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Science of TRON

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Science in TV/Film

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Claw of Newt

One of the more compelling X-Men is Logan, a.k.a., Wolverine -- so much a fan favorite that he merited his own "origins" story earlier this year with Wolverine.

For All Time

The film adaptation of Audrey Niffenegger's bestselling novel, The Time Traveler's Wife, hits theaters this weekend. For those unfamiliar with the premise, it concerns a Chicago librarian named Harry (Eric Bana) who suffers from a rare genetic disorder that causes him to live on a constantly shifting timeline, shuttling back and forth between past, present and future with no control over this unusual quirk.

This understandably throws a wrench into his relationship with Clare (Rachel McAdams), who must cope with his sudden disappearances and re-appearances as best she can over the course of their marriage.

Let's leave aside the fact that no genetic disorder could possibly cause this kind of anomaly in the space-time continuum. We're talking about fantasy, after all, which demands a certain willing suspension of disbelief.

Home Smart Home

Fans of SyFy's Eureka are already familiar with the "character" of S.A.R.A.H. (Self Actuated Residential Automated Habitat), a literal "smart house" build inside an abandoned fallout shelter that serves as the residence of Sheriff Jack Carter.

S.A.R.A.H. is an AI that can open and close the hermetically sealed doors, control internal lights and temperature, and make sure Jack has a nice cold beer on tap and a tape of the latest baseball game when he gets home from a hard day's work. In a pinch, she can diagnose injuries and compare current DNA samples against samples on file.

Addicted to LOST's "Teaching Moments"

For years, I resisted watching the TV series LOST. My friends loved it, assuring me that once I started watching the show, I wouldn’t be able to stop. So it seemed a good idea not to start. But then the Science & Entertainment Exchange matched the producers of the DVD extras for Season 5 with a few good physicists for a filmed bonus feature. They sent some sample episodes, and we were hooked. We bought the DVDs of prior seasons and are squeezing in the odd episode whenever time permits. Who knew 40+ people stranded on a desert island could prove to be so compelling? (The millions of existing LOST fans, of course.)

The Zombies Are Coming!

Zombies are all the rage these days, what with the bestselling Pride and Prejudice and Zombies; the pending release of Zombieland;and news that Max Brook's sci-fi classic, World War Z, is bound for the silver screen. But maybe it's time to call a halt to this never-ending battle with the Undead. Can't humans and zombies learn to get along and co-exist in harmony? According to a new paper by a group of Canadian epidemiologists -- no way, no how.

Science Fiction Covers the Universe, And Also Our Own Little Globe

Ever notice how often the alien spaceship lands in Washington, DC, or New York City rather than Paris, Beijing, or Rio de Janeiro? Since the big science-fiction blockbusters are Hollywood products, it’s not surprising that these films are U.S.-centric and it’s also true that Washington and New York are major world cities. Even if the aliens want to reach Earthlings via the United Nations that too requires a stop-off in Manhattan.

But CNN headquarters might be a better choice, because there’s a whole big globe out there becoming increasingly interconnected by more than the UN International Telecommunication Union, Internet, and 24-hour news cycle. International trade and finance, terrorism, global warming, job outsourcing, immigration – all of these are linking people and nations more closely. Like any other cultural product, science fiction must reflect this reality sooner or later.

G-Force: The Unauthorized Biography

With G-Force entering the market this week, an underdog to supplant the mighty Harry Potter, we at The Exchange immediately thought, "There's no science here." Then, we realized that in the scientific community guinea pigs have a special history, a centuries-old relationship. It's a little known tale of love, loss, and even triumph. So here it is: the true guinea pig, selfless helper of humanity.

Neither a pig nor from Guinea, these strange rodents evolved to maximum cuteness in the Andes. They immediately became popular as household pets upon their introduction to Europeans in the 16th century due to their relative low maintenance, good looks, and easy temperament - in other words: their high threshold for being abused by children without seeking revenge.

Professor Zombie

In the last decade, there has been a resurgence in mainstream Hollywood of zombie projects.

Driving Rocket Ships and Talking with Our Minds

This week marks the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing on July 19, 1969, and there has been a predictable flurry of reporting about the event. The New York Times asked me and a few others to recall our memories of the 1969 events, in which I recalled how enthralled I was as a 15-year-old, staying home from school to chart the entire missions, building scale models, and dreaming of one day perhaps being the first Canadian Astronaut.

An Amaz!ng Weekend

Magician and escape artist James Randi (a.k.a., The Amazing Randi) has had a long illustrious career in entertainment, including a stint traveling with Alice Cooper's Billion Dollar Babies tour in the 1970s. He has had an equally illustrious career promoting science and skepticism -- and "debunking" charlatans,a la Harry Houdini. (He broke Houdini's record for survival in a sealed coffin by 11 minutes in 1955.)

And his James Randi Educational Foundation -- now headed by Bad Astronomer Phil Plait -- sponsors The Amaz!ing Meeting, held last weekend at South Point Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.

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