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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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You Lying Liar: Can You Beat a Polygraph Test?

A spike in blood pressure, a quickening in breathing, a rise in the electrical conductivity of skin…. These are the signs of a liar, at least, according to a polygraph test. But what if you were telling the truth? 

Villain Science: Bane

In the DC Comics universe, he is known as the “The Man Who Broke the Bat,” and in the recently released teaser trailer for The Dark Knight Rises, Bane appears to be up to his old, violent tricks. The popular villain’s exact role in the film is a highly guarded secret but the first official image of the character (plus the teaser trailer) show Bane with his trademark Venom-injecting mask, meaning the fictional drug will likely be in the film as well. 

In Reality and Fiction, Greed Is Good

It is one of the seven deadly sins but, as Gordon Gekko says, greed is good. Researchers in Switzerland recently found a moderate level of greed is favorable for society – or at least, the researchers’ model society.

Common wisdom leads us to believe greed is bad, that self-interest does not work for the greater good of a society or group. In fact, that is exactly what game theory tells us. In a public goods game, where optional contribution to the common good improves the well-being of participants, greed is problematic. Game theory predicts a free-loader problem where participants stop contributing because they will reap the rewards through others’ contributions. The outcome is known as the tragedy of commons: eventually, no one contributes. 

The Bone Detective

If you are a fan of the television shows Bones, you are probably aware of the fascinating process of identifying people through skeletal remains – or, at least, the fictional process. Bones takes leaps and bounds with its technology, and sometimes science, which helps the forensics team solve mysteries in a matter of 60 minutes. What you might not know is that real-life forensic anthropology is just as fascinating as the fictional version – even without the shiny, speedy technology. 

Why So Blue?

Have you ever wondered why so many characters in television and film are blue? Not blue as in sad, but blue as in color. From The Smurfs to Avatar, blue is the popular choice for an alternative skin color. As it turns out, there is a way for human skin to turn blue!

A condition caused by high exposure to chemical forms of silver, known an argyria, can change the color of skin from a normal color to a blue or bluish-grey color! If you inhale or ingest enough silver, the element accumulates in the body over time. When exposed to sunlight, the particles under the skin darken, which turns the skin a bluish hue. Argyria is not life-threatening, but still, you probably do not want to ingest that much silver. A man in California gradually turned blue after drinking gallons of colloidal silver per week for years – that’s commitment. 

The Final Frontier

More than four decades have passed since a human first set foot on the Moon.Last Thursday, the space shuttle Atlantis returned to Earth and NASA’s Space Shuttle Program officially closed its doors. A sad day, for sure, but over here at The Exchange, we plan on passing the time between now and private spaceflights by heading to the movies for some fictional space exploration. Except, well, we noticed there are not very many upcoming space exploration films. Is Hollywood finished exploring the “final frontier”?

Wormholes: The Superstars of Inter-Stellar Travel

You might not have noticed their stellar performances, but with feature roles in Thor and Green Lantern, wormholes are the biggest movie stars of the summer. Not to mention, without these theoretical shortcuts in space-time, neither film would have much of a plot. A wormhole (the characters call it an “Einstein-Rosen bridge”) in Thor allows the film’s characters to travel between the Nine Realms and in Green Lantern, Hal Jordan travels to Oa through a wormhole (though it’s not mentioned in the film). Without wormholes, neither superhero would have gotten very far – nor would the plot.

Glaciers: The Newest (Fictional) Threat to Mankind

In the Arctic Circle, volcano eruption unleashes a glacier that will destroy mankind … at least, according to the trailer for 2012: Ice Age, a fun (and funny) B-movie featuring the destruction of New York City by a glacier – a really, really fast 1,000 miles long glacier set off by a volcano in the Arctic Circle. 

It's one of those disaster movie plots too silly to ring true, but over here at The Exchange, we couldn't help but wonder, “What if?” Could a glacier ever move that fast or be that big? Is there a known glacier threat to New York City?

In Science We Trust: The CSI Effect & Forensic Science

Can watching forensic-focused TV shows like CSI affect how you act as a juror? That is the question behind several studies on the so-called CSI Effect: jurors who watch CSI or other crime dramas are influenced by the shows’ exaggerated portrayal of forensic science and measure their experience (and decisions) as a juror against fictional Hollywood standards. According to the CSI Effect theory, jurors now demand scientific evidence in criminal trials and without such evidence, are less likely to convict. 

All About the Science

The internet is buzzing over the trailer for War Horse, Steven Spielberg’s upcoming film about a horse sold to the cavalry during World War I. Here at The Exchange, we’re excited Spielberg is (once again) filming a movie with science. No, we aren’t talking about engineering weapons, the physics of warfare or the trajectories of bullets in a battlefield – it’s the horse that caught our attention.

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