Letter From Discover

Friday, December 03, 2004

Tell TV A Thing or Two

People often ask if Discover magazine is part of the Discovery Channel. It is not, and we wish they would change their name. That said, we’ve had a good working relationship with them over the years. From 1996 through 2000, a Discover magazine science show ran on Wednesday evenings on the Discovery Channel. The series was a hit, but it was also expensive to produce, so its lifetime was limited. Steve Burns, who until recently was the senior vice president of production at the Discovery Channel, and Steve Petranek, the editor of Discover magazine, have worked together on specials that benefit both the magazine and the TV channel since 1999. In one memorable act of generosity, Burns arranged a lift for a Discover writer in a chartered Russian helicopter to a remote area of Siberia, where Discovery’s TV cameras were recording scientists digging out a 10,000-year-old frozen mammoth from the tundra. Discover and the Discovery Channel focused on different aspects of the story, and we promoted each other’s efforts.

Now Burns has moved on to run the Science Channel, yet another Discovery television enterprise, and he has worked even harder with our magazine to find mutually beneficial projects. Last year, for example, Petranek hosted a program based on Discover ’s annual Year in Science issue on the Science Channel, and he will do so again this year. The show will run on December 26, from 8 to 10 p.m.

Recently Burns called to talk to us about an eight-part weekly series, which begins December 8 at 8 p.m., on the 100 greatest science discoveries of all time. The program will be hosted by Bill Nye and will draw from Earth science, evolution, biology, medicine, genetics, chemistry, physics, and astronomy. Burns thought it would be enlightening to have Discover ’s readers pick the 10 most important discoveries of the 100 presented. He offered to put together a bonus ninth episode featuring those 10 choices. In turn, we suggested that our readers might tell the Science Channel if any important discoveries were left out.

We’ve made it easy for you to participate. Simply go to Discover.com, the magazine’s Web site, and look for a box called “Vote for the top 10 science discoveries.” Click and you’ll be taken to a page with instructions and a list of the Science Channel’s 100. Mark your choices by November 25. Then sit back, enjoy the series on TV, and be sure to tune in on February 9 at 8 p.m. to see if your top 10 matches those of other Discover readers.

In the meantime, don’t miss the January issue of Discover, on sale December 14: our special roundup of the top 100 science stories of 2004.

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