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Science of TRON

Listen to audio from the "Science of TRON" panel, featuring director Joe Kosinski, producer Sean Bailey, and science consultants Sean Carroll & John Dick. Learn More

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Science: The Musical!

Have you seen it? Okay, there’s no such show called “Science: The Musical.” Not yet, anyway. But writing, performing, and recording songs about science isn’t as uncommon as it sounds. Actually, we’re willing to bet you’ve heard more than a few—though you may not have realized it.

One science tune is currently being heard every week by several million people: “The History of Everything,” also known as the theme song for the hit television show The Big Bang Theory. The song, penned and performed by the Barenaked Ladies, details the entire history of universe in 1 minute, 46 seconds. If you think that’s brief, the theme song is an even briefer 32 seconds. “The creators Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady were big fans of the band and they called,” remembers Barenaked Ladies’ singer/guitarist Ed Robertson.

Scientist, Engineer, Celebrity: The STEM Stars of Hollywood

It wasn’t his music—nor an unusual hobby—that brought Brian May, lead guitarist for the iconic rock band Queen, to the attention of The Science & Entertainment Exchange. Before he became known for “We Are the Champions” or “We Will Rock You,” May studied astrophysics at Imperial College in London.

Success in the world of rock music meant that May had to put his passion for science on hold. But in 2007, he returned to academia, earning a PhD complete with a dissertation bearing the title, “A Survey of Radial Velocities in the Zodiacal Dust Cloud.” He also wrote a book, Bang! The Complete History of the Universe, and became a frequent guest on the popular BBC astronomy program “The Sky at Night.”

The unlikely suspect: How geophysics revolutionized the recording industry

Chances are, when you think of Cher, the iconic recording artist, you also think of geophysics. Okay, maybe you don’t. But you should. Cher and geophysics revolutionized the recording industry – together.

It started in 1998, when Cher released her single “Believe.” The song was a major success, sitting at #1 on the Billboard charts for four straight weeks. It also featured a new, and peculiar, effect on Cher’s vocals: at key moments, her voice wobbled uncontrollably, like a robot attempting karaoke. The description sounds cringe-inducing, but combined with the song’s fast-paced beat, it sounds, well, good. Good enough to be adopted by Madonna, Janet Jackson – even rappers T. Pain and Kanye West. The “Cher effect” (as it became known) was soon a staple of the recording industry, a distortion process reinvented as an artistic choice.

Science of Iron Man 2

The Science of Iron Man 2" was held on October 13th, 2010 at CaltechSuperheroes aren’t the likeliest scientists, but according to Caltech physicist Mark Wise, Tony Stark’s science is accurate. During “The Science of Iron Man 2,” a panel presented by The Exchange and Caltech, Wise pointed to an extended scene from the Iron Man 2 Blu-ray as a depiction of hard science. The scene, which Wise consulted on, depicts Tony Stark building a particle accelerator from scratch. Wise gave the scene an “A” for scientific accuracy, stating “That could be a real accelerator.”

Science & Entertainment at the 2010 USA Science & Engineering Festival

On October 23rd and 24th, the National Mall in Washington, DC will be buzzing with scientists and engineers, and you’re invited to join them. From 10am to 5:30pm (both Saturday and Sunday), the inaugural USA Science & Engineering Festival is celebrating science and engineering with over 1,500 hands-on activities and 75 stage-shows and performances.

The Exchange will be joining in on the fun, along with NAS, NAE, IOM and NRC, in the “Because Dreams Need Doing” tent for two days of not-to-be-missed exhibits and performances. Learn to “Be a Bone Detective” using fried chicken, take a distracted-driving simulator test or see real props from Disney’s TRON: Legacy, whatever floats your scientific boat.

What can a celebrity endorsement do for science?

Last month at least two celebrities were caught expressing their love for science and technology. Both James Cameron and Kevin Costner got major publicity for their first-hand involvement in trying to solve the oil spill crisis in the Gulf of Mexico --Cameron for lending his expertise in deep sea transportation and photography; Costner for sponsoring a machine that’s designed to separate oil and water. Although ultimately their contributions may not amount to much in terms of cleaning up the Gulf, it’s unusual for celebrities to be actively engaged in the development and application of scientific solutions to an environmental disaster. In interviews, both Cameron and Costner have spent years getting acquainted with scientists and engineers and what they do for a living. They’ve expressed their appreciation and admiration for their work.

Scientists Sharing Secrets Online

Maybe the success of The Big Bang Theory started a backlash. Because now there seems to be a campaign underway to sell the public on the notion that scientists don’t have to be geeks, nerds, or white men. The latest assault on the stereotype comes from the new PBS online-only series, The Secret Life of Scientists, the title co-opted from the critically acclaimed ABC Family network show The Secret Life of the American Teenager.

So far, more than a dozen profiles of scientists have been posted, with the promise of more in a few months. Viewers are entertained by clicking on four brief video segments for each scientist, one of which features answers to 10 questions.

Big Bang Theory: Plus or a Minus?

Scientists didn’t exactly rejoice when The Big Bang Theory got picked up by CBS a few years ago. Actually, they probably weren’t paying attention and may still be unaware of the show’s existence, even though it’s now become a major hit for the network. During the three seasons Big Bang has been on the air, it’s been pretty easy to dismiss as just another silly TV show with no mission other than to entertain. Never mind that most people spend a lot of time being entertained by watching TV.

As a result, TV is where most people learn whatever it is they know about science. But not from watching PBS or one of the Discovery networks, which have relatively small audiences. They’re far more likely to be viewing entertainment programming, including sitcoms such as The Big Bang Theory.

Tony Stark's Science

If you're one of the millions of people who flocked to the cinema this weekend to see Iron Man 2, you're no doubt wondering how much of the plot is based in fact, and how much is pure science fiction.

2010 PRISM Awards Recap

The annual PRISM Awards are given out by the Entertainment Industries Council to honor the creative community for accurate portrayals of substance abuse and mental health in entertainment. The list of supporters for this program and awards ceremony span over many of the top names in Washington and Hollywood and the event has been celebrating entertainment's ability to educate through art for the past fourteen years.

The Awards, held this year on April 22nd at the Beverly Hills Hotel, truly highlight film and television's ability to get it right and to teach. Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi summed it up nicely when she praised, "[the PRISM awards recognize] imperative topics to explore creatively, and [the Entertainment Industries Council] have truly helped raise the consciousness of the American people."

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