Carl Sagan, whose PBS series Cosmos was watched by more than half a billion viewers, once said, “It is suicidal to create a society dependent on science and technology in which hardly anybody knows anything about science and technology.” Now his widow and fellow scientist, Ann Druyan, is picking up the gauntlet of popularizing scientific understanding by supporting the Cable Science Network. CSN is the brainchild of Roger Bingham, a member of the research faculty at the Center for Brain and Cognition at the University of California, San Diego, and the creator and host of award-winning PBS science programs including the critically acclaimed The Human Quest. Bingham’s efforts have attracted a who’s who of the science community, including Sydney Brenner, the Nobel laureate and distinguished professor at the Salk Institute, and V.S. Ramachandran of the University of California, San Diego. The advisory board is chaired by renowned Salk Institute neuroscientist, Terrence Sejnowski. While excellent science documentaries can be found on PBS and on Discovery’s digital network the Science Channel, most people get snippets of science fact by scanning headlines or through 30-second sound bites on radio and TV. CSN’s scientists want to help free the public from what Bingham calls “the tyranny of the sound bite” by using the C-SPAN model of a 24/7 nonprofit network. He notes that in a single weekend earlier this month, the network’s website (www.csntv.org) received 70,000 visitors and a deluge of interest from scientists and teachers eager to contribute lectures on topics such as cloning, bioterrorism, genetically modified organisms in food, global warming and aging. The network also hopes to highlight unsung science teachers across the country and bring back landmark series such Jacob Bronowski’s The Ascent of Man. Other ideas include an interview show and a C-SPAN Book Notes-style program to increase understanding and debunk any myths (remember anthrax and SARS?) for concerned citizens. CSN’s “science university” for the masses may not be sexy, but it aims to be a reliable, honest broker, exposing the process of science while providing a public forum for timely and accurate information. Bingham and his advisory board are now taking that message out to the cable industry, hopeful that the spark that generated C-SPAN more than two decades ago will rekindle for the “science-based C-SPAN.”

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