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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

Event Recaps

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Biodiversity and Hollywood: A Fashionable Intersection

What would your favorite science-fiction movie be without the costumes? Most likely it would not be your favorite movie.

Fashion and costume choices set the stage for some of cinema’s most memorable moments. But what are movie sets made out of? Where was the cotton used to make the leading lady’s pants harvested? These questions can be explained by delving into the science of biodiversity.

Chase Mendenhall is a doctoral candidate in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Stanford University. He explores the trade-offs between the conservation of biodiversity and farming by closely monitoring bird and bat populations that inhabit farmland in Costa Rica.

He is also one of two speakers who will be attending the Science Café at 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday, October 17, 2012, at the Koshland Science Museum in Washington, DC.

Tribeca Film Festival: WarGames

It is all fun and games – until you accidentally start World War III. That is what Matthew Broderick’s character, David, discovers in the acclaimed 1983 film WarGames. Believing he hacked into a war-based computer game, David starts to play the game by sending missiles from the Soviet Union to the United States. What he does not realize is that he hacked into the U.S. military’s War Operation Plan Response (WOPR) supercomputer, and his game is believed to be a real attack. A thrilling chase to save the world ensues, and, well, we will not spoil it for you.

Tour Recap: The Exchange Brings Entertainers to the FBI

“You have to talk to your kids.” Always solid advice for any parent, however when this “word to the wise” comes from a cyber crime investigator for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) who specializes in breaking up online child pornography rings, this simple statement can resonate in ways far greater than face value.

Science on Tap: Time Travel

“You think that the past is fixed and the future is up for grabs, but as far as the laws of physics are concerned they are equally real,” said Caltech’s Sean Carroll with a mischievous grin that seemed to suggest that he could actually see every brain in the room processing his words, accelerating to keep up.

On January 11, The Science & Entertainment Exchange held the second installment of its ongoing series Science on Tap at the Formosa Café in West Hollywood. The latest topic: From Eternity to Here: Time Travel for Beginners. Professor Sean Carroll wowed as the night’s one and only speaker in an interactive banter over beer on the nature of time, spaghettification (as a technical term), and why time travel is absolutely possible – in fact we do it every day … slowly forward.

Event Recap: Losing Control

What happens when a scientist becomes a filmmaker? In the case of Valerie Weiss, a filmmaker with a Ph.D. in Biophysics, she finds herself “losing control.” Weiss’s film Losing Control is a quirky romantic comedy about a female scientist who needs empirical proof that her boyfriend is “the one.” The film was viewed at a special advanced screening on October 25, 2011, at the E Street Cinema in Washington, DC, courtesy of The Exchange and the Cultural Programs of the National Academy of Sciences (CPNAS). A thought-provoking discussion of the film’s portrayal of science, scientists, and the general topic of women in science followed the screening, featuring Weiss; actor John Billingsley; two female scientists, Barbara Arial Cohen and Leslie Zebrowitz; and moderator Anne-Marie Mazza, director of the Science, Technology, and Law (STL) Program at the National Academies. 

Event Recap: Flatliners and The Science of Near-Death

Is there an afterlife? In the 1990 thriller Flatliners, five medical students attempt to find the answer through near-death experiences. Four of the students undergo a process of death (“flatlining”) and resuscitation. The film is a dark meditation on what happens when the living try to navigate the space between life and death, as the students’ past sins are brought back to haunt them. 

The film, director Joel Schumacher stated at a screening at the Imagine Science Film Festival on October 19, is about amends. The characters, he pointed out, need to find grace, like Kevin Bacon’s character who apologizes to a woman he taunted in grade school. Joining Schumacher for a panel discussion of the film and the science of death were moderator Jad Abumrad, RadioLab host; Benjamin Abella, MD, from the Center for Resuscitation Science; and Christian Macedonia, MD, a U.S. Army surgeon. 

Event Recap: Bioterrorism, Science & Security

In 1993, bioterrorists in Japan attempted an aerosol dissemination of B. anthrasis, the Anthrax pathogen. But Japanese authorities did not discover the attack until 1999. After neighbors reported a foul, gassy substance spewing from a nearby building, samples of the substance were collected… then stored in a lab until 1999. Cultures of the substance revealed it to be B. anthrasis, but thankfully, it was also revealed to be the vaccine strain, which is harmless to humans. Still, the scenario is frightening. “Here is an instance where an organization had the resources and the expertise, and utilized them,” said Stephen Pagagiotas, a Public Health/Emergency Coordinator with the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and one of four speakers at The Exchange’s “Bioterrorism: Science & Security” event in Los Angeles.

Event Recap: Engineering Our Future

"Engineering Our Future" was held June 9, 2011 at the Directors Guild of America.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.

The Chemical Formula: Successfully Combining Chemistry, Science, and the Media

It’s hard to know what some 500 chemists were expecting when they filed into a ballroom for an event called Hollywood Chemistry this past March 27, at the big annual meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS) in Anaheim, California. What they got may have been a surprise: a 2-hour session that indeed covered some traditional chemistry, but mainly presented more drama, special effects, and laughs than the standard ACS scientific session, while making important points about chemistry and science in the media.

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.

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