January 29th, 2015
I’m willing to bet it’s the very best element-based meeting in the cosmos. I’m talking about the North American Carbon Meeting, where I took part in a panel discussion yesterday with two excellent communicators — video superstar Derek Muller from Australia and Banana/Coal communicator Peter Griffith of NASA. You can talk about nitrogen, phosphorus, argon, strontium, ruthenium, samarium, hassium or meiternium — none of them have a meeting that compares with this carbon meeting. However, there is an “element of truth” to Derek’s Youtube video channel Veritasium being the best in online science videomaking.
TWO NICE GUYS AND A GROUCH. Derek Muller (left) won my immediate respect by saying climate change is boring. In fact he has this excellent video explaining his thoughts on it. Peter Griffith of NASA also has a great short video about the carbonic difference between a banana and coal.
AND THAT’S WHEN THE CARBON DIOXIDE CONCENTRATION REACHED 400 PARTS PER MILLION …
So it was a joy to meet Youtube video legend Derek Muller from Australia (his Veritasium channel on Youtube has over 2 million subscribers) who has made entire videos addressing the difficulty of communicating this challenging yet important issue. We were on a panel at the annual meeting of the North American Carbon Program (NAACP) in Washington D.C., put together by the meeting organizer, my old buddy Peter Griffith (we go back to the Carboniferous Period where we met as undergrads at Duke Marine Lab).
Peter is one of the “thousand points of light” in the science world whose support gives me cause for optimism in the relentless battle against the science establishment (who have never supported anything I’ve ever done in science communication). He and I got reacquainted in 2009 when I spoke at NASA. We hadn’t crossed paths in decades.
IS THAT A BANANA IN YOUR PANTS OR A LUMP OF COAL?
Peter is one of those folks who is a natural born communicator, and not surprisingly has taken a great interest in my two books. In fact, my pushing and proding helped spur him to make this excellent video of his simple comparison of a banana and coal to convey the difference between new carbon versus old.
A lot of the major essays I have posted here over the past five years originate with Peter sending me an email with a recent thought or article. He is proof that you can be both an excellent (carbon) researcher and excellent (carbon) communicator.
Together the three of us on the panel opinionated on the difficult yet important task of communicating about climate change in a world that is driven not by facts but by narrative dynamics (which of course is the topic of my new book coming in September). People are always asking me who I think does a good job of communicating science …
Simple answer: Derek Muller. And not just a good job — his videos really are superb — both entertaining yet with deeper dimensions, looking at the basic science of how we reason and why some science topics are so elusive.
I hate to say this about all the well-intentioned feature documentary filmmakers out there, but Derek is the face of the future of filmmaking. The masses are losing their interest in the 90 minute format. All you have to do is visit Culver City in Los Angeles and look at the sprawling Youtube facilities to see where the future lies. Derek is on the cutting edge of this new medium of mass communication, and makes you realize the future is bright.