The evolution (pun intended) of science programming has come a long way.
Mr. Wizard, 3-2-1 Contact!, Beakman’s World, and Bill Nye focused on conducting experiments using everyday household items and simple animations to simplify scientific phenomena. Then came more experience-based broadcasts like the old school PBS documentary Voyage of the Mimi (giving Ben Affleck’s career a kick-start), that lasted fifteen minutes an episode and tracked the migration of hump back whales. Nowadays, the saturated on-demand market allows instant access to topic-specific shows a la Shark Week and Survivor Man.
Created by John Pavlus (a Brooklyn-based writer/director for National Geographic, NOVA, Wired, etc. ) and Christopher Mims (a science buff with lab experience and a degree in Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology) of Small Mammal Productions, The Monitor is a weekly video news show stemming from Scientific American. It aims to be the “curator of the kind of need-to-know information that doesn’t show up on other sites until [they’ve] reported it first.”
Pavlus and Christine Nicholson trade off hosting duties and capture their audience with a sarcastic, but forthright tone, using commonplace explanations supported by correlating web images and video clips in a sweet use of screencast. Animated graphs, videos, and pictures, synchronized with the hosts’ commentary, appear in a computer monitor (yeah, now you get the show’s name?) to deliver accessible and informative information on scientific findings.
When asked how the video content emerged, John explains that it’s “designed to have a crossover appeal, aimed primarily at web-savvy general-audiance viewers who might not be used to seeing science presented in an entertaining or edgy way” and is choosen so as to be “a mixture of important stories that you may have heard about elsewhere, as well as quirky items that you probably haven’t…story ideas [come] from Digg as often as [they] do from science journals.”
The to-the-point execution of often perplexing material is compacted and presented in ADD-philic ways that sustain the viewer’s attention and shed light on key issues. For instance, technology can now track the carbon footprint of the country by tracing the emissions from factories, which may or may not be good news for regulatory agencies. However, as every action has an equal and opposite reaction, science has also found a way to turn excess carbon emission pollution into something equally environmentally friendly: plastic!
Plus there’s stuff like killer robots, Neanderthal’s speaking, and artificial meat. Some of their topics might be politically charged, but Pavlus and Nicholson remain generally unbiased in their commentary, only subtly poking fun where appropriate.