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An example of a fine way to encourage the interest of science in children is the Royal Institution christmas lectures. Pure genius - why are they restricted to just 5 lectures over christmas every year?! I didn't manage to see all of them this year, but loved the way he explained encryption (passwords and keys).
Can Richard Hammond bring children into science?
Is Hammond a good role model for this purpose?
Hammond already presents a Science show somewhere.
The real issue is that the media, in all it's forms, tries to provide what it thinks people want for entertainment, and in view of it's popularity, it is getting it more right than wrong. If there's a problem anywhere it is with people in general, who don't want to have to work at their entertainment, perhaps because they've just come home from working all day.
In the end, it really comes down to criticising other people for not wanting to do what we enjoy doing, and who has a right to say what other people should enjoy?
TV should be to inform and entertain - we've got the entertainment, so where's the information? I agree with one of the earlier comments, Tomorrow's world was brilliant. I also remember Johnny Ball being fantastic when I was young. I used to watch all these types of programmes with my dad, and I really think that's what got me interested in science. And I mean proper science. I don't think Brainiac would have had the same effect - sure, it's entertaining, and it's based on science, but it doesn't really inspire or encourage people to find out more about anything. I've been to a couple of events at the Dana centre (at the Science Museum in London), and they really are fantastic - often the most interesting nuggets are the applications of fairly mundane scientific discoveries, and learning about how the most off-the-wall types of research can impact significantly on our lives. The one that stands out the most was the 'smell' session a couple of years ago, where we discovered just how many applications an 'electronic nose' may have - including the potential for sniffing out cancer cells. This is how science should be presented on our TVs!
With regards the other discussion - does TV give people waht they need, or what they want - people actually do want more science. The Eurobarometer Survey in 2000 (not sure if they've updated it on these themes since) showed, basically, that the amount of sport coverage roughly matched the demand, but the amount of science coverage was far below the demand (defined at the number of people saying "I an interested in science and technology" vs the number saying "I feel I am well informed...").