Dara O’Briain’s Science Club had its second series on BBC2 over the summer. Impressively, he managed to keep it genuinely informative and fun without ever becoming patronizing.
Like a number of his fellow BBC2 and 4 presenters, most notably Brian Cox and Jim Al-Khalili, he refuses to dilute any of the science, whilst insisting on making it all as accessible as possible. And he’s ably assisted by fellow presenters Mark Miodownik, whose recent book Stuff Matters got rave reviews, including this one from The Guardian.
And by Helen Czerski, who gives the impression that she knows that the topic she is covering is fascinating, but is resigned to the reality that none of us will be able to follow what she has to tell us about it. Which, needless to say, makes what she has to say all the more appealing.
One of the sidebar topics that O’Briain covered during the summer was an amazing info graphic that went quietly viral about a year ago. The reasons that it generated so much interest were twofold.
First, it really is a brilliant graphic. You scroll in and out, from the smallest things in the universe at the length of the Planck Constant at 10 to the minus 35 of a meter, to galaxies, nebula and the entire observable universe. And it’s all perfectly to scale.
Predictably, I (and I should imagine many others beside) spent a number of hours looking things up, convinced that they’d made a mistake. But no, the Earth really is that close in size to Venus, likewise Neptune to Uranus. Have a look at the Scale of the Universe 2 here. It’s addictive.
Although of course Apple won’t let you use Flash, so you won’t be able to fool around with it if you’re using an iPhone or Pad. But you can see how the whole thing works on them here.
Second, even more remarkably, the whole thing was put together by Cary Huang, a 14 year old school boy from – where else – California, together with his twin brother Michael. For Fun. It wasn’t even a school project. All it took was the Internet and a pair of infinitely curious minds. There’s an excellent overview and interview with them by David J. Hill on the Singularity Hub here.
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