Thursday, 16 October 2008

Some Days Just Have No Links

So far it's a "No Links Thursday" here - not much going on online that seems comment-worthy, but listening to a "science" show on the radio just now got me thinking along some weird lines.

The presenter made the odd comment that films are like a fertility cycle, or something close to that.  We have a certain "fertile window" during which we can usefully (from the point of view of evolution) get into relationships, and there was some mathematical strategy that gave the best times of one's life to go looking for The Partner, etc.

It's a load of wossname, as in the very next breath he admitted that arranged marriages are more successful than random social marriages, which knocks the whole matter out of the realm of biological cycles and fair and square into the realms of social norms, which is where it belongs.

But he then went on to say that various films have revivals - I think X Files was the example - and of that he said that 2018 or some such time would have been the ideal time to release a sequel, based on the cycles above, somehow.

Which I suppose is why the Terminator series used their own cycles, the Star Wars series used *their* own cycles, and so forth.  Yeah right.

The fact of the matter is that social things like advertising, publicity, and hype are what determines whether a sequel will fly, as much as the actual quality of that sequel,.  It's the same factors that shape whether a particular site, meme, or video will go viral, similar factors to what decides whether the stock market follows the economic trends or diverges from them.

I generally like he idea of science shows and books.  Done right, they make science much more accessible to a wide audience.  But many of them propagate myths that are not based much in science, like the cycles of films thing above.  That's a dangerous kind of science to teach, and will lead to inevitable mistakes.  We're currently reaping benefits (if you can call global warming a benefit) of a scientific generation, composed of people who know the importance of starting with the right assumption, the right hypothesis, proving it, then using that to build further science on.  Things like transistors and modern medicine arose out of solid science.

So it's sad to see this kind of misdirection - seemingly, designed to dumb the next generation down.  As our need for better science (to deal with the bad applications of reasonable science, such as petrol engines and food additives) increases - and indeed, becomes imperative for control of the climate crisis - the generation that's growing up to deal with it are being fed this particular kind of haphazard science.  It bodes ill for survival beyond this generation.

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