TELEVISION / Less of a Big Bang, more of a whimper
For all I know, Malone is on the brink of winning a Nobel Prize for his work in the Unified Field Theory but it doesn't look like it. His manner is smoothly professional, all practised hand-gestures and fake hesitations (one excruciating little turn of the head is going to take pride of place in my Museum of Fake Moments). He also seems to believe, in common with the other presenters, that pointing at the camera is a magical substitute for informed passion. That nice David Attenborough never points, I found myself thinking irritably.
For the most part, all this youth-club energy is just a display of bad faith. At their best, BBC programmes recognise that 'to entertain' and 'to educate' can be tautologous terms, not polar opposites. And, to be fair, all the items in Big Science were well-chosen. It would be a brave scheduler who advertised a programme about the philosophy of science, but behind the obscuring vaudeville that's essentially what this was - an attempt to tackle some conceptual problems in science without using words like 'paradigm shift'.
Elsewhere though the condescending simplification is actively misleading. I refuse to believe that a Monty Python hand, jabbing around a picture of a distant star-cluster, will persuade a single recalcitrant viewer to stick with the argument longer than a simple arrow. Good graphics subtract noise from the message but most of the frilly things used here added it. The programme twitches nervously throughout, like someone who fears he's a nerd and that if he doesn't tell jokes, no one will like him. In the process, accuracy goes by the board. The final item, about the underlying complexity of an apparently instinctive task, such as catching a cricket ball, was a case in point.
An ingenious mathematician has worked out that the instinctive movements of the body in catching match up to a second order differential equation with remarkable accuracy. 'It's an equation A- level students struggle with, but a six-year- old apparently uses without thinking,' said the voice-over. But the Ripley's Believe It Or Not suggestion that the brain 'does' the equation before you can catch a ball makes no more sense than saying that water swirling down a plughole 'does' complicated sums before it decides which way it's going to swirl. The equation is a description, not a set of instructions. If Big Science can't make important distinctions like that clear, perhaps they should stop fooling around.
Clive Anderson's trip from Hong Kong to Ulan Bator for Great Railway Journeys, an unpretentious combination of stunning landscapes and mild, dry jokiness, mended my temper. I don't think Anderson should become a travel writer (Peking is a 'fascinating mixture of old and new') but he's witty on the run and his talent for one-sided conversations proved invaluable. The most joyous moment (write to Points of View and ask them to repeat it) was an impromptu mass-singing of 'Edelweiss' by Chinese children, led by Shanghai's answer to George Burns.
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 President of Argentina adopts Jewish godson to 'stop him turning into a werewolf'
- 2 Doctors remove 80 teeth from boy's jaw
- 3 The 'Black Museum': After 150 years, public set to see exhibits from police’s grisly crime museum
- 4 Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations
- 5 Sir Winston Churchill’s family begged him not to convert to Islam, letter reveals
Peter Lik: The self-proclaimed 'fine-art photographer' whose work sells for millions
Exodus: Gods and Kings banned in the UAE for 'religious mistakes'
Game of Thrones is most-pirated TV show of 2014
Doctor Who and the BBC 'promoting a gay agenda', viewers complain
Idris Elba responds to James Bond rumours on Twitter
Millions of Britons struggling to feed themselves and facing malnourishment
British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Ukip member gets into Christmas spirit with Union Flag plea to Santa 'for our country back'
Germany anti-Islam protests: 17,000 march on Dresden against 'Islamification of the West'
Nigel Farage: Ukip leader named 'Briton of the year' by The Times
Immigrants make UK racist, says Ukip councillor Trevor Shonk