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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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Science Rules on Big Brother 14

Can studying science help win a TV reality show competition?  Just ask Ian Terry.  We did. 

Ian Terry spent last summer being watched by millions on TV; that was enough to put him on our list of notable scientists even though he’s not quite finished with school.

Big Brother, a worldwide phenomenon, and a staple of summer television on CBS for more than a decade, will premiere June 26, its 15th season.  So, now is a good time to catch up with Ian Terry, last year’s surprise winner of the show.  

How a Drawing Could Cure Cancer: Physics Diagrams as Modern Hieroglyphs

If you’re a fan of the TV series, The Big Bang Theory you're probably used to laughing at Penny and Sheldon's interactions, especially when Dr. Cooper tries to explain physics to his loveable blonde neighbor.
One such instance is captured in the picture below.  If you look at it, you could easily imagine Sheldon saying something like: “See, Penny, this equation accounts for the branching ratio of a top quark decaying into a W boson and bottom quark, as depicted by the upper-left diagram.”
 

Do you think Sheldon took up drawing simply so he could flirt with Penny?

Robots, Aliens and Pilot Season, Oh My!

It’s pilot season, that time of the year when first episodes are filmed and TV network executives make crucial decisions as they place bets on which new series are likely to attract large audiences. Of course, the number of new shows that make it past the pilot stage is extremely small. Only a select few will receive a network order for additional episodes. Nevertheless, it’s fun to read about new ideas and see who’s been cast to play lovable, smarmy, smart, dumb -- or just plain evil – on the small screen.

Every year the Exchange takes a look at the Complete Guide to TV Pilots on a quest to discover which of these potential new shows may incorporate science (or maybe even math) in their story-telling.  

The Chemical Formula: Successfully Combining Chemistry, Science, and the Media

It’s hard to know what some 500 chemists were expecting when they filed into a ballroom for an event called Hollywood Chemistry this past March 27, at the big annual meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS) in Anaheim, California. What they got may have been a surprise: a 2-hour session that indeed covered some traditional chemistry, but mainly presented more drama, special effects, and laughs than the standard ACS scientific session, while making important points about chemistry and science in the media.

Sport Science: There’s a lesson behind every play

Who is better at hitting a target’s bull’s-eye? Super Bowl–winning quarterback Drew Brees or an Olympic archery competitor? The answer will probably surprise you.

Monday’s collegiate championship game featured lots of action on the basketball court. But none of those actions included a player breaking a backboard with a dunk shot. Not long ago a shattered backboard brought an extra element of excitement to the game, but is that now a thing of the past? Believe it or not, a piano helps determine the answer to that question, and not in a musical way.

Cooking Up Science

If you’ve ever watched Bravo’s Top Chef or any show on the Food Network, you know cooking is an art form. It’s a dance in the kitchen, a painting on a plate – it’s making the mere sight of food part of the joy of eating. And if you’ve ever tried your hand at a recipe and something went horribly, horribly wrong, you know cooking is a science. Well, now there’s a new television show that brings together the art and science of cooking: Marcel’s Quantum Kitchen.

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.

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.

Even Superheroes Need Their Science

This past weekend, the Science and Entertainment Exchange headed to San Diego for the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Our session was a panel discussion entitled "Watching the Watchmen and Cheering the Heroes: The Science of Superheroes," bringing together two physicists, a biologist, a film screenwriter, and two TV writers.

Small Town Science

The Science and Entertainment Exchange found itself in Berkeley last week for Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory's first-ever Science Cafe. The event featured Jaime Paglia, co-creator and showrunner for SyFy's hit TV series, Eureka, with a special Skype appearance by Colin Ferguson, who plays Sheriff Jack Carter on the show.

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