Worked today from, well, not home, but around the corner, at the sublime coffeehouse Republic of Pie, and stumbled into live taping all day there for the Al Jazeera America tech program TechKnow, conducted in the back area while the coffeehouse went about its usual business. The taping was of “wrap-arounds,” conversations featuring the on-air correspondents and a host who introduce pre-taped pieces on various science and technology issues.
It turns out that the show’s on-air personalities, as shown here, are actually all serious scientists themselves, albeit really, really good-looking serious scientists. Some people totally won the gene pool, huh?
For instance, on the far left here is Crystal Dilworth (Twitter handle is @PolycrystalhD), a recently minted Caltech Ph.D. in molecular neurobiology doing research on the chemical basis for nicotine’s addictiveness to the human brain. She also teaches an online neurobiology class on Coursera through Caltech’s relationship with the MOOC provider.
To the good doctor’s left is Kosta Grammatis (Twitter handle is @KGram), a former MIT Media Labs researcher and consultant specializing in, I don’t make this up, “bionic eyes.” These days, he’s the engineer behind The Eyeborg Project, a wireless camera built into a prosthetic eye.
I chatted a bit with Steve Lange, the show’s senior executive producer, and a veteran of the days when the cable channel was still owned by former Vice President Al Gore and was called Current TV. After a bumpy couple of years, the channel was bought by Al Jazeera, the Qatar-based all-news channel that’s big in the Middle East and Europe.
The channel can be seen in about half the cable households in the United States, not bad given the rocky start it faced given its Middle Eastern roots and Qatari government backing.
That said, the topics they discussed today look fascinating (crime-lab problems with tainted DNA, for instance).
I have to say, as well, that having real scientists talking intelligently about science and technology (even if the personalities freely admit they aren’t quite TV honed) is a refreshing change from the usual inch-deep talking heads spewing badly informed opinions on complicated scientific issues.
This probably means the show doesn’t have a chance of surviving, but I wish them luck nonetheless. Does anyone out there watch the show, or even the channel? What do you think?