Yesterday, I watched the second part of the BBC‘s “The race for absolute zero”, a 2007 documentary on the quest to reach zero temperature. I’m a big fan of the BBC and it’s documentaries and can thoroughly recommend “Absolute Zero”, which features eminent scientists such as Eric Cornell, Carl Wieman and Wolfgang Ketterle, who shared the 2001 physics Nobel prize for creating the first Bose-Einstein condensates (BEC). However, three quarters into the documentary, when BECs had finally been demonstrated in the lab, the following sentence came up:
“At last, quantum mechanics was more than just theoretical mumbo-jumbo”.
A surprising statement. Surely, quantum mechanics hadn’t been “mumbo-jumbo” at any time before, especially not as late as 1995!
I’ll put it down to sloppy writing, with the intention to be witty. A more suspicious mind could conceive that the writers were trying to (sub-) consciously appeal to a less scientific minded crowd. But is that really necessary in a scientific documentary, dedicated to explaining ultra-cold temperatures, by the most reputable broadcast company in the world?
It is easy for the scientific community to overlook these things. At least it was a documentary on science, right? Some of us were on TV, weren’t they? Did you see me, Mum, all those years were not in vain! But on the other hand it’s those little things which creep into the public’s minds and later, when it counts, make it near impossible to discuss important matters such as global warming. After all, the scientific “facts” behind that could just be more “theoretic mumbo-jumbo”.