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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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Creative Science

Imagine you’ve been working on a problem for days, maybe even weeks, but you can’t seem to figure it out. Your brain is working over solutions constantly but you feel stumped. So, you take a break. You walk down the street to the nearest coffee shop but as you’re walking home, sipping your drink and watching cars drive by, the solution rushes into your brain. That’s it!

Holiday Gift Guide for Science-Lovers

It’s that time of year again, and if you’re scratching your head without a clue as to what to get that science-loving person on your list, have no fear! The Exchange has rounded up some gift ideas perfect for that chemistry student, physics professor, or your favorite science consultant (hint, hint). This year, The Exchange staff will be rocking “Stand Back, I’m Going to Try Science” t-shirts, trimming our office space with Petri dish ornaments and sipping hot cocoa out of a caffeine molecule mug. From mathematicians to physicists, we’ve got a gift idea for everyone. Plus, if you're in the Washington, DC area, you can stop by the National Academies bookstore for an Einstein finger puppet or virus necktie! Let us know which science-themed gift you’d love to get this holiday season in the comments!

Memories: It’s All in Your Head

Memories are consolidated from short-term to long-term in the hippocampus.Forgetting is as simple as walking through a doorway – that is the finding of a new study that experimented with memories and ways to walk through a home. Researchers asked participants to complete a simple task (exchanging one object for another) in either the same room or by walking through a doorway to another room. The result: people asked to complete the task in the other room were two to three times more likely to forget what they were supposed to do.

Light-Up Neurons Are Fireworks in Your Brain

File this under “science we’d love to see onscreen.” Researchers at Harvard University genetically altered neurons to light up as they fire. Imagine, for a minute, your brain covered in bursts of light, like a fireworks show under your skull. 

The researchers altered brain cells with a virus containing a gene from a Dead Sea organism. The gene produces a protein that, when exposed to an electrical signal, fluoresces. The virus introduces the gene to the brain cells, which are cultured in a lab, causing the cells to produce the protein, which lights up as the neurons fire.

Scientific Movement: The Art of Science and Dance

It is time to put your dancing shoes on, get on the dance floor, and pretend to be a hydrogen atom. Or would you rather be a carbon atom? Those were the two choices at the 1939 American Chemical Society meeting in Baltimore where a group of Maryland chemists decided to stage a “chemical ballet.” The performance told the story of a scientist who tries to synthesize radioactive benzene from acetylene with the aid of an atom-smasher complete with four hydrogen atom dancers, two carbon atom dancers, and the dance of ethyl alcohol. You cannot deny the allure of dancing atoms, which is perhaps why science and dance tend to collaborate. 

"The Matter of Origins" performed by Dance Exchange.

Gaming for Science Solutions

Gamers, we have a solution for anyone who nags you about the hours you spend glued to your computer or TV screen. Just tell them, “It’s for science!” Okay, maybe that tactic is far-fetched for World of Warcraft or Call of Duty, but if you are playing Foldit, an online game where players compete to build protein structures, you might be legitimately contributing to science.

Mister Terrific: Scientist Turned Superhero

A new superhero hit comic book stores this September – or at least, a new version of a superhero (with some science added to his backbone.) Meet Michael Holt, a billionaire, brilliant scientist and, oh yes, superhero Mister Terrific. 

Celebrating Three Years of Science and Entertainment Exchanges

This past weekend, The Exchange celebrated its three-year anniversary. On November 19, 2008, the program officially launched with a symposium bringing together the science and entertainment communities, and three years later, we are close to 400 consults! To celebrate we are taking a quick look at our in-depth articles on past consultations. (Next year, be on the lookout for Under the Microscope articles on The Avengers and Battleship!)

Cupcakes, the only way to celebrate 3 years and nearly 400 consults.

Science Helps You Cook the Perfect Turkey

Let’s talk turkey, science lovers. We’ve already showed you how to incorporate science into Halloween but now it’s time to “science up” Thanksgiving. No, we are not suggesting something along the lines of Schrodinger’s Turkey. Instead, we’ve rounded up ideas on how to cook the big, tasty bird with the help of chemistry!

Whether you are a fan of dark meat or light meat, you have to agree that turkey is delicious – and not easy to cook. How many movies and TV episodes feature a turkey mishap? More than we can count. Think of the turkey burning to a crisp when the Friends gang accidentally locked themselves out of the apartment, or the shuffling of the turkey from oven to oven in 2003’s Pieces of April. The bird is the word, and you can't have it run “afowl.”

Hugo Draws Inspiration from Some Old-School Engineering

Everyone knows Thanksgiving is all about the movies, and this year theaters are offering up three family-friendly films: The Muppets, Arthur Christmas, and Hugo. The Thanksgiving lineup is sure to bring laughs and stunning animation but it also offers moviegoers a little science. The Muppets features the return of Muppet scientists (and CERN employees) Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker, while Arthur Christmas is a high-tech take on Santa Claus (so will we see engineer elves?). But what about Hugo, the Martin Scorsese–directed film about an orphan living in a Paris train station in the 1930s? The 3-D adventure offers a glimpse into some engineering history with the help of an automaton. 

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