The ep5 Educational Broadcasting Foundation

educational content for public radio and television

“Wow! I Didn’t Know That!”

Science stories for grown-ups.

For a sense of what kinds of stories WIDKT! will tell, please see the section on Ninety Second Science. The difference will be that each story can be developed in much more detail and thus to greater effect. Perhaps the most severe challenge in the making of NSS was paring each story down to a minute and a half. After even modest allowances for ID, this left not enough time for anything but a very terse and abbreviated telling. Also, the time constraint was fixed, to the fraction of a second.

Within the format of a half hour, the far greater latitude will make the stories considerably more appealing, by virtue of the things that can be said and not left on, as they say, the cutting room floor.

NOTE: for an estimated 30% increase in the budget, the format could be doubled to a full hour. (NB: this entails more than simply doubling the number of stories; it means substantially greater involvement in each story told, and that necessitates greater research, writing, and editing costs.)

These stories will not come from Wikipedia or any other questionable sources on the ’Net. They will not be repackaged press releases from high-tech manufacturers or national laboratories.

Rather, these stories will be written and, in some instances, told by real scientists and engineers working with the science and technology described. This series will have the advantage of not depending upon a single writer or fixed writing staff. Stories will come from a broad array of experts in science, engineering, and technology. Further, we propose to establish alliances with other not-for-profit entities engaged in science education and benefit from their journalism and ideas.

We will be able to offer a better variety of topics, a mix of different types of tales to tell. In preparing this series, we have already amassed well over sixteen hundred different topics/questions which can be developed into stories, each running anywhere from several minutes to several full episodes.

Clearly, there will be no shortage of ideas to explore.

Moreover, WIDKT! will also include editorials. In the tradition of news reporting as it once was, long ago, these editorial opinions will be clearly and unmistakably identified and presented as just that: opinion. This opinion will be kept separate from the news features. Neat idea, eh?

Another regular feature will be “Counterpoint”, in which anywhere from two to a dozen experts will square off against each other in an informed and animated debate over some controversy in science, such as perception physics. Never heard of it? Trust us; it’s weird. Even quantum mechanics looks sane next to perception physics. If this is not bizarre enough, there’s the hypothesis that the Universe itself is conscious, with all that this implies. Then, what about a long, hard, close look at the so-called “bio-ethicists”?

Such debates exploit the gladiator effect. Listeners don’t necessarily demand blood in the sand, but they do enjoy spirited intellectual combat. A novel feature of these debates will be the ground rules: the opponents will be held to strict standards of debating, unlike political debates in which participants evade the issue as much as possible. Further, there will be none of that intensely annoying everyone talking at once, upon pain of a severe thumping about the head and shoulders.

The unique properties of radio lend such productions certain advantages, including the ability to produce a lively, spirited, and truly authentic debate forum without the expense of bringing the participants together in one place at the same time.

Often, history becomes more memorable when expressed as a semi-fictional drama. That certainly beats the pants off the dry recitation and rote memorization that passed for the study of history back in high school. Science has innumerable stories which lend themselves to such treatment. There come to mind the unexplained disappearance on March 25th, 1938, of the theoretical physicist, Ettore Majorana, from a ship bound from Palermo to Naples and the tragic death on September 5th, 1906, of the immortal Austrian physicist, Ludwig Boltzmann.

Each of these stories would lend itself well to a short and emotionally evocative dramatic presentation. Radio boasts the ability to create moving scenes with little more than three or four really good actors using that most extraordinary of instruments, the human voice. What would cost tens of thousands of dollars on television can be accomplished on radio for chump change…and done well, too.

We estimate that completion of production of the full series will require approximately sixteen months. This will provide sufficient time for fine-tuning and refining each episode. In order to ensure the very best and most consistent quality across the entire fifty-two episodes, we’ll complete production of the series before releasing it for broadcast.

As the guy in the front office says, “Do it well, or don’t do it at all.”

Production cost for the full-year series will be right in line with current public radio averages.

WIDKT demo reel - a sample full episode

From reviews by discerning listeners:

“There wasn’t anything I didn’t like. I thought it was very well done. It has just the right mix of whimsy and seriousness. I particularly liked the segment on teaching science and the Socratic method. And I liked all the different voices. It definitely has the public radio vibe to it.”

– Marie de Roos

“You all keep it very interesting with your inflections. I generally focus much more consistently with the written word, but the way you made this holds my attention well. The humor helped, as well. Bonus points for making the physicist a ‘she’.”

– Susie LaBrie

“It is interesting. Diverse topics. Your voices are clear and articulate. I really like that you identify yourselves. A thought - to create more individuality, theme musical piece for each voice.

– Helen Steh

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