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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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Eyes on Saturn

We nearly missed the lovely profile of astrophysicist Carolyn Porco that appeared last week in The New York Times. Porco trailblazed was part of the team that analyzed data from the Voyager spacecraft in the 1980s, making her one of the young up and coming "rock stars" of space science.

I Would Like to Thank the Academy - Squared!

It began, as do many tales of travel, adventure, and triumph, with a librarian.

In June 2007, I was in Denver for the national meeting of the Special Librarians Association, to give a talk on my efforts using superhero comic books to teach physics. There I met a librarian from the National Academy of Sciences. Upon returning to DC, she passed my name along to Ann Merchant, who was in the early stages of setting up The Science & Entertainment Exchange program.

Bringing Hollywood Science to Class

As teachers settle into a new school year, it seems a good time to provide some general tips and suggestions on how to make use of popular movies or television in the science classroom. Some of these ideas may be more appropriate for the high school setting, but I hope elementary and middle school teachers will also find some useful suggestions. I will use examples from Monsters vs. Aliens, which comes out on DVD today, September 29, to illustrate each suggestion.

The Darling Bugs of May

Popular science books have been around at least since the Middle Ages, when illustrated "bestiaries" were a big hit, highlighting the most bizarre creatures found in Nature. Many such books mixed reality with myth, but entomologist May Berenbaum, who also serves on the Exchange's advisory board.

Physicists Looking Forward to "Flash Forward"

Particle physics -- especially the research being done at CERN's Large Hadron Collider -- seems to have captured Hollywood's imagination these days. First, the collider was featured in director Ron Howard's Angels and Demons. And on Thursday, sci-fi novelist Robert J. Sawyer's novel Flash Forward makes its network debut on ABC. The novel starts out at CERN's LHC, and many of the central characters are physicists and engineers.

"District 9" Takes a Lesson From Tesla

Director Neill Blomkamp's sci-fi film, District 9, is getting rave reviews for its gritty, hard-edged depiction of a futuristic world where stranded aliens are being evicted from one dismal slum and forced to move to another -- when all they really want is to get the mother ship back up and running so they can return home. Among the the more useful alien technologies is an "energy weapon" based on a Tesla coil.

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.

The Science of Special Effects

During our ramblings around YouTube, we came across this marvelous compendium showcasing the evolution of special effects in film since 1900, beginning with The Enchanted Drawing, and ending -- of course -- with the amazing anti-aging Brad Pitt in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Who knows what the visual effects wizards will come up tomorrow?

 

 

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.

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.)

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