Why do so many documentaries feel the need to include at least one crackpot?
I love documentaries. Documentaries on history, nature, science, everything. The worst, though, are the documentaries that purport to explore or examine some historical or natural mystery. Typically, they will present a story, then they will present researchers who make their claims and theories, then they show some sort of evidence or model that supports or rebuff’s the theory. The first 2/3s will almost always be grounded in reasonable science, historical knowledge, archaelogy, whatever. Fact. But then they drag out some weird beard who is all “DARK MATTER!” or “ALIENS!” or “ATLANTIS!” or something completely out of left field for the wrap-up, and then the Narrator does a recap “Science, science, or mystic bullshit? We may never know, but one thing is for certain: MYSTERY!”
Most of the time, they have some other scientist come and state why the weird beard is wrong, but then they give the weird beard the last word, all “To suggest that we not even examine the posibility that this phenomenon is caused by hyperspace inducing darkmatter created by aliens from atlantis is to discount and possibly deny ourselves the opportunity to find a real solution to these mysterious occurrences!”
I’m not opposed to the idea that these weird things and causes are possible, but I am reasonably certain that they are so remote that time and energy spent on the most far out theories is wasted when there is still serious scientific investigation to be done. To be able to say it was magic or aliens or magic aliens promotes lazy thinking. It’s like giving up. “Well, we can’t figure out how something happened, so it was obviously aliens. Mystery solved!”
Atlantis is one of my pet peeves. The concept is pretty awesome, and if it’s looked at within the context of what we actually know, is still pretty awesome. Crete had a fairly advanced civilization that was rocking and flourishing with a pretty impressive city, and most people in the ancient world had never been there, but they knew that there were these sea-faring people who had crap to trade from all over the world. Just imagine: people from the sea, a land you’ve never known, bringing things to sell that blew your mind because they were from so far away they might as well have been the other side of the world. And then one day, they stop coming. We don’t have any concrete answers about why the Bronze Age collapse happened, at least when we look at the Bronze Age collapse as a singular catastrophic phenomenon where all the greats of the ancient world started dropping like flies, but we’re pretty sure that the Cretan empire fell from its zenith when the capital at Knossos was destroyed by an earthquake. If Plato’s Atlantis is not mere parable, let’s also remember that both were seafaring cultures eventually destroyed by foreign powers. Suddenly, one of the most advanced cities in the world was reduced to ruin and rubble (it should be noted that while Cretan culture did rebound for a few hundred years, eventual deforestation of the island proved to be major problem for a ship-building people), one of the most advanced civilizations in the world has lots of problems going on at home and are no longer seen abroad, and the ancient mainlanders’ minds are blown. What happened to those mysterious guys from across the sea who used to bring us strange and awesome things to trade? After several generations and before the invention of the popular history genre, people were left with a vague cultural recollection of an advanced civilization that used to bring wondrous things from across the sea, but no one had seen them in anyone’s lifetime. “Was it Granddad’s granddad who used to tell the stories of the men from across the sea? Or was it Granddad’s Granddad’s Grandad?” Even today, most people’s world view and concept of history revolves entirely around their own lifetime. Hell, just think: Cleopatra was further removed from the Old Kingdom Egyptians than she is from us. We’re closer to Richard III than the classical Greeks were to their Mycenean Forebears. And not having as clear a concept of history, the average person is bound to assume that something that happened several lifetimes before their must have been like a million forevers! Hence, we get Atlantis. No, it’s not in the Bermuda Triangle and it’s not sinking ships with magic and darkmatter.
Oh, did I mention Bermuda? That’s right! That’s why I was writing this…
I watched a Documentary on the Bermuda Triangle the other day. Not really my thing, but my GF wanted to see it. It purported to solve the mysteries of the triangle. And, until they brought out the weird beard, it kind of did. Ships lost at sea and capsized before even a distress signal could be sent? They showed that the oceanography of the region off the coast of florida was conducive to two things: gigantic fast-moving waves that can appear seemingly out of nowehere and able to capsize ships, dragging them down in a matter of seconds, and a fast moving stream of ocean water that could move wrecks as far as 100 miles from where they occurred. Nicely done! Works for me!
Part two: what about planes that disappeared? Electromagnetic interference in clouds knocking out navigation systems sounds plausible. Evidence suggesting that Flight 19 crashed into the georgia swamps and the government not wanting to admit that their planes had faulty navigation and also botched a routine training mission so badly that over a dozen people died also sounds pretty plausible!
Part 3: Electromagnetic vortexes that caused planes to arrive at destinations much faster than their flight-plans could possibly account for. Now this is fascinating. A real mystery! Could there be jet streams of air moving so quickly that small planes could cover 100 miles in a matter of minutes? If it happened to Charles Lindberg, it could happen to anyone, right? Unfortunately, there wasn’t a lot of serious science going on here at this point. The proposition? Dark-matter induced space-time compression. The best the guy they dragged on for this had was to suggest wormholes. There’s a real thing that’s going on, obviously, and I am interested in some awesome scientific investigation of it using probes, cameras and science. But to hang it out on hyperdrive theories while other scientists are all “Dude, look, even the theory that you’re using says that X has to be in place for this to occur and X is clearly not in place!” (I think X in this case was something like a bazillion joules of energy. And yeah, I’m calling 10 to the 46th a bazillion; I think the word works sufficiently in this case, as I am not a scientist nor am I writing for the scientific community). At least while the documentary teased dumbass Atlantis theories, they didn’t actually go into any.
Where was I going with this? Oh, yeah. Stop bringing on the crazy at the end of documentaries!