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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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Scientist, Engineer, Celebrity: The STEM Stars of Hollywood

It wasn’t his music—nor an unusual hobby—that brought Brian May, lead guitarist for the iconic rock band Queen, to the attention of The Science & Entertainment Exchange. Before he became known for “We Are the Champions” or “We Will Rock You,” May studied astrophysics at Imperial College in London.

Success in the world of rock music meant that May had to put his passion for science on hold. But in 2007, he returned to academia, earning a PhD complete with a dissertation bearing the title, “A Survey of Radial Velocities in the Zodiacal Dust Cloud.” He also wrote a book, Bang! The Complete History of the Universe, and became a frequent guest on the popular BBC astronomy program “The Sky at Night.”

What can a celebrity endorsement do for science?

Last month at least two celebrities were caught expressing their love for science and technology. Both James Cameron and Kevin Costner got major publicity for their first-hand involvement in trying to solve the oil spill crisis in the Gulf of Mexico --Cameron for lending his expertise in deep sea transportation and photography; Costner for sponsoring a machine that’s designed to separate oil and water. Although ultimately their contributions may not amount to much in terms of cleaning up the Gulf, it’s unusual for celebrities to be actively engaged in the development and application of scientific solutions to an environmental disaster. In interviews, both Cameron and Costner have spent years getting acquainted with scientists and engineers and what they do for a living. They’ve expressed their appreciation and admiration for their work.

When Galaxies Collide

In a fantastic example of entertainment lending its services to science, actress (Buffy, Dr. Horrible's Singalong Blog) and Webseries creator (The Guild) Felicia Day stars in this new PSA from Spitzer Science Center, correcting some of the misconceptions about new findings on colliding galaxies from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope.