A film crew for the History Channel program, “The Universe,” came up to Santa Cruz to interview me for an episode that will appear next fall. It turned out to be quite an adventure, because it was extremely windy! The wind blew their reflector (a piece of white foam that is supposed to reflect light onto my face, softening the shadows) right into the nearby estuary. (We were filming at Natural Bridges State Beach.) Fortunately, they had a backup, and my wife, Kay (who had come along to watch the interview) was recruited to hold onto it. Here she is, showing what exactly a “grip” does! Meanwhile, I’m pontificating about something or other.
Also, I had prepared a demonstration of axial precession, using a gyroscope. We recorded two takes successfully, but on the third take I accidentally let go of the string. When I looked down, the string was nowhere to be found … the wind had already blown it away! So much for the gyroscope demo. (No great loss… If you REALLY want to see a cool gyroscope, take a look here.)
We also had to interrupt filming a couple of times to let people walk by. And then there was the park ranger who said that the film crew had to move their vehicles because they hadn’t gotten a permit. Actually, the film crew had gotten permission to film anywhere they wanted in the park — but no one ever mentioned to them that they couldn’t park anywhere they wanted.
In spite of all the mishaps, it was fun, and I am looking forward to seeing what comes out of the interview. Of course, I fully realize that they will probably only show a few seconds on TV, out of a three-hour interview … I just hope they pick some good clips.
[Note added 4/18/2012: The episode described here, called “The Day the Moon Was Gone,” aired on 8/25/2009. It examined various scenarios of what life would be like on Earth if we didn’t have a moon. Here is a link to all of the Season 4 episodes.]