Shubin on Colbert on Pharyngula

Paleontologist Neil Shubin has a guest post on Pharyngula, describing his experience preparing for an appearance on The Colbert Report. Shubin is the discoverer of Tiktaalik and author of the current book, Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body.

Being a scientist on the show carries with it some challenges. We need to convey facts of science correctly and do so in a way reveals how fun our science is to do and to think about. We need to educate, enlighten, and excite. The challenge is we need to do this in 5 minutes with Stephen Colbert sitting across the table. To make matters worse, the show does not tell you the tack Colbert is going to take in advance, largely because so much of what he does is ad lib.

Colbert has become the one place on television where you are most likely to see prominent scientists (of course, mostly hawking their books). I think Shubin's post is very interesting, as a reflection on how you prepare for a 5-minute interview. What he doesn't mention is that every scientist's education should include preparation for 5 minute interviews -- because that's exactly what we have to do hundreds of times as we are looking for work.

So students, read and learn!