Can watching forensic-focused TV shows like CSI affect how you act as a juror? That is the question behind several studies on the so-called CSI Effect: jurors who watch CSI or other crime dramas are influenced by the shows’ exaggerated portrayal of forensic science and measure their experience (and decisions) as a juror against fictional Hollywood standards. According to the CSI Effect theory, jurors now demand scientific evidence in criminal trials and without such evidence, are less likely to convict.
The internet is buzzing over the trailer for War Horse, Steven Spielberg’s upcoming film about a horse sold to the cavalry during World War I. Here at The Exchange, we’re excited Spielberg is (once again) filming a movie with science. No, we aren’t talking about engineering weapons, the physics of warfare or the trajectories of bullets in a battlefield – it’s the horse that caught our attention.
It seems like just yesterday we were discussing the real world potential of supervillain Magneto’s powers. Now, we’ve spotted a new use for Magneto’s magnetic field control: thinning blood. Two researchers, Rongjia Tao and Ke Huang, recently released the results of their study on the effects of magnetic fields applied to the bloodstream.
In the study, Tao and Huang exposed blood samples to varying magnetic field pulse strengths for varying lengths of time. The results found a magnetic field pulse of 1.3 Tesla, applied for one minute in the parallel blood flow direction, reduced blood viscosity by 20-30%. After this procedure, the blood viscosity slowly returned to normal after a couple of hours.
What do you think of when you hear the word “engineer?” Does it conjure up images of pocket protectors and slide rules? Does it evoke labs festooned with panels of blinking lights and spaghetti wiring over which are hunched socially awkward men in white lab coats? On the popular sitcom The Big Bang Theory, the character Howard Wolowitz is often derided by his colleagues because he is “just an engineer.” It seems that at some point in the not so recent past, our understanding of what an engineer is and does became somewhat skewed.
Tornadoes, earthquakes, climate change, tsunamis and comets… For screenwriters who want to tackle the disaster film genre, the hardest part might be choosing how to destroy the Earth. Look at all the options! Plus, if you aren’t satisfied with the standard disasters above, there are limitless options in epidemics, aliens, explosions and the newest disaster to entertain audiences, severe space weather.
Fantasy fiction is about magic, science fiction is about … well, science. People who believe in one do not always buy into the other, yet the two can merge. As Arthur C. Clarke wrote, a sufficiently advanced technology cannot be distinguished from magic. Besides, some magical visions represent such deep human yearnings that we ardently wish they were real.
These visions often appear in fantasy, myth, and legend, where they are “explained” simply as being magical. They might reappear in the newer genre of science fiction, justified by more or less credible scientific explanations. And sometimes, if we are lucky, there’s a third step where the idea moves out of fiction altogether and becomes real.
Readers of this blog already know how fiction can inspire real science and we’ve got another example to show you today: the electronic nose. Ray Bradbury’s science fiction classic Fahrenheit 451 features the concept, as does the 1994 children’s film Richie Rich.
In Richie Rich, Professor Keenbeam (who heads the research and development department for the Richs’ company) invents all sorts of technology, including an electronic nose that resembles a hairdryer with a pig’s nose on the front. It sounds strange but it becomes essential to the plot – it saves Richie’s parents from explosives hidden on their airplane. (Richie also uses it to detect what’s in his birthday presents.)
Something strange seems to be happening in Eastern Europe as of late. Something very, very strange. Something … magnetic. Recently circulated videos showcase the so-called magnetic children of Croatia and Serbia. One video shows 6-year-old Ivan Stoiljkovic’s bare chest covered in spoons and forks. In another video, 10-year-old Jelena Momcilov places a metal ladle against her “magnetic” palm, letting it dangle with her fingers outstretched.