- News Home
27 November 2013 12:59 pm ,
Vol. 342 ,
The new head of the National Center for Science Education promises to "fight the good fight" against attacks on...
Analyses of the H7N9 strains isolated from four new cases show that the virus is evolving rapidly, heightening anxiety...
In 2009, Jack Szostak shared a Nobel Prize for his part in discovering the role of telomeres, the end bits of...
Science has exposed a thriving academic black market in China involving shady agencies, corrupt scientists, and...
Paper-selling agencies flourish in the aura of reputable businesses. For some scientists, it may be difficult to tell...
Featuring the first lunar rover in 40 years, Chang'e-3 is seen as an important milestone on China's quest to send a...
Data collected by satellites and floating probes have chronicled a 2-decade rise in the temperature and thickness of a...
Cholesterol, the artery-clogging molecule that contributes to cardiovascular disease, has another nasty trick up its...
- 27 November 2013 12:59 pm , Vol. 342 , #6162
- About Us
'Survivor' for Scientists
19 June 2001 7:00 pm
If you were dropped on a remote Mediterranean island, could you pinpoint your location using a saucepan? Make film with seaweed? Those were some of the challenges facing the scientists who starred in Rough Science, a TV series created by the United Kingdom's Open University (OU). The show has been such a success that OU researchers are now designing a course to go with it.
In the series, five scientists--a chemist, a physicist, a molecular biologist, an ethnobotanist, and a marine biologist--were dumped on Capraia, an island off northern Italy. Using only a few basic tools including pliers, a saw, and a radio crystal, they were given 3 days to complete a series of tasks with the natural resources at hand.
One of the more memorable challenges was to make soap from scratch, says the chemist, Mike Bullivant of Open University. The scientists tried unsuccessfully to produce sodium hydroxide--required to turn fat into soap--by running a current through seawater, using pieces of pencil graphite as electrodes. They finally managed to make soap with wood ash and oil from wild olives. The exercise was a good illustration of the fact that "science is more about failure than success," Bullivant says. Another failure was an attempt to create a camera with the aid of seaweed and a silver bracelet.
The program has been a phenomenal success in the U.K.--with over 2 million viewers--and now its influence is spreading across the Atlantic, with negotiations under way to air it on PBS. Both OU and its counterpart, U.S. Open University, are also designing short courses in basic science that incorporate examples of "rough science" and will accompany a second season.
The show may sound like another Survivor-style exercise in "reality TV," but they're actually polar opposites, Bullivant says. "Reality TV seems to be about backstabbing. ... Science is about collaboration."