Doomsday review

Contributed by
Jun 14, 2006

I just got done watching the doomsday show on the SciFi channel (if you missed it, I heard it will be replayed on June 25th, so check your local listings). I think it was not too bad-- I was expecting more cheese, and it was remarkably low in that, especially given that channel's penchant for extra fromage.

It was pretty accurate for the most part, though I did wince once or twice. I really don't think a robot uprising is anything we need worry about too much, for example. Maybe a little, but really, I don't think military drones will get "a mind of their own".

The astronomy sequences were pretty good. I had some further comments on GRBs that I wish they had used. I really stressed the low probability of getting fried by one, as well as the low probability of a global killer asteroid impact. In general, the show was slightly alarmist, but it did a much better than usual job of showing what we can do about preventing a lot of these threats.

So overall, I think it was OK. It covered a lot of ground, wasn't unnecessarily gloomy, had a lot of expert opinions, was fairly if not totally accurate, and did talk about mitigation.

One thing most people don't know about filming something like that is the amount of time spent doing it. I'd guess it took about 5 hours to do all the interviewing... but that includes a segment of me looking through a telescope that was never used. That took over an hour to set up and shoot. Mrs. Bad Astronomer noted that I was on a lot, but never for more than about three seconds. I probably got more air time than anyone else (except Michio Kaku I suppose), but it was in really short segments. People who know me will laugh; it takes me three minutes just to state my name. I'm a little wordy sometimes. OK, all the time.

It was also cool to see so many friends on the show. Neil Tyson, Seth Shostak, and especially Barbara Thompson, who had an office across the hall from me when I worked at Goddard Space Flight Center. She is a very dear friend whom I love madly, so it was neat to be on a show with her.

All in all, it was a fun experience. I'd like to do more stuff like this in the future (maybe next time I'll try to project more gravitas when talking about a GRB sterilizing our planet down to the base of the crust), so if any Hollywood types are reading this, my rates are reasonable, and I'll guarantee you'll have a more accurate and dramatic show. You know where to find me.

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