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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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What You Need to Know to Survive a Zombie Disease

It's going to take more than washing your hands to save you from the zombie diease.If you stay up late at night worrying about the impending zombie apocalypse, you will be happy to hear the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a blog post outlining exactly what you need to do to keep yourself (and your family) safe from the undead. But while the CDC provides great tips for preparing for an emergency of epidemic proportions, if you want to survive the zombies, you will also need to arm yourself with knowledge of infectious diseases and how they spread.

Improvising Science

Could improvisational theater help scientists communicate more effectively? If Alan Alda has anything to say about it, yes. 

The renowned actor, writer, and director has been a loyal, devoted friend of science, long before he played Hawkeye Pierce on M*A*S*H. From 1993 to 2005, Alda hosted Scientific American Frontiers for PBS, which he called “the best thing I ever did in front of a camera.” In 2001, he played physicist Richard Feynman in the play QED and in 2010, he hosted The Human Spark, an award-winning documentary that delved into everything that makes us human. Alda has also helped promote New York City’s annual science festival and recently wroteRadiance, a play about the life of Madame Curie.

Learning with Laughter: Late Night Talk Shows & Science

Where do you get your daily dose of science? Online? Reading a magazine or newspaper? From a comedian?

If that last suggestion sounded a bit off, trust us, it’s not. David Letterman, Jay Leno, Conan O’Brien, Jimmy Fallon, Craig Ferguson, Jimmy Kimmel, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert – these are the comedians who keep you laughing late into the night. And every so often, they are the comedians entertaining you with science.

Because Dreams Need Doing

What does an engineer do? If you’re having trouble coming up with an answer, you aren’t alone. In a study of K-12 graders, the majority believed engineers build buildings and fix cars; 10% of the students confused engineers with train operators. Another study asked teachers “What kinds of work do engineers do for their jobs?” Between 25 and 35% of the surveyed teachers selected clean teeth, arrange flowers, sell food and make pizza.

The studies’ results are startling, but what does this have to do with film? The National Academy of Engineering (NAE) recently launched a new website ( devoted to changing the conversation about engineering. The NAE worked with a market research and brand development company to create new messages and taglines that challenge common misperceptions of engineering. Which got us thinking, what films support positive messages about engineering?

Girls Just Want to Have Sums: Mathematically-Gifted Women in Television/Film

Girls just want to have sums. Or is it fun? Actually, why can’t it be both? Stereotypes plague math – difficult, boring - and girls who love math – they don’t exist. But several female television and film characters are defying both stereotypes.

Science & Entertainment at the 2010 USA Science & Engineering Festival

On October 23rd and 24th, the National Mall in Washington, DC will be buzzing with scientists and engineers, and you’re invited to join them. From 10am to 5:30pm (both Saturday and Sunday), the inaugural USA Science & Engineering Festival is celebrating science and engineering with over 1,500 hands-on activities and 75 stage-shows and performances.

The Exchange will be joining in on the fun, along with NAS, NAE, IOM and NRC, in the “Because Dreams Need Doing” tent for two days of not-to-be-missed exhibits and performances. Learn to “Be a Bone Detective” using fried chicken, take a distracted-driving simulator test or see real props from Disney’s TRON: Legacy, whatever floats your scientific boat.

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.

Scientists Sharing Secrets Online

Maybe the success of The Big Bang Theory started a backlash. Because now there seems to be a campaign underway to sell the public on the notion that scientists don’t have to be geeks, nerds, or white men. The latest assault on the stereotype comes from the new PBS online-only series, The Secret Life of Scientists, the title co-opted from the critically acclaimed ABC Family network show The Secret Life of the American Teenager.

So far, more than a dozen profiles of scientists have been posted, with the promise of more in a few months. Viewers are entertained by clicking on four brief video segments for each scientist, one of which features answers to 10 questions.

Big Bang Theory: Plus or a Minus?

Scientists didn’t exactly rejoice when The Big Bang Theory got picked up by CBS a few years ago. Actually, they probably weren’t paying attention and may still be unaware of the show’s existence, even though it’s now become a major hit for the network. During the three seasons Big Bang has been on the air, it’s been pretty easy to dismiss as just another silly TV show with no mission other than to entertain. Never mind that most people spend a lot of time being entertained by watching TV.

As a result, TV is where most people learn whatever it is they know about science. But not from watching PBS or one of the Discovery networks, which have relatively small audiences. They’re far more likely to be viewing entertainment programming, including sitcoms such as The Big Bang Theory.

TV Weathercasters Get Colbert Treatment

Weathercasters have long held a special place on our local news teams. Culturally, they are perhaps best known for inaccurate forecasts and questionable fashion statements. To the untrained eye, it may seem that their only job requirements are neon smiles and a working knowledge of how to place cartoon graphics of altostratus clouds.