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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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Breathe Easy: The Science of Artificial Lungs (and Other Organs)

According to the 1999 film Bicentennial Man, society is about 40 years away from fully-functioning artificial organs. But according to science, the timeline might be a little shorter. Bicentennial Man follows the journey of a robot intent on becoming human, so much so that he studies medicine to build artificial organs for himself (which are also used by humans). Researchers at Case Western Reserve University are hoping to have a human-scale version of an artificial lung in clinical trials within a decade, and did we mention the machine that can print out organs? That’s coming along as well. 

Fantasy into Science, or Realizing the Impossible: Invisibility

Fantasy fiction is about magic, science fiction is about … well, science. People who believe in one do not always buy into the other, yet the two can merge. As Arthur C. Clarke wrote, a sufficiently advanced technology cannot be distinguished from magic. Besides, some magical visions represent such deep human yearnings that we ardently wish they were real. 

These visions often appear in fantasy, myth, and legend, where they are “explained” simply as being magical. They might reappear in the newer genre of science fiction, justified by more or less credible scientific explanations. And sometimes, if we are lucky, there’s a third step where the idea moves out of fiction altogether and becomes real.

The Nose Knows: An Electronic Nose

Dog noses are more sensitive to many chemicals than human noses are.Readers of this blog already know how fiction can inspire real science and we’ve got another example to show you today: the electronic nose. Ray Bradbury’s science fiction classic Fahrenheit 451 features the concept, as does the 1994 children’s film Richie Rich

In Richie Rich, Professor Keenbeam (who heads the research and development department for the Richs’ company) invents all sorts of technology, including an electronic nose that resembles a hairdryer with a pig’s nose on the front. It sounds strange but it becomes essential to the plot – it saves Richie’s parents from explosives hidden on their airplane. (Richie also uses it to detect what’s in his birthday presents.)

Let the Games Begin!: Learning Science Through Gameplay

“Lure of the Labyrinth” teaches pre-algebra concepts through a series of puzzles (and they meet a few monsters along the way!)Imagine telling your child to “turn off that computer game and go finish your homework.” Then imagine your surprise as he replies, “But this is my homework.” You might think he’s trying to pull a fast one – a computer game as homework? What kind of teacher would assign that? Well, actually, a math or science teacher would. Okay, but why? We asked that question to Eric Kopfler, Director of the MIT Scheller Teacher Education Program (MIT STEP) and the Director of The Education Arcade (TEA) in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

3-D: Seeing It From All Sides

3-D Conversion of Movie Poster by 3-D Revolution Productions.It seems 3-D technology is everywhere these days. From 3-D films to 3-D television sets, the technology appears to be catching on as the latest entertainment craze. But you might be surprised to learn 3-D technology was pioneered in the early 1900s. The first 3-D film, The Power of Love, was shown in 1922, nearly 88 years ago. Remarkable, right? 

Science of Iron Man 2

The Science of Iron Man 2" was held on October 13th, 2010 at CaltechSuperheroes aren’t the likeliest scientists, but according to Caltech physicist Mark Wise, Tony Stark’s science is accurate. During “The Science of Iron Man 2,” a panel presented by The Exchange and Caltech, Wise pointed to an extended scene from the Iron Man 2 Blu-ray as a depiction of hard science. The scene, which Wise consulted on, depicts Tony Stark building a particle accelerator from scratch. Wise gave the scene an “A” for scientific accuracy, stating “That could be a real accelerator.”

Tony Stark's Science

If you're one of the millions of people who flocked to the cinema this weekend to see Iron Man 2, you're no doubt wondering how much of the plot is based in fact, and how much is pure science fiction.

The Technology Behind 'Minority Report'

Audiences flocked to to the futuristic thriller Minority Report when it debuted in 2002, impressed not just with thefilm noir mystery, but also the visually stunning futuristic world depicted onscreen. So naturally there was a packed house at the Hammer Museum on April 22 to hear a talk called "Beautiful Tools" by artist/scientist John Underkoffler of Oblong Industries -- part of a series of lectures sponsored by 5D on the future of immersive design. Underkoffler (who is an advisory board member of the Science & Entertainment Exchange) consulted on Minority Report, and drew on some of his own groundbreaking research at MIT while doing so. (He's also consulted on The Hulk, Aeon Flux, Stranger Than Fiction, and Iron Man.)

The (Shrimp) Eyes Have It

Wondering what the next Big Thing might be in terms of DVD/Blu-Ray technology? The secret might lie with the lowly mantis shrimp.

End of the World

Master of Disaster Roland Emmerich has another blockbuster on his hands with 2012, if weekend box office returns are any indication. The film's premise derives from a popular doomsday prediction centered on the Mayan calendar. It lasts 5126, at which point the calendar abruptly stops at December 21, 2012. For whatever reason, the Mayans didn't bother to count any further, leading some folks to conclude this denotes the End of the World As We Know. It makes for great entertainment, but what's the science behind all this?

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