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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

Science in TV/Film

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Surprising Sloan Split Decision at Sundance

Park City, Utah – Filmgoers perhaps unaccustomed to the mercury in the teens and, if you are a Los Angelino, to good quality public transit, made the annual trek to Wasatch County for the 2012 Sundance Film Festival from January 20th to 29th. Among the program highlights is the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation’s Prize for a feature film that focuses on science or technology as a theme or depicts a scientist, engineer, or mathematician as a major character. Past winners have included Sleep Dealer, House of Sand, Obselidia, and Another Earth.

Environmentalism for Kids: The Lorax Hits Theaters in March 2012

On March 3, 2012, Dr. Seuss’s famed book The Lorax will come to the big screen. The trailer, released a couple weeks ago, gives a glimpse into the expanded adaptation. The film version of The Lorax follows Ted, a young boy on a mission to find a living tree for the girl he likes. It is a journey that leads him to the Once-ler (and some trouble with Thneedville’s villainous owner). The trailer opens up Thneedville to show residents pumping plastic bushes and driving large one-wheeled SUVs, not to mention the barren treeless landscape outside the town’s walls.

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.

Fantasy into Science, or Realizing the Impossible: Tractor Beams

Short of destroying a whole world with planet-breaking weapons, the most action-filled moments in science fiction come when opposing spacecraft clash. As phasers fire and missiles launch, ships frantically maneuver, attack, or spectacularly explode. But sometimes the aim is to capture a spaceship intact, or if she has superior speed, to grab and hold her while battering down her defenses. That is the space version of a fighting technique from the days of wooden sailing ships, which is to pull an enemy ship close and hold her with grappling hooks and ropes, then board her, or pound her into wreckage at point-blank range.

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.

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. 

Muppet Labs: Where the Future Is Being Made Today

Brace yourselves, moviephiles, for the return of some major stars to the big screen next week. That’s right, it’s time to play the music. It’s time to light the lights. It’s time to meet the Muppets on … The Muppets movie! (You try rewriting the theme song to make that work. Not easy.) 

In Time and Immortality: Is It Only a Matter of Time?

Time is money, so the saying goes, but in Andrew Niccol’s latest film In Time, time is money. A bus ride home will cost you 2 hours, a cup of coffee is 4 minutes, and a car could cost you years. Time is the currency, and you are given only a year. In the future, In Time posits, humans stop aging at 25. After that each person receives 365 more days to live, which they watch countdown on a clock glowing bright green on their arm. The poor work each day for more time, dying as the cost of living rises. (As Justin Timberlake’s character remarks, “For one day, I’d like to wake up with more hours on my arm than there are in the day.”) The rich are immortal.

Star Wars, Star Trek, Scientists, and Science

We have heard it time and time again, scientists and engineers everywhere, professing deep love and admiration for science fiction, and in particular, a fondness for Star Wars and Star Trek. In an unofficial (and totally unscientific) polling of The Exchange’s Scientist Spotlight interviewees, Star Wars ranked #1 in stealing the hearts (and creative minds) of scientists. (Star Trek ranked #2, with 2001: A Space Odyssey in the #3 spot.) “What we hear from a lot of the scientists we talk to is that science fiction was part of their inspiration when they were kids,” explained Glen Whitman, an executive story editor for Fringe.

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