Saturday, July 26, 2008

Carl Sagan On - Making Organic Chemistry Interesting



It had been a while since I had watched this clip.

It really does have some similarities to the Paul Johnson "Ethanol" Video.

Now, it's not obvious on YouTube, but I remember from having watched this on video - the Sagan clip was shot on video. It's not well known outside of the media "biz", but parts of Cosmos were shot on video and parts on film. Of course now that we have such stuff as the new Battlestar Galactica that is shot on video but computer processed to look like film, I wonder what Cosmos would have looked like had it been made in the early 21st century.

Of course the first thing that struck me is that there is a VERY long cut right after Sagan goes into the studio, but he keeps it interesting.

Oh, and that brings up the first point - STUDIO ...

Of course the Sagan piece, in turn, in somewhat reminiscent of the works of Julius Sumner Miller - but what Sagan adds is a little trick called a "hair light" that keeps things looking a little more "professional". A hair light is a 2X overexposed light from the back that tends to make a bright line at the edge of a person's hair and separates them from the background. Considering Sagan went for the "eerie" black background, that hairlight is CRITICAL.

And shooting such scenes in a studio or at least indoors is generally good advise - that way you don't have issues with turning blue on partly cloudy days.

Of course what this video really may have to lend to the Paul Johnson video is detail and plot.

Sagan takes all these things meant to represent the atoms and small molecules that make up a human body - charcoal for the carbon in our DNA, liquid nitrogen for the nitrogen in our proteins, chalk for the calcium in our bones, rusty nails for the iron in our blood, 100 pounds of tap water, and some trace elements, and mixes it all together and makes a mess - particularly with the liquid nitrogen bubbling.

What Paul Johnson needs to do for version 2 of this video is see if he can really literally get down in the dirt.

He may, in fact, need to enlist the help of PBS types - possibly even David Brancaccio himself.

There's two ways to do this video as I see it.

The one would be starting with some unsuspecting E85 pump somewhere in the Northern Kentucky / Southwest Ohio / Southeast Indiana area, wait for the tanker to come by and then follow the tanker back to where it picks up the E85, and then, of course, follow the ethanol components back to their origin.

The other way would be to start from a corn field and work your way forward.

Either way you'll discover, whether a gallon of E85 truly costs $7, $10, or $20/gallon, the whole thing is a tremendous deception because in addition to the gasoline that you need to run the machines to even make the ground useful for growing corn and then transporting to the refining facilities, you have this issue of the STAGGERING amount of natural gas that goes into the fertilizers that make modern farming possible.

Yes, although Paul Johnson's numbers may not be exactly right, on the topic of ethanol as automotive fuel, we been had, we been took, we been hoodwinked - led astray, run amok - BAMBOOZLED ...

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