Tuesday, February 2, 2010

A few TV notes

Want to make another science on TV comment. This time it's not about shows that are presented as fact, but that are nothing but BS. This time, it's something that a lot of dramas on TV (and some movies as well) do, which is to take liberties with science in service of the plot, either because a writer isn't skilled enough to work with the facts or is just too lazy. It's on my mind now because I am watching the 1st season of Dexter on DVD and I recently watched the next to last episode of the season. Near the end of this episode, Dexter is trying to confirm that the guy he thinks may be a serial killer really is by comparing a couple of blood samples. He gives them to a lab tech, tells her it's a rush job. In less then an hour, she tells him that these two blood samples are definitely from the same person. The problem in that in less than an hour, you could determine if the blood types are the same (heck, you could do that within a couple of minutes), but you couldn't do a DNA test, and just because two samples have the same blood type doesn't mean they're from the same person. But, of course, someone Dexter cares about (if that's the right term to use when talking about him) is in danger and if he had to wait until the next day, it might be too late to save this person, so the show did what a lot of them do and presented a DNA test as taking a lot less time them it does. The mangling of science happens in the movies too. The movie "Alien Resurrection" is enjoyable as a horror/action flick (though nowhere near as good as the first two movies). At least it is if you don't know anything about cloning. The movie makes it very clear that a character in the movie who is a clone has the memories of the person she was cloned from. People, cloning doesn't involve putting someone in a copier and pushing "Start". DNA from the person to be cloned is put into an egg which develops normally (hopefully) just like any other. The person who is eventually born is a whole new person with no memories at all, much less the memories of the person they have been cloned from. This kind of thing bothers me because A) Since I know something about this stuff, it takes me out of the show (or movie). It's as if they flashed the words "YOU"RE WATCHING A SHOW" on the screen. and B) because science knowledge in this country sucks enough as it is. I really wish there would be more of an effort to portray science as it really is.

Finally, I don't know if this totally fits into the whole TV theme, but I just want to say that I really wish that we could do away with weather forecasters. Certainly, there should be people monitoring the weather and letting you know if a major storm or a tornado or something like that is in or getting near the area where you live. But the regular forecasts should be done away with. All the meteorologists should just admit that weather is a chaotic system and that it's pretty much impossible to know what it will be like a few hours from now, much less a few days. I bring this up because in the area where I live, this past weekend, we had a snow storm, probably got 3-4 inches. This was after being told that very morning that we weren't going to get any snow at all ! Again today, all the forecasters were saying this morning that we would get maybe an inch, two at the most this evening. Just a couple of hours ago, a Winter Storm Warning was issued for the state and they're now calling for 3-6 inches ! It's just ridiculous. I think they should get rid of the weather forecasts in news broadcasts, and maybe use that time to delve a little deeper into the stories they cover in such a shallow way now, which is a potential topic for another post in the future.

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