The trend of slim pickings in 2018 has drifted into February. I’ll lead with the January 28th edition of Star Talk, which focused on science and religious faith from a predominantly neurological perspective. Host Neil deGrasse Tyson spoke with featured guest, neuroscientist Sam Harris (who is also known for his public criticism of religion). Neuroscientist and physician Andrew Newberg joined Tyson in studio.
I did miss something from earlier in the month, which repeated on The Late Late Show on February 2. Gillian Anderson, currently back on The X-Files as Agent (and medical doctor) Dana Scully, had appeared on the program January 9th and I missed it. My apologies.
The other new content of note this week is an appearance from Sonequa-Martin Green, who plays Michael Burnham on Star Trek: Discovery. Burnham is trained as a xenoarchaeologist and often serves as a science specialist on the show. She was on the February 1st edition of Last Call with Carson Daly. Her co-star, Anthony Rapp, who plays another scientist on Discovery, was on The Talk February 2.
January continues to be a lousy month for science and technology content. For this week the highlights were focused on StarTalk host Neil deGrasse Tyson. There were two repeats of recent Neil deGrasse Tyson appearances – both on Thursday the 25th. The repeats were from appearances last fall on The Late Late Show and Last Call with Carson Daly. And, of course, Season 4 of StarTalk continues on the National Geographic channel. The January 21st episode featured the author (Margot Lee Shetterly) and one of the leads from Hidden Figures (Janelle Monae), a film chronicling the black women who were integral in mathematical calculations during the early years of the space race.
While the guest lineup was thin on science and technology material, The Late Show did have a technology segment on its January 26 episode. That night’s edition of Cyborgasm focused on new home technology that seems like good ideas but may not be ready for home use just yet.
The January doldrums continue for science and technology guests on late night. Even StarTalk returned to a common topic – science and comedy – with its January 14th episode featuring Late Show host Stephen Colbert. While the discussion of Colbert’s religious faith was an added feature of the main interview, the show has touched on science and comedy several times in the past. Tyson was joined in studio by Adam Conover, another comedian (who hosts a show focused on deconstructing conventional wisdom, Adam Ruins Everything) and Sophia McClennan, who has studied and written on satire and democracy. The episode also featured appearances from Bill Nye the Science Guy and Jesuit priest (and frequent Colbert guest) Jim Martin.
While the new MythBusters season continues, the drought of science and technology guests continued on the talk shows this week. But we have something to look forward to on Sunday the 21st, as StarTalk will focus on the stories of the African-American female NASA mathematicians featured in the recent film and book Hidden Figures.
January continues to be a limited month for science and technology guests on the talk shows. Star Talk once again proves the strongest source, with science communicator and actor Alan Alda as the featured guest on November 7. Neuroscientist Heather Berlin, former co-host of Science Goes to the Movies (and occasional collaborator with her husband, science rapper Baba Brinkman) joined host Neil deGrasse Tyson in studio.
And that’s it for the week.
First, a correction. I assumed based on the promos I watched during the recent MythBusters mega-marathon that the latest episode would feature two contestants from MythBusters: The Search – in addition to new hosts Brian Louden and Jon Lung. That did not happen. Perhaps the myth that featured the other contestants will air later this season, but I do not know this for certain, and when it might happen if it does.
While Star Talk was not on on New Year’s Eve (it returns January 7th, with guest Alan Alda), host Neil deGrasse Tyson does win the week for science and technology content for being the sole guest on the January 5th edition of The Late Show. Just as he was on The Colbert Report, Tyson is the guest with the most appearances (to date) on The Late Show during Stephen Colbert’s tenure as host. Taped earlier in the week – the program doesn’t typically tape on Fridays, Tyson and Colbert discussed general astronomy subjects, including a recent extrasolar object that passed through the solar system recently. Colbert also touched on space-related subjects during other segments of the program, which included a re-airing of his February 2017 visit to the Kennedy Space Center (which is *not* the agency’s headquarters). In this visit, Colbert tried on a new style of spacesuit and poked around the Starliner crew capsule being developed as an option for carrying astronauts into space.
While many programs have returned from their holiday breaks, not all have. There were some repeats this week involving science and technology guests. If you couldn’t stay up on January 5th for Neil deGrasse Tyson on The Late Show, you could have caught a rerun of his September appearance on Harry earlier in the day. Similarly, Silicon Valley actor Kumail Nanjiani had both repeat and original appearances this week. On January 5th he had a new appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show while on the 2nd you could have caught his September appearance on Harry.
Jeff Goodell is an author and journalist who occasionally writes on science topics. On the January 3 edition of The Opposition, Goodell attempted to discuss his latest book – dealing with sea level rise – with host Jordan Klepper.
Merry Christmas (belated)…
The holiday repeats continue, unless the program is actually pre-empted. Some programs will return on January 2nd, but most should be back by January 9th.
Regrettably, none of this week’s repeats featured a science and/or technology linked guest, and Star Talk was off. I am catching up on some shows, and can point you to a lot of recent segments from The Daily Show.
Correspondent Ronny Chieng focused on recent developments in high-tech law enforcement on the December 11 edition. Most of them looked to be a little too ahead of their time, but I’ll let you be the judge. Chieng also had a segment covering the tech trends of 2017 in one of The Daily Show‘s year in review shows, and talked about cryptocurrencies on the December 14 episode. In tech coverage that doesn’t involve Ronny Chieng, the show covered the Federal Communications Commission reversal on net neutrality on December 14.
The MythBusters megamarathon is in full effect until late on January 3rd. I’ll note that the new episode that premieres at the end of the megamarathon includes two of the contestants from MythBusters: The Search that were not new hosts Brian Louden and Jonathan Lung
As I noted in the last post, most programs were off this week for the upcoming Christmas holiday. Amidst the repeats you could find an appearance from a Big Bang Theory actor who plays a scientist. In this case, it was Kunal Nayyar, and his October appearance was on the December 20 repeat of The Talk.
The few new episodes this week feature no appreciable science and/or technology late night content. The December 17th episode of StarTalk focused on interstellar space exploration. The main interview of the episode was with former astronaut Dr. Mae Jemison. She is Principal of the 100 Year Starship project, an effort to develop the capabilities for interstellar flight by the year 2110.
There was also another new episode of MythBusters this week, and the marathon of the series starts tonight (early Saturday) on the Science Channel. It will run for roughly 11 days.