Thursday, March 11, 2010

Kids' TV and applied physics.

I'm going back to an old topic of this blog, children's TV programmes. Currently, I'm watching an awful lot of these, thanks to 3-year-old Sean, who is an avid watcher of CBeebies. Actually, he's a tyrannical watcher, especially at the weekend. God forbid anyone should change channel while 3rd & Bird is on.
 I'm an amused and cynical watcher of kids' TV, but I have to say that British-made kids' stuff is largely better than the well-intentioned mush that emanates from the States - for starters, it's generally more whimsical and anarchic, and the only way to appreciate a majority of it is to either a) be three years old or b) have ingested huge amounts of drugs.Some of the older stuff on CBBC is actually quite good - 'Sorry, Ive got no head' is genuinely funny, especially the Witchfinder General sketches. And Horrible Histories is a truly Reithian piece of broadcasting.
 However, watching one programme today invoked an idle scientific question: What happens when someone shrinks? The programme was 'Grandpa in my Pocket', which is not, as the name might suggest, a child using blackmail in order to keep their grandparent under control, but the adventures of an old bloke, played by the indestructible James Bolam, who shrinks whenever he puts his Shrinking Hat on. Obviously.
Now, I began thinking, what would happen to someone if they did shrink to about a tenth of their height? Anyone more familiar with physics and chemistry than me out there, please tell me if I'm right or wrong, but I suspect the results would probably be somewhat disastrous.
 Imagine: you've got a person of roughly 1 metre 75 cm, weighing perhaps 75-80 kilos, with an average temperature of 37 deg. c. Now, if we say that the act of shrinking leads to a concommitant loss of weight, it still leaves us with a significant problem - where does all the heat go? you have a body pumping out a constant temperature and radiating over a constant surface area of skin. Now, if you reduce the surface area suddenly, wouldn't the result be that Grandpa would either a) be instantly cooked to a crisp or b) due to his blood boiling, explode?
Hmmm. That wouldn't make good kids' telly.
Mind you, I am half fearful sometimes when watching In the Night Garden that Upsy Daisy will stamp on the Pontypines, and have to scrape them off her shoe.

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