David Pogue is perhaps best known as the technology correspondent for the New York Times. However, many people will also recognize his face as a host on the PBS program Nova. In 2011, Pogue hosted the series of Nova episodes called Making Stuff, in which Pogue, the technology hound, hunted down the newest technologies to make things stronger, smaller, cleaner, and smarter. This year, Pogue was back with a new program Hunting the Elements, in which he unravels the mysteries of the periodic table and chemistry. Due out on DVD and Blu-Ray this month, this program provides a great way to introduce your children to the 96-odd building blocks in everything.
Now I am the first to admit that not every Nova is built to watch with your kid. However, in the Nova programs he hosts, Pogue exudes a childlike enthusiasm, grade school sense of humor, and plain old-fashioned curiosity in every scene. Whether it is overfilling sensitive equipment at New Mexico Tech, breaking the Gorilla Glass at Corning Corp. or pretending to steal a gold bar he just helped make, Pogue is clearly a kid at heart — and a destructive one at that. His insatiable curiosity and his childlike lack of boundaries take what could be a dry, boring subject and makes it accessible and interesting for kids. They understand him, because he is one of them.
Pogue spends major parts of these programs hobnobbing with Chief Technical Officers of major corporations and research scientists at various universities. As an adult, half the fun is watching these muckety-mucks interact with Pogue’s over-exuberance and sense of humor. My favorite moment in all the episodes Pogue has hosted came when he was discussing with a professor how geckos were able to climb walls. At one point Pogue says very seriously, “I think he just tried to sell me insurance.” The look of abject horror mixed with “did he just say that?” on the face of the overly serious professor is worth the price of admission alone. There are many moments like this one spread throughout the Nova episodes which Pogue hosts, but you have to look for them because Pogue is too busy explaining great concepts to dwell on the humor.
While the Nova program The Fabric of the Cosmos with Brian Greene might give you a headache as it bends your understanding of reality, Pogue’s Hunting the Elements stands out for its ability to make complex concepts simple and attainable for average viewers. I have to confess that despite having great science teachers in school, I just never really understood the table of elements. (My apologies to Carol Collins formerly of Corbett High School: the fault is mine, not yours.) Throughout the two hours of this show, Pogue takes the periodic table apart piece by piece. Starting with “the most emotional of all the elements,” gold, he explains the organization of the table in such a way that it makes sense. The places he visits and adventures he has demonstrate the unique properties of the elements he examines. All of this is done on a level that keeps my five-year-old entertained and educates me at the same time. For parents and teachers wanting to raise curious children, Hunting the Elements is an amazing tool which shouldn’t be missed. Hunting the Elements will be available on at Amazon DVD and Blue Ray June 19th, or you can watch it online at PBS.org.