back to article Boffins turn Bunsen burners on Frank Skinner

"Science isn’t fun. It’s just maths in fancy dress," wrote TV presenter Frank Skinner in the Times on Friday, and it's earned a gentle rebuke from the Royal Society of Chemistry's chief executive Richard Pike. The RCS caustically calls Skinner a "comedian" only between inverted commas*. But Pike says he may be onto something. …


This topic is closed for new posts.


  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Dr. Pike's mistake

    was to take Frank Skinner's column seriously.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Dr Pike's mistake...

      ...was - is - that he takes *himself* far too seriously...

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Who doesn't want to be on the Telly?

    Me for starters.

    Which is good because probably no-one else want me to be on the telly either.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Richard Pike

    First thought: is Richard Pike related to Magnus? But no, he was Pyke not Pike.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      but his dad

      was private pike

      1. Stratman


        Shhhh, don't tell 'em.

  4. Anonymous Coward

    I don't buy it

    Science may be slightly trendy at the moment (and I'm all for that), but with the possible exception of a few scientists at the very top of the tree - like Stephen Hawking - I doubt that any of them make the kind of money that Frank Skinner makes. And with respect, he's not really top of the entertainment tree is he?

    Sorry, but doing almost anything on TV is going to bring you more money, fame, sex, drugs, adulation and associated ancillary benefits than a lifetime of scientific achievement ever will.

  5. Max Sang
    Dead Vulture

    Amend your RSS feed please... I can't tell before I click on a Reg story in my RSS reader if it's been written by Orlowski or Page. Since I am now going to delete their bullshit unread, perhaps you could save me from having to download it in the first place. Ta.

    1. Steven Knox


      also give us comment readers the ability to delete comments like the above. Thanks!

    2. Steve 26

      Greenie alert

      Looks like some greenie twittered his chums to get his mates to vote for his post. How sad, we're used to those tactics though.

  6. Naughtyhorse


    .... but schtooopid

    you cant take frank skinner at face value. he's built a massivey succesfull career on appearing to be stupid, which he clearly isn't.

    Science has been in decline, because it's hard, boring, then hard some more. and having some brummie dickhead whack a lump of silicon in his arm and claim to be the terminators _increidibly_ tedious cousin tends to make it a mockery of the process rather than making it look cool.

    Our society today is about getting what you can for the least possible effort (now called being a freetard, used to be called being a thatcherite) how many kids wanna be on x factor ar play football.

    welcome to the market where the lowest common denominator* is king.

    soon to be an arcane phrase known only to the techno-majes... you know the ones who can make stuff work, when the ritual of switchingitoffanfonagain fails.


    kids today. god blessem

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      "Freetard" is a "Thatcherite"??

      And "the market where the lowest common denominator* is king"??

      What. The Hell?

      A portal to the Daily Mail has been opened. Someome tell Hawking, please.

    2. heyrick Silver badge

      (now called being a freetard, used to be called being a thatcherite)

      Ah, man, that's my line of the week... Still giggling as I type this. Sweet! (upvoted accordingly)

    3. Naughtyhorse



      the entire market system is based on buy it cheap sell it dear

      (and if you are clever like her dad, get your thumb on the scales at every opportunity)

      so what's cheaper than free?


      now are you starting to see why out hospitals/roads/schools/country is going to shit?

      30 years of being run by assholes who know the price of everything and the value of nothing.

      flunkie - sir we have 2 choices, we can build a new motorway which will carry 10,000 cars an hour at a cost of £100million, or a B road that can cary 30 cars an hour at a cost of £50million.

      minister - well the tresponsible thing is to build the B road, look it saves £50millions of the taxpayers hard earned.


      vote for change (if cameron wants change lets give him 30p and tell him to fuck off)

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Skinner was making up "jokes" instead of getting laid.

    What a retard. He is not clever by any definition - he just appeals to the lowest-common denominator (someone better explain that to him)

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Science and religion...

    ...aren't that different when push comes to shove. Neither are as open to new ideas as they like to pretend, and both 'priest' and 'scientist' live in hope that their titles alone might ensure that people care what they think.

    On balance I prefer the unanswered questions of science to the unquestioned answers of religion. But that doesn't change the fact that the scientific establishment tries to give an image of informed stability when in fact they have more fads and fancies than the ladies' clothing industry.

    Mr Skinner isn't my favourite comedian, but he was making a passing joke. You know .... JOKE??!!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You're wrong

      But on a very subtle point: it's *scientists* and *priests* that look alike. And that's down to them being human. Mostly. Some priests may be demons from hell but that's another story. And to be human is to be a politician first and foremost, much as we'd hate to admit that they are human at all. We're social animals first, thinking animals second and it shows.

  9. Anonymous Coward

    Stupid -gate suffixes and settled science

    "Then came the Climategate shenanigans, and, the public could see all was not well."

    Climategate, now Bigotgate. I'm waiting for a scandal involving water and then watching dull journalists' heads spin in an infinite loop as they add "-gate" to "water", remove it to avoid confusion with the actual Watergate scandal (involving an actual name), and then repeating the process over and over again.

    Thinking of settled science, it's interesting to read columns by real bigots in the Torygraph on the topic of "the coldest winter in years, I remember my driver in Kenya, blah, blah, climate change nonsense" (think of the Fast Show character who was always "very, very drunk") and then turning to the weather page on the back where they talk about different species gradually edging northwards because of warmer winters or whatever.

    As for the bigot, it's amazing what kind of worldview a gin-and-tonic breakfast can provide.

    1. Steve Evans

      Re: Stupid -gate suffixes and settled science

      I'm waiting for scandal involving a gate!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      Rowely Birkin is "Very, very drunk"

      Loved that character, but most shite-shovellers at the Daily Fear/Torygraph have only an equivalent privileged background with that incoherently mumbling man of melancholy since we all know journalist have no heart, unlike Rowely:

      The email leak demonstrated that some scientists are scheming politiking bastards trying to climb up out of the desperate (and nationally shaming) scramble for funding that takes place in areas of research and interest that won't feature in a BBC Sunday night documentary or as a doom-laden lead on the six o'clock news.

      Fund science and ensure that the same basic literacy applies for MPs (must have math/science/english) as it does for the rest of the working population then scientists can let Frank Skinner crack his usual brand of humour and the white coat brigade can sit-back (rather than kicking-back), relax, and have a sense of humour about themselves.

  10. Anonymous Coward

    That's ok...

    I'll be charging big bucks to no-nukees, creationists, and other anti-science superstitious types to fix their computers, cars, and other technical stuff they can't be bothered to be clueful about.

    "Change your desktop background? sure... that'll be $100, please"

  11. Anonymous Coward


    "Then came the Climategate shenanigans, and, the public could see all was not well. "

    The problem is the "public" arent really in a position to weigh up the competeing scientific arguments and decide which is most valid. That isnt how science works. Any science, not just environmentalism.

    Creating a false dichotomy of "rival theories" and then presenting it to the public as if they carried equal weight is a farce and why people are so easily confused about science. Sadly this includes some El Reg authors.

    1. Sean Timarco Baggaley

      So you're claiming that it's all settled, then?

      "Climategate" is a non-issue. That scientists are also (a) human, and (b) just as prone to political infighting and empire-building is not news.

      The key problem is one of trust in science. "Climategate" has undermined trust in the entire field of climate science—although this branch's heavy reliance on computer models also hasn't helped; computer models are the scientist's equivalent of a pretty explanatory diagram and do not constitute any kind of proof. The field's tendency to use alarmist hand-waving and a lot of FUD-spreading really doesn't help its cause either.

      The more something looks like politics, the less it can be trusted.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Who watches the watchmen?

        The problem with "Climategate" is that no one outside of a few journalists and scientists had access to the full story of how, under an avalanche of moronic requests for information from a small number of idiots one scientist lost the rag in frustration at not being able to get his work done.

        Rather than present the facts of tens of thousands of perfectly professional emails and other documents produced by the people in question, the news outlets picked out the handful of angry and indeed sarcastic ones and used them to characterise the whole of the research in a totally unreasonable way.

        "The more something looks like politics, the less it can be trusted."

        Absolutely, but journalism *is* a branch of politics, so you can't trust it either - you need to scrape the surface and ask why the reporter or newspaper wants to tell you this story in this way. Then you're at least in with a chance of getting some sort of realistic picture of what's going on. A slim chance, mind.

        1. Anonymous Coward

          Why Robert Long can't be trusted

          "under an avalanche of moronic requests for information from a small number of idiots one scientist lost the rag in frustration at not being able to get his work done."

          That proves you get your information from zealots and haven't read the Climategate emails.

          Why do you think there was an avalanche of requests? Because the scientists refused to publish their code or data, so other scientists could reconstruct their work. They refused for years, "hiding behind" FOIA laws. They arranged to delete emails. All of this is criminal behaviour, they thought they were above scientific scrutinity and above the law.

          Do you ever ask yourself why you're losing this debate? Because you spread FUD and lies, and it's safer and easier for people to ignore you than believe you.

          You have failed, get over it.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward


            "That proves you get your information from zealots and haven't read the Climategate emails."


      2. Anonymous Coward


        @ Sean Timarco Baggaley

        I dont recall saying it was all settled. I am intrigued to know what area of science is "all settled."

        "Climategate" has undermined public trust in science because it has allowed people with no idea what they are talking about to take on a position of false authority. There is no dichotomy between two opposing camps, but the media (on and offline) love to present reports in this manner.

        For years the public have been fed an idea that if Person X says Y then it is equally important that Person A can say B and that both arguments carry equal validity.

        This is nonsense. It works well (as a PR stunt) with science that is contested by interested parties (evolution, climate change and health spring to mind) but it is still nonsense. Unethical behaviour by some people does not change the science. Yes it implies that more effort should be spent reviewing their claims to see if they are still valid, but it doesnt change reality.

        Gravity is far from a settled deal, we know that Newtonian gravity is wrong and that Relativity is "better" but we also know that is not the end state. There are not two opposing camps which have equally valid arguments and can spend loads of money getting barely functional yet "popular" retards to support their position. Instead people just research it.

        The early pioneers of electromagetism (and most electrical devices) were much more unethical than the retards in "climategate" yet we dont think electricity is magic because they did lots of naughty things to stay famous.

      3. SynnerCal

        Powerpoint isn't a computer modelling tool

        STB wrote: "computer models are the scientist's equivalent of a pretty explanatory diagram and do not constitute any kind of proof".

        Sorry - to be rude - that "Big Brother Contestant" type thinking. Computer models are just that - a different way to express theorems. Any decent computer model _has_ to be proven by comparison with real world experiments, or else it is merely a "unproven theory" and just as valid as any other. You run the model with a known set of conditions, then check to see if it squares with what happens in real life! Certainly that's what we did (when I was a computer modeller - although not climate change thankfully).

        Are you saying that the computer models that Boeing, Ford, Hyundai Shipbuilders, architects etc use are invalid (although I will admit that this is more CAE than the scientific stuff that's being discussed here)? No! To me at least the problem with the climate scandal was that the bozo's involved got caught fiddling the empirical data to fit their theory, (rather than the proper way, which is change theory to fit data) - the fact that this theory was being modelled digital isn't that relevant. What's the old saying - garbage in, garbage out?

        (By the way, in the 80's I was a Thatcherite, now I'm an advocate of FLOSS - in RegSpeak - a "freetard" although I hate the practise of adding "tard" to everything with a passion).

  12. John Stirling

    -gate suffixes

    Stuff a scandal about water being complicated for journos. I want the original Watergate hotel to be in a scandal, because by the rules of extension that would now be a Watergategate.

    1. Just Thinking

      Another suffix

      Burger. Hamburger - named after a German city but what a bizarre coincidence that ham in English is a type of meat. Otherwise we wouldn't have chicken burgers. After all, you don't get chicken furters do you? Not so sure about the term beef burger, seems a bit redundant that one.

      I am sure I once saw a recipe on TV where they did actually break up some shop-bought hamburgers and reform them into new burgers (they were thicker, or had extra ingredients or something like that). Hamburgerburgers.

      1. Gwaptiva


        sorry, but Hamburgerburgers are the ones I buy at the McD's next door to my place of work... in Hamburg.

        1. Anonymous Coward

          some topic drift there

          Might even say it's ... gate gate paragate parasamgate ...

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wizard prang! Now they're resorting to downstairs brummie hacks!

    To the editor of The Register.

    Sir, — Pray give me a little space to make known to your readership generally, and to those in Great Britain particularly, that if it were not for scientists and that which they have so indefatigably accomplished in the name of God Himself and the pursuit of the unyielding furtherance of mankind, it is very likely that Mr. Skinner would not have wound up a tea-total for the last quarter of a century.

    It is, therefore, with the confidence afforded only to a gentleman of my years that I presume to witness in the aforementioned Times article, the bitter resentment of a working class commoner.

    Keep your new money, Mr. Skinner. I shan't be spending mine on your new three-disc stand-up comedy collection available now from Amazon for £24.99 any more than I shall be maintaining my patronage to The Times.


    Major Duncan Cholmeley-Jones

    London, W1, 5th May.

  14. Martin Usher

    Its the word "boffin"

    I really hate patronising gits. Just because they couldn't "do math" at school they feel they have to put down everyone who can. Its not as if its a particularly difficult subject, either.

    1. heyrick Silver badge

      On doing maths...

      I love Physics. Chemistry was a blast, especially knowing what to put with what in order to get stuff to blow up. I've read (and half understand) A Brief History of Time. I tried the book by... what's his name - Michio Kaku - something like that, but found it heavy going. I subscribe strongly to the scientific way because I don't buy religion AT ALL but have something of a difficulty in explaining why I exist. I want to understand and know more, not just about why I am, but all the little niggling questions from "why do males have their most vulnerable sexual apparatus the most exposed" (it's to do with temperature, but hardly an argument when the hunter-gatherer role could nullify an opponent with a swift kick in the....) all the way to the big question (and there is something displeasing about The Big Bang; if matter cannot be created or destroyed, then the creation of the universe violates ones if its fundamental laws).

      The odd thing? I suffer from dyscalculia. I take a Psion 3a to add up my shopping (no, seriously!). I may well understand red shift and dark matter before I understand long division. It depresses me slightly, I'd love to code up some 3D software (sort of like Toy Story, but more akin to Tomb Raider 1/2 - a quality that can be rendered in real time on a single machine (basically for little anime-like skits)) but I can't get my head around the maths to rotate a box. I look at the code, over and over, and I might as well be looking at Kanji for all the sense it makes.

      "Boffins" come in all shapes and sizes. I don't consider myself one, most of my schoolfriends did. Some people still do. But to use it as a term of derision tends to say more about the speaker than anything else. Once, at school, a kid said to me "bloody hell, you're suck a GEEK" to which I replied "yup, and proud to be one". Never heard that "insult" again, it loses its bite when taken as a compliment. Me? Boffin? I dunno, I consider boffins need to "discover" things to gain their boffin-ness. Me? Geek? Hell yeah! :-)

  15. DavCrav Silver badge

    Post censored

    Both of my posts got rejected. Since I apparently cannot post anything critical of the journalist, I will just mention that fluffy kittens are nice, and isn't that Mr Orlowski wonderful.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      I'd count myself lucky ...

      You know, there's probably some modern equivalent of Twain's adage of never picking a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel. Not having your posts put up (which really doesn't mean the same thing as being "censored", tbh) might be a blessing in disguise.

      Also, if all you can contribute is ad hominem attacks, I'm quite glad I don't have to read them. Cheers, Ms. Moderatrix.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Not unusual

      Only rarely are posts criticising the Big O actually allowed, even if they are actually only pointing out his errors in the article and his own vested interests. If you are lucky then it will get through for a few hours before being nixxed.

  16. Anonymous Coward

    "Science isn't fun, It’s just maths in fancy dress"

    The mathematicians will be up in arms. Impugning that fine discipline indeed.

    On second thoughts the mathematicians know that they're the top of the pile and they'll just treat Mr Skinner's remarks with the contempt they deserve.

    1. Steve Evans

      re: "Science isn't fun, It’s just maths in fancy dress"

      Well done Skinner, you just slagged off my two favourite, and best, subjects! (Actually back in my day it was Physics and Mathematics, but these days they just throw all the sciences together).

      Go back to watching grown men kick round an inflated bit of cow and just switch your head off.

      1. Jason Hall

        Switch your head off?

        That infers his head has ever been switched on surely?

      2. GrahamT

        Just to annoy you a bit more..

        "A scientist is an engineer, but without the practical experience." I would cite the original author if I could remember.

    2. Naughtyhorse

      sadly missed becoming skinners postulate...

      pesky randall monroe got there first

  17. scatter

    Cover up?

    What's this cover up that's so dismaying the public then?

    I think what's closer to the truth is that they're fed up with the transparent smear campaign that is being waged against science.

    1. Anonymous Coward


      What smear campaign? Climate science was hijacked by activists and campaginers a long time ago.

      They told porkies, fiddled the data, and nobody believes them any more. Nobody believes the Gulf Stream is being displaced, or that we are experiencing uniquely warm temperatures.

      But you're probably an activist yourself.

      1. scatter

        Errr no

        Climate science has not been hijacked by activists. Climate science is still being done by climate scientists who you are quite happy to slander. Just listen to yourself.

    2. Frumious Bandersnatch

      transparent smear campaign?

      Smears would hardly be annoying if they were totally transparent. In the interests of scientific accuracy shouldn't that be a "translucent" smear campaign?

  18. Sam 8


    "The science is settled"

    True science is never settled, that's why we have moved on from Newton, for example.

    1. Chemist

      Re : settled?

      "True science is never settled" - there may be an elephant of truth in that but it would take something truly amazing to change the laws of thermodynamics or 'get below' absolute zero or not get the exact same amount of energy out of burning a mole of butane or step out of a window without artificial aids and NOT plummet to the ground.

      There's always something further to learn but even the totally different gravitational theory in General Relativity still approximates to Newton's gravity for calculation purposes under most everyday circumstances (GPS time corrections being the most recent and widely used exception)

      On the subject of climate change raised above I can only say that the simple physics of the sun's heat being increasingly retained by increased carbon dioxide has to be correct. The contention is what happens to that heat - does it lead to a corresponding increase in temperatures?

      (I've no great love for Frank Skinner's comedy but as a (retired) scientist there are many more things that offend me )


This topic is closed for new posts.

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021