The Science of Special Effects

During our ramblings around YouTube, we came across this marvelous compendium showcasing the evolution of special effects in film since 1900, beginning with The Enchanted Drawing, and ending -- of course -- with the amazing anti-aging Brad Pitt in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Who knows what the visual effects wizards will come up tomorrow?

 

 

All the Small Things

Science, entertainment and art converge in the work of Willard Wigan, a British artist who creates sculptures so tiny, they fit inside the eye of a needle, or on the head of a pin. In fact, you can't even see the sculptures without looking through a microscope.

Aliens: Love Them, Hate Them, or Relate to Them?

What with black holes, dark energy, and so on, it’s a big strange universe out there. Science fiction films add more strangeness when they include weird and wonderful aliens. The closest we’ve come to real aliens so far is evidence of water that could support life, past or present, at a few sites in our solar system. But we have recently found lots of extrasolar planets and that helps fuel a long tradition of speculating about life in the universe.

Sparkle and Glow

Fans of Stephanie Meyers' Twilight series -- now coming to a silver screen near you - love the fact that her vampires "sparkle" in sunlight rather than burn up, a la Dracula. It's an intriguing departure from classical vampire lore, and far be it from us to argue with artistic license. But you don't have to be a broody vampire to have a bit of a glow about you.

Of Adam and Asperger's

Among the standouts at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year was a film by writer/director Max Mayer called Adam, which was honored with the Alfred P. Sloan Prize for outstanding feature film focusing on science and technology.

Talking Incentives

So, it's simply not true that scientists lack communication skills in any absolute sense. Successful scientists, by and large, have excellent communication skills. The problem is that those skills have been developed for communication to a very specific audience: other scientists in the same field. The communication strategies that are most effective for scientists talking to other scientists are often not effective when communicating to the general public.

For All Time

The film adaptation of Audrey Niffenegger's bestselling novel, The Time Traveler's Wife, hits theaters this weekend. For those unfamiliar with the premise, it concerns a Chicago librarian named Harry (Eric Bana) who suffers from a rare genetic disorder that causes him to live on a constantly shifting timeline, shuttling back and forth between past, present and future with no control over this unusual quirk.

This understandably throws a wrench into his relationship with Clare (Rachel McAdams), who must cope with his sudden disappearances and re-appearances as best she can over the course of their marriage.

Let's leave aside the fact that no genetic disorder could possibly cause this kind of anomaly in the space-time continuum. We're talking about fantasy, after all, which demands a certain willing suspension of disbelief.

Home Smart Home

Fans of SyFy's Eureka are already familiar with the "character" of S.A.R.A.H. (Self Actuated Residential Automated Habitat), a literal "smart house" build inside an abandoned fallout shelter that serves as the residence of Sheriff Jack Carter.

S.A.R.A.H. is an AI that can open and close the hermetically sealed doors, control internal lights and temperature, and make sure Jack has a nice cold beer on tap and a tape of the latest baseball game when he gets home from a hard day's work. In a pinch, she can diagnose injuries and compare current DNA samples against samples on file.

Addicted to LOST's "Teaching Moments"

For years, I resisted watching the TV series LOST. My friends loved it, assuring me that once I started watching the show, I wouldn’t be able to stop. So it seemed a good idea not to start. But then the Science & Entertainment Exchange matched the producers of the DVD extras for Season 5 with a few good physicists for a filmed bonus feature. They sent some sample episodes, and we were hooked. We bought the DVDs of prior seasons and are squeezing in the odd episode whenever time permits. Who knew 40+ people stranded on a desert island could prove to be so compelling? (The millions of existing LOST fans, of course.)

The Zombies Are Coming!

Zombies are all the rage these days, what with the bestselling Pride and Prejudice and Zombies; the pending release of Zombieland;and news that Max Brook's sci-fi classic, World War Z, is bound for the silver screen. But maybe it's time to call a halt to this never-ending battle with the Undead. Can't humans and zombies learn to get along and co-exist in harmony? According to a new paper by a group of Canadian epidemiologists -- no way, no how.

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