Those of you who know me will know that there are two things I really love in life: science, and the sound of my own voice. Which is why I have been working on a way to combine the two for the last few months. I've been writing away in my free time, searching for a way to find a solid and convincing narrative to the story I want to tell. I've spent a lot of time in the recent months listening to several podcasts that go through the history of range of topics, most notably The History of the English Language Podcast, which pushed me to follow through on an idea I have had for a long time.
I'm working on a series of podcasts, that follow the pattern and style of small audio documentaries, where we follow the story of science and the developments of ideas, as well as the people that developed them. Taking on the whole of science is a relatively daunting topic, it is as old as humanity and curiosity is a fundamental aspect of humanity, so preparing for this has not been a simple task. Even coming up with what topics to cover, and how to approach each one has been a challenge. For example, I wanted to start by discussing numbers and base systems: why we use ten, what others chose, the nature of our notation for numbers, etc. But even starting at the very beginning you end up drifting back and forth and time. Things as simple as integers bounce around throughout time, all the way up until 1874. Zero is equally convoluted with references and appearances as far back as the nfr in Ancient Egypt (which didn't behave like a complete zero) to the śūnya in Early India, but only gets thorough definitions and treatments in 7th Century India.
This follows for a lot of idea, the history is a tangled and messy series of breakthroughs, struggles, near-misses, and lucky coincidences. Everything bounces around, with partial links and discoveries, that are either rediscovered, stolen, or developed later on in time. So a lot of rewriting and restructuring to try and turn my usually incoherent and rambling thought flow into something which is not only understandable, but at least somewhat entertaining. The current plan is to take a discovery (or more likely, a series of connected discoveries) and give it a hundred or so years of development, with the intention to include lead ups to follow up. So having an episode discussing the work on planetary bodies and such with Galileo and Kepler's work could lead into a following episode on Newton's work on gravity. Because it is aimed as a historical view, it also means I have to be cautious not to miss out any huge chunks because going back and fitting them in is less than painless.
Another concern of mine is to try not to make it entirely Eurocentric. A lot of the scientific history we learn ignores a lot of the earlier developments and advancements, especially those form India and North Africa, and the work they did was often crucial in our early advancements. Unfortunately a lot of there discoveries were forgotten, and had to be rediscovered later, but the work that went in to this often had other effects within the society it was done. Knowledge has always been a source of power, and the science and technology of a culture are often intrinsically linked to it's capabilities to express power in the local and global communities, so the history of science is often the history of civilisations, which adds a little more complexity and a little more work.
But overall, I am enjoying the preliminary work I have undertaken. So far it is a mixture of basic research, plotting out the path[s], and acquiring sound clips. The current outlook is for the first episode to go live sometime in August or September, which will give me time to sort out all the scripting, acquire any sound files, and possibly interviews if they become a viable option. So hopefully, in three months I will be back with the first episode.