A little interesting physical phenomenon was brought to my attention by a slashdot post — this article on salvaging the Hubble Space Telescope. It turns out the replacement for the HST will not orbit the earth rather it will orbit the sun at an Earth Sun Lagrangian Point known as L2. Lagrangian points are points on a line between and extended beyond two bodies of significant mass, such as the earth and the sun, where a body of insignificant mass will orbit the larger significant mass at the same speed as that of the Smaller significant mass. What this means for the Hubble replacement James Webb Space Telescope will orbit at this point ensuring that it’s always on the dark side of the earth. It will still need thrusters to counteract the destabilising effects of other masses in the universe. Far better explanations from the Wikipedia.
Enough has been said on ‘The Theory of Everything’ but it worth mentioning that it is symptomatic of how awful science TV has got. TToE sits in a slot once occupied by the excellent Equinox series of one hour documentaries, and one can’t help thinking that Equinox would have dealt with string theory better in one hour than Brian Greene has so far done in two. The key difference appears to be the amount of white space (or rather CGI filled space) around the actual info. Science broadcasting used to make assumptions about people’s knowledge, not many but they would at least assume that people who were watching were at least interested and would be watching Monarch of the Glen or Top Gear instead. People need things explained clearly concisely and without patronising. People can handle more than a couple of facts between adverts. There are a lot of scientists who are very good at communicating their passions to the uninitiated. I just wish they got more access to mainstream TV.
And I wish one of them could explain String Theory to me.