Laughing With Science

Comedy is a science. Or is it science is a comedy? It depends on who you ask, really. For Brian Malow or Tim Lee, the answer might be “both.” These two scientists-turned-comedians found their funny bones after their science educations and turned to stand-up comedy as new professions. Malow, a former astronomist, bases his standup on science history and facts, like Alfred Nobel’s dynamite connection to the Nobel Prize or a science flub in Star Wars. On a scale starting at “no science knowledge needed” to “need to be a scientist,” his comedy ranges toward the “need to be a scientist” side, as his material is sometimes based on very specific science knowledge. Lee, a former biologist, skews closer to the “no science knowledge needed” side through his combination of PowerPoint presentations full of science knowledge and hilarious charts.

Superhero Movies Are Getting Real

Recently, we stumbled on a clip from the 1966 film Batman known mostly for its use of shark repellant. Yes, shark repellant, as well as barracuda repellant, whale repellant, and manta ray repellant – all part of Batman’s Oceanic Repellant Bat Sprays, conveniently located in his helicopter. Did we mention during this clip that Batman is hanging off a rope ladder from said helicopter as a shark chews on his leg? Yes, that’s happening, too. With Robin’s help, he manages to get the shark to drop off his leg (with the use of the shark repellant, of course) and somehow escapes without even a rip in his costume. It is silly and unbelievable – a startling contrast to realism and plausibility in a growing number of recent superhero films.

Dark Matters: Twisted But True Science Tales

It’s time for a pop quiz! Which of the following three science experiments failed?

A. Genetically engineering goats to produce spider silk

B. Embedding beetles with remote controls 

C. Cross-breeding of humans and apes

Contagion: Going Viral

Refusing to eat the communal peanuts at airport bars, an extra bottle of hand sanitizer, the sudden usage of a word like “fomite” – spotting an individual who has recently watched the movie Contagion is as simple as recognizing the symptoms. Contagion, released September 9, 2011, is a chilling look at what happens when a lethal virus transmits from animal to human, and explodes into a global epidemic. Sure, other films have featured viruses taking over the world (turning humans into zombies, for example) but Contagion is different. The film’s fictional world is much more real and much more plausible. 

Evolution of the 'The Big Bang Theory'

The Big Bang Theory finally received its first Emmy nomination for outstanding comedy series, one of five awards it is nominated for next month. Jim Parsons (Sheldon) did win an Emmy last year for outstanding lead actor in a comedy series, and both he and Johnny Galecki (Leonard) are nominated in the same category this year, but it took four seasons for the show itself to be recognized as one of the best situation comedies on the air. In contrast, Modern Family was nominated (and won) in its first season out.

Fantasy into Science, or Realizing the Impossible: Teleportation

During the years, we have watched Captains Kirk, Picard, and others in the Star Trek universe step onto a transporter platform, fade into shimmering motes of light, then instantaneously reappear on the surface of an unexplored planet. This is teleportation, surely the coolest possible way to travel through space – no need to squirm into a spacesuit or navigate a spaceship; just step up and away you go!

Another Earth: Meeting the 'Other You'

Putting the science in science-fiction can be trickier than it seems, just ask Mike Cahill and Brit Marling, co-writers of the Sloan Prize-winning film Another Earth. The film follows Rhoda Williams, a young woman who killed a mother and child in a drunk-driving accident, which derails her plans to attend MIT and study astrophysics. Sentenced to four years in prison, she befriends John, the husband and father of the people she killed after her release. 

Celebrate Science and Science-Fiction All Year Round

If you think the holidays are coming up soon, you may be surprised to know you missed months and months of holidays – science and science-fiction holidays, we mean. Scientists, engineers, mathematicians, and science-fiction fans appear to be party animals – look at all the holidays for science, math, biology, science fiction, and more! Earlier this week it was Read Comics in Public Day and later in September, it is International Observe the Moon Night. Plus, October 23 is one of the best holidays around: Mole Day. But there are so many before and after and in-between – check them out below (and let us know in the comments if we missed any)!

January

2 – Science Fiction Day

17 – Kid Inventors Day

February

2 – Create a Vacuum Day

11 – National Inventors Day

12 – Darwin Day