Sunday, 8 November 2015

The host of Daily Planet said something nice to me.

In March, I was interviewed on the Canadian Discovery Channel show Daily Planet about my falling-through-the-Earth paper. The interview is here. Later that week, the host of the show, Dan Riskin, emailed me asking for help replicating my calculations, so I told him about Newton's shell theorem and how it applied in this scenario. Last week he was answering questions on reddit, and I reminded him of his email and asked him what scientists should do to improve the state of science journalism. He said:

Yes! That was a great day.
You did a paper about a person falling into a hole in the ground and then falling all the way to the centre of the earth (the hole hypothetically goes right through the middle). You figured out how long it would take to get to the centre.
I loved this question and spent half a day trying to find the answer before I gave up. I had a terrible computer model that kept throwing my person into space.
Then you taught me that so long as you're inside a sphere the gravitational attraction of the sphere itself, beyond a radius equal to your distance from the centre, cancels out. And I think you told me Newton calculated that. Do I have that right?
You did a great job improving science outreach by doing a ridiculous but fun question and then deriving the answer. I loved that and have told many people about it. You're my hero, a bit. Do more of that.
It is often said that the word hero is thrown around far too much these days. But here, we have an unbiased external source of that appellation.

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