In Britain, being invited on the BBC radio programme “Desert Island Discs” is an accolade roughly equivalent to being knighted. Guests are invited to choose six records that they might take with them to a desert island.
The recent episode with Stephen Pinker reminded me of a variant that I’d pitched to the BBC’s Head of Light Entertainment not so long ago. In “Desert Island Graphs” a panel of notable scientists sit around and hold a no-holds-barred humorous roundrobin discussion of which six graphs they’d carry with them to a desert island.
My own perennial favourite is of course the old Binding Energy per Nucleon against Nucleon Number because it is a wonderful illustration of how basic physics affects the unfolding of the universe: large red giant stars cook up each of the elements in turn up to iron before “sploding” (thank you Ricky Ricardo) as a supernova (“Wha’ ‘appen?!?”).
To say that my overtures were brutally rejected would be an understatement. As a matter of fact, the then Head of Light Entertainment threatened not only to have me hunted down and killed, but to have my hometown napalmed and the ground sown with salt.
There’s just no pleasing some people….