Segue into Science: Eureka and knowledge

So, I like Eureka, the recently ended Syfy show about scientists outsmarting themselves and getting into trouble. This post isn’t about that. This post is about using something in the show as a starting point to talking about how it applies to real life.

So, this isn’t a criticism of the show. It’s me trying to add a reality check so more people are aware of how far the fiction does or doesn’t go. I’m going to rant a little bit, but I’m not really directing it at Eureka in particular. So here’s the thing I want to talk about: How is it possible that all of these scientists know as much about each others’ fields as their own?

Yes, they’re supposed to be insanely smart, but that doesn’t mean the sum of human knowledge has been injected into their brains (not to mention that the sum of human knowledge changes pretty quickly). Eureka is definitely not as bad as other shows about this. There was an episode where a vet refused to work on people, and that was good.

When it comes to most of the main characters, though, the amount of knowledge they have is ridiculous. Especially since there’s supposedly an entire building of scientists in various fields for them to consult with. Henry, for example. According to his profile on Syfy, he’s officially a mechanic, but also a genius with engineering and physics. Those are two pretty big fields. Of course, it turns out he does autopsies too, and can test water composition (in the episode, “Show Me the Mummy”, for example). There’s tons of other examples, but I’m not going to document them.

How does he have time to be capable of doing all these things? And in addition to that, one character called him one of the “Rolling Stones of Astrophysics” in the episode “Insane in the P-Brane”. So not only is he involved in that many fields, but he’s amongst the best in at least one of them. I’m not really sure where this whole Hollywood idea that scientists know everything remotely scientific comes from. Maybe it’s because of necessity, to have a smaller amount of characters present. But in a show like Eureka, most of the characters are scientists, so they have more opportunity to show divisions of knowledge.

Worse, in the episode “Here Come the Suns”, a girl in middle school was actively contributing to the solution of the problem. How does she have enough information to keep up with the issue in as much depth as Henry, the Rolling Stones physicist/mechanic/coroner? They’re kind of treating the knowledge that scientists have as just something that you know, instead of something that you put effort into learning.

So this is definitely one of my pet peeves with the show. You don’t just have knowledge, you gain it. You work for it. And this is one of the things that make the characters a little harder to relate to, for me. Though they do have some really great characters. It’s still a fun show, but I guess I’m in a position to be able to question some of the things that come up in it.

And also, Felicia Day’s in it, which is awesome.

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2 Responses to Segue into Science: Eureka and knowledge

  1. You’ve definitely touched on why, once I stopped watching this show, I never went back. And it’s not that I hated it or anything- it seemed like a very cute show from what I saw- but the stuff with the kids knowing abstract calculus (or whatever the hell it was) always bothered me more than anything else, because no matter how bright a very young kid is, they won’t be able to use the correct notations or solve equations. Even assuming they are smart enough to work out the principles behind the math, they won’t know the various symbols or Greek letters used to denote those concepts. It’s odd that out of all things on the show that bothered me, but for some reason it really stood out.

    TL:DR: Preach it, sister 🙂

    • Marie Erving says:

      Well, this definitely wasn’t enough to get me stop watching the show–I do really like it, after all. But it can be a little frustrating when you work hard to learn what you know, and people assume that you get it by magic or whatever.

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