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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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Improvising Science

Could improvisational theater help scientists communicate more effectively? If Alan Alda has anything to say about it, yes. 

The renowned actor, writer, and director has been a loyal, devoted friend of science, long before he played Hawkeye Pierce on M*A*S*H. From 1993 to 2005, Alda hosted Scientific American Frontiers for PBS, which he called “the best thing I ever did in front of a camera.” In 2001, he played physicist Richard Feynman in the play QED and in 2010, he hosted The Human Spark, an award-winning documentary that delved into everything that makes us human. Alda has also helped promote New York City’s annual science festival and recently wroteRadiance, a play about the life of Madame Curie.

Cooking Up Science

If you’ve ever watched Bravo’s Top Chef or any show on the Food Network, you know cooking is an art form. It’s a dance in the kitchen, a painting on a plate – it’s making the mere sight of food part of the joy of eating. And if you’ve ever tried your hand at a recipe and something went horribly, horribly wrong, you know cooking is a science. Well, now there’s a new television show that brings together the art and science of cooking: Marcel’s Quantum Kitchen.

Roaring to Be Heard: Conservation in Film

In March, a new film hits theaters. It’s a courageous tale of a single mother, forced out of her home and fighting for survival. No, it’s not a little-known indie film or a critics’ darling. In fact, the main characters in the film don’t even speak – well, unless you count roaring as speaking. That’s right; the films’ “actors” are cats, lions to be exact.

The Last Lions, released by National Geographic Movies, follows the journey of lioness Ma di Tau (“Mother of Lions”) as she struggles to survive and care for her cubs after she loses her mate and is cast out by a rival pride. It’s a dramatic and suspenseful story – a story with the aspiration to raise awareness of the declining lion population (from 450,000 to 20,000 during the last 50 years) and to increase support for conservation.

Science of Cyborgs

Michel Maharbiz answers an audience member's question during the Q&A session. A beetle is flying through the air, wings buzzing as it moves forward, and then – suddenly – it falls to the ground. Then the wings start up again, the beetle is back in the air – then again, the wings halt and the beetle lands on the floor. It’s almost as though it’s being controlled by a remote, flying and dropping out of the air as if someone were pushing the “Start” and “Stop” buttons over and over again.

Science at Sundance

The Sundance Film Festival has launched the careers of myriad household names in the film industry – Steven Soderbergh, Kevin Smith, Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino, Paul Thomas Anderson, and Darren Arronofsky – to name a few. Established in 1978, the festival, shepherded by film legend Robert Redford, has meant many things to those who have made the pilgrimage to Park City, Utah, for a glimpse at artful filmmaking at its most raw and energetic – a buying opportunity, a source of inspiration, a place to find your audience. It’s also become a training ground of sorts for artists to hone their craft.

Learning with Laughter: Late Night Talk Shows & Science

Where do you get your daily dose of science? Online? Reading a magazine or newspaper? From a comedian?

If that last suggestion sounded a bit off, trust us, it’s not. David Letterman, Jay Leno, Conan O’Brien, Jimmy Fallon, Craig Ferguson, Jimmy Kimmel, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert – these are the comedians who keep you laughing late into the night. And every so often, they are the comedians entertaining you with science.

Because Dreams Need Doing

What does an engineer do? If you’re having trouble coming up with an answer, you aren’t alone. In a study of K-12 graders, the majority believed engineers build buildings and fix cars; 10% of the students confused engineers with train operators. Another study asked teachers “What kinds of work do engineers do for their jobs?” Between 25 and 35% of the surveyed teachers selected clean teeth, arrange flowers, sell food and make pizza.

The studies’ results are startling, but what does this have to do with film? The National Academy of Engineering (NAE) recently launched a new website (www.engineeringmessages.org) devoted to changing the conversation about engineering. The NAE worked with a market research and brand development company to create new messages and taglines that challenge common misperceptions of engineering. Which got us thinking, what films support positive messages about engineering?

Film in 2011: Robots, Aliens, Heroes and Everything Else You Could Ever Want

In 2011, aliens will invade, robots will battle for the moon, and superheroes will save us. No, we aren’t predicting the end of the world. We’re talking movies! The silver screen in 2011 will be buzzing with science-fiction plots and comic book heroes.

Girls Just Want to Have Sums: Mathematically-Gifted Women in Television/Film

Girls just want to have sums. Or is it fun? Actually, why can’t it be both? Stereotypes plague math – difficult, boring - and girls who love math – they don’t exist. But several female television and film characters are defying both stereotypes.

Science of TRON

Caltech physicist Sean Carroll (far left) explains the science of TRON: Legacy.Twenty-eight years after the release of the originalTRON film, the sequel, TRON: Legacy, is stunning audiences with cutting-edge visual effects, heart-racing action and a mesmerizing story. But audiences are also being stunned by another element in the film: science.

“Obviously the concept as a whole is a little fantastical. But it was important to me, and producer Sean Bailey and our other producer Jeff Silver that we have some sort of strong science foundation at key moments in the film,” explained TRON: Legacy director Joe Kosinski.

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