Tonight, PBS’s Nova tv series will broadcast part one of its four-part series on nanotechnology. I first mentioned the programme in my Jan. 7, 2011 posting where I noted that Andrew Maynard (2020 Science blog) had seen a preview and had some reservations about one item in the four-part series. (The host, David Pogue, in a bit intended to be amusing, drinks some milk from a goat that has been injected with spider genes.) I will be watching eagerly tonight (and subsequent nights) to see if the producers have made any changes after receiving some feedback about the ‘humourous’ bit. You can read more about the PBS nanotechnology series here on their Making Stuff page.
Since this seem to be my week for television, I did watch Chuck on Monday night (as per my Jan. 17, 2011 posting) and the nanotechnology part of the story was unexceptional largely because it had very little to do with the story. The nanochip everyone was chasing was a ‘McGuffin’ (from the Wikipedia essay),
A MacGuffin (sometimes McGuffin or maguffin) is “a plot element that catches the viewers’ attention or drives the plot of a work of fiction”. The defining aspect of a MacGuffin is that the major players in the story are (at least initially) willing to do and sacrifice almost anything to obtain it, regardless of what the MacGuffin actually is. In fact, the specific nature of the MacGuffin may be ambiguous, undefined, generic, left open to interpretation or otherwise completely unimportant to the plot.