Professor Farnsworth: Dear Lord, they’re back!
Amy: We’re doomed!
Hermes: Doomed!

—Futurama: When Aliens Attack

You expect this kind of thing from a comedy show like Futurama.

You don’t expect this kind of thing from a supposed science show.

For a while now I’ve been DVRing and watching episodes of The History Channel show The Universe. I’m a space science buff and have been since the Apollo age, so my interest is not surprising.

What is surprising, at least to me, anyway, is that this show, and shows like it, repeatedly illustrate the effects of their subjects by showing how the Earth would be wrecked, ravaged or rendered debris.

For instance, take the episode that covers what effects the Moon has on the Earth and how different the Earth’s tides and weather and axial tilt would be if there were no Moon. A big chunk of the episode is spent on the repercussions of if the Moon suddenly vanished. The tides rebound, tsunami wreck the coasts, and civilization is doo—

—Waaaait sec. Vanished? Disappeared? Like I Dream of Jeannie? “G-dink!” and it’s gone?

In another episode about “death stars”, lots and lots of airtime and CGI is spent to show how a gamma ray burst from a nearby star could zap the Earth…repeatedly stressing how we’re right in the sights of this star when it goes boom. “…if the star is aligned…one powerful burst of energy…could turn the Earth’s ozone layer…into a radioactive inferno.”


Oh yeah, mind you, the scientists bracketing the doom and gloom visual effects admit that these apololyptic scenarios are just a slight possibility but not very likely. But it’s clearly more exciting for the show to trumpet the  we might be d . . . okay, okay, I won’t say it again.

Episode after episode of this show stresses how The Universe could kick the Earth’s wet blue ass, no matter how improbable or unlikely it is to actually happen. And it’s not just this show, it’s a lot of other “science” programs on TV. Do audiences really need to feel like the Earth is in the crosshairs to be interested in these things? Is this what the program makers think they have to do? Is this the popularization of science?

If so, we’re dooooooooooooooooooooo—


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