers on TV, Elizabeth Henstridge will be on with Jimmy Kimmel Wednesday night.  Her show, Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, returns with new episodes on Tuesday.  She plays an agent with expertise in the life sciences.  Also on Wednesday night, Melissa Rauch will be on with Conan O’Brien.  She plays a scientist on The Big Bang Theory.

If you’re itching for proper scientists and/or engineers on the television, next week will help.  Until then watch computer pioneer Grace Hopper with David Letterman from 1986 – nearly 30 years ago.

FWIW, Letterman now is still younger than Hopper was then (80).  And she had just transitioned from military service to civilian employment.  Retirement was clearly not something she cared for.


For Science Without Right Turns, There’s Acceleration Nation

The NASCAR season has officially started in the United States, with the Daytona 500 scheduled to take place tomorrow.  In partnership with Scholastic, NASCAR has launched a program to help kids in grades 5-7 learn science, technology, engineering and mathematics lessons through racing games and puzzles.  The site is called Acceleration Nation.

One emphasis of the program is aerodynamics.  Lessons are organized around what the program calls the ‘three D’s’ of speed: drag, downforce and drafting.  The Acceleration Nation website has games and puzzles to test skills in math, engine knowledge and building ability.  The website activities and classroom lessons can be augmented by track-day experiences where kids get behind the wheel and can learn more about how the race cars work.

Participating classes have an opportunity to win money, and there are prizes available for those competing online.  You will need to register in order to win.

What If Siskel And Ebert Reviewed The Science In Movies?

February 21 – edited to correct the films covered in the episode.

Science Goes to the Movies is a new program produced by the City University of New York and sponsored by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.  The series is broadcast on cable in the greater New York City area and is also available online. The hosts are Faith Salie, a journalist and host you might have heard before as a panelist on Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me, and Dr. Heather Berlin, a neuroscientist whose research focuses on brain-body relationships and psychological disorders.  (In what makes for a small world, Berlin is married to Canadian rap troubadour Baba Brinkman.)  While the title says Movies, expect future episodes to occasionally cover science in television as well (perhaps Salie’s work in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine will receive some scrutiny).  If you’re still not sold, watch a trailer.

The first episode premiered today, and covers The Theory of Everything, Birdman The Imitation Game and Interstellar.  Salie and Berlin are joined by Dr. Emily Rice, an astrophysicist at the Hayden Planetarium and part of the CUNY faculty.

The next episode will premiere in March, which suggests we can expect new episodes on a monthly basis.  And if the hosts aren’t trying to evoke Siskel and Ebert’s television show, I’d wager the set designer is.

Science and Technology Guests on Late Night, Week of February 16

(Edited February 17 to add Ruth Wilson appearance on The Tonight Show)

Original Post
Well, let’s not waste any time with it…the late night science triumvirate will be well-on decimated by the end of the year.  Craig Ferguson is hosting a game show these days, Stephen Colbert is prepping for a ‘proper’ talk show this fall, and Jon Stewart has announced he will step away from the anchor chair at The Daily Show by the end of the year.

This probably isn’t as bad as you might think.  Yes, these three hosts are responsible for the vast majority of bookings and content listed here.  But Colbert’s replacement at Comedy Central, Larry Wilmore, has been happy to tackle science and technology topics in his four weeks on the air to date.  Colbert will be back on the air in the fall, and while he may not focus on science and technology like he did on The Colbert Report, I think it unlikely such topics (or guests) will disappear from his version of The Late Show.  (Heck, you can see kid scientists on The Late Show Friday night.)

And The Daily Show will continue without Jon Stewart.  He wasn’t the first host, he’s just hosted it for nearly all of its 18 and one-half years on the air (to date).  Correspondents will still do field pieces involving scientists, and whomever sits down at the anchor desk after Jon may well criticize reporting on science and technology issues much like Mr. Stewart.

Anyway, on to the listings.  Two repeats of note – tonight’s repeat of The Daily Show features Julianne Moore talking about her recent role as an Alzheimer’s patient, and Carson Daly’s program will re-air the recent interview with Simon Helberg of The Big Bang Theory (he plays an engineer) on Friday.

Tonight (Monday) Benedict Cumberbatch is on Jimmy Kimmel Live.  With the Oscars ceremony on Sunday night, he’s likely on to promote his nominated work in The Imitation Game.  (However, should this year’s Leading Actor Oscar go to someone playing a scientist, Eddie Redmayne from The Theory of Everything is the likelier choice.)  Thursday night on The Tonight Show you can see Ruth Wilson, who plays a quantum physicist on Broadway in Constellations.  On Friday The View hears from its technology reporter, Chi-Lan Lieu.

Finally, a note of a guest I missed.  Wayne Brady hosted The Late Late Show last week, and he on the 13th he had Derrick Pitts from The Franklin Institute.  Pitts is the Chief Astronomer there and he and Brady made comets during their time on the show.  Pitts was on the show when Craig Ferguson hosted, but Brady is an astronomy enthusiast, so I wouldn’t credit the booking strictly to having the same people behind the scenes on The Late Late Show.

Elementary Continues To Season Shows With Science

I watched the latest episode of Elementary, the U.S. modern Sherlock Holmes television program, earlier tonight.  In its third season, the program continues to make science and or technology integral to the motivations of characters in some episodes.  Sometimes it means that the victims and/or perpetrators are scientists and engineers, sometimes not.  I noted the possibility of this trend in season 2, and after tonight’s episode, I’m more convinced of it.

Through 14 episodes this season I have noted five that involve science and/or technology as motivation for the stories (not as mechanism for the crime).  Details about who did what to whom are avoided as much as possible.

Tonight’s episode, “The Female of the Species” involved the kidnapping of zebras for their offspring.

“Just A Regular Irregular” focused on a puzzle hunt that seems to be leading to the deaths of many mathematicians.

The episode “Bella” concerns an artificial intelligence program of the same name, who may or may not have become self-aware.

“The Eternity Injection” revolves around an off-the-books clinical trial.  Of course things aren’t quite proper.

“Seed Money” tracks the case of a genetic botanist whose talents are sought by several severely motivated parties.

There are 10 episodes left in the current season of Elementary, so it’s quite possible there will be more episodes to add to this list by the time the season ends in May.