The Half-Astrophysicist Blog

George Banks Loves Astronomy Again

I have been traveling a lot and haven’t had time to post.  One of my stops was New York where I got to take in the Broadway production of Mary Poppins.  It is different than the movie, although many of the same themes are present.

One little addition I noticed is Michael, the son, had a small telescope and an interest in astronomy.  At one point George (the father) says, “I used to love astronomy when I was his age…until Ms. Andrews (his nanny) beat it out of me”.

And there is a heapin’ pile of truth there.  The way science is taught in school, portrayed by the media, and even talked about in everyday life pretty much beats the love of science out of people.  When I tell people I majored in physics and work at an observatory, I get all kinds of, “You must be really smart” or “Science is just so hard” comments.  People say this around their children without thinking who soak up these messages that science is something they can’t do.  We really do our best to beat the love of science out of people.

I remember the old Carl Sagan quote, “We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology.”  This is truly a recipe for disaster.  The lack of understanding of the scientific process and principles taints debates on many important issues including global warming, stem cell research, genetic engineering, evolution, environmental issues, net neutrality, autism, cancer clusters, and a whole host of other issues.  Misinformation is so readily available on the internet and most people are poorly equipped to evaluate the claims and counter claims.

In the end, after Mary Poppins sets everything right, the family goes outside and looks at the stars.  George spies a shooting star and asks Michael for his telescope to look at it.  Of course, you don’t use a telescope to see a shooting star, but its really Mary Poppins flying away leaving the happy family so I will forgive this little breach of protocol.  May more of us follow George’s footsteps and rediscover our childhood love of science.


August 13, 2009 - Posted by | Astronomy, Education, Televsion/Movies


  1. Rob — I was just cast as Bert and was watching another production of Mary Poppins and heard that line about astronomy. As a community college astronomy instructor, this made my ears perk up. Did a Google search for the line and stumbled upon your blog. Now I have a line for when I do press for the production — I’ll describe myself as a triple threat — I sing, I act and I teach astronomy. Keep up the good work!

    Comment by Bob Swanson | February 5, 2016 | Reply

    • Cool! I am now in a group called Musical Mayhem Cabaret. We do cabaret style revues and I am doing Bert in Jolly Holiday for our next show.

      Comment by halfastro | February 6, 2016 | Reply

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