The Moon en Plein Aire

One of the key conclusions in my book is that scientist/filmmaker collaborations work best when the scientists and entertainment professionals clearly respect each other’s expertise. This means that the scientists, in particular, need to keep in mind that they know very little about making movies. This same advice applies to scientifically literate audiences. We need to remember that just as scientists are scientific experts, filmmakers are entertainment experts who make decisions about science based on their specialist knowledge of the way film operates and what makes a film enjoyable.

Biodiversity and Hollywood: A Fashionable Intersection

What would your favorite science-fiction movie be without the costumes? Most likely it would not be your favorite movie.

Fashion and costume choices set the stage for some of cinema’s most memorable moments. But what are movie sets made out of? Where was the cotton used to make the leading lady’s pants harvested? These questions can be explained by delving into the science of biodiversity.

Chase Mendenhall is a doctoral candidate in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Stanford University. He explores the trade-offs between the conservation of biodiversity and farming by closely monitoring bird and bat populations that inhabit farmland in Costa Rica.

He is also one of two speakers who will be attending the Science Café at 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday, October 17, 2012, at the Koshland Science Museum in Washington, DC.

Applying Science to the Study of File Sharing Leads to a Startling Conclusion

Sometimes something happens in the entertainment industry that becomes the subject of scientific inquiry. Social scientists occasionally seek answers to questions important either to the entertainment industry, society at large, or both.
Take, for example, research being done in the field of economics. At least a dozen economists at several North American universities have been studying the impact file sharing has had on the music industry, in particular, sales of prerecorded music. Everyone is pretty much in agreement that file sharing, made possible and easy by advancements in computer and communications technology, adversely affected recording industry revenue during the 1990s and early 2000s. But how big a problem has it been? At least one economist thinks he has the answer, and it is rather startling.

Event Recap: Medical Miracles: Cutting Edge Health Technology

From cell phone apps that measure blood sugar levels to desktop printers that spit out new body organs, technology has come a long way in its role in health care. On July 25, The Science and Entertainment Exchange hosted Medical Miracles: Cutting Edge Health Technology at the Directors Guild of America in Los Angeles. The evening, which was moderated by humorist and radio commentator Emily Levine, looked at some astonishing recent breakthroughs in medicine that could one day help us all live longer.

Medical Miracles panel: Anthony Atala, Leslie Saxon, Emily Levine, Paul Weiss and Ken Kamler

Representing Robots: Theater First, Film Later

When I made a list of the all-time ten best science fiction films for my book Hollywood Science (2010), I was surprised to find that three of them feature artificial creatures: machine-like robots in Metropolis (1927) and The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), and human-like androids in Blade Runner (1982). Artificial beings are big in other science fiction films too. A keyword search on “robot” in the Internet Movie Database yields hundreds of feature films, from The Master Mystery (1920) through Westworld (1973), RoboCop  (1987) and A. I. (2001) right up to Real Steel (2011) and this year’s Prometheus, with more in production.

Recap: The Science of Science Fiction: Canon Fodder

Phil Plait was the moderator (not shown), and from left to right are Jane Espenson, Kevin Grazier, Ashley Miller, Jaime Paglia, Jon Spaihts, and Zack Stentz.

Oh, Comic Con.

The San Diego Comic Con is the largest pop–culture (scif, fantasy, and so on) convention in America, and one of the largest in the world; over 130,000 people attend. It’s actually a madhouse, with a packed exhibit hall and hundreds of amazing panels and talks.

Space Tourism

Orange streaks of flame obscure the view outside the spacecraft’s small circular window.  Smoke wafts from behind control panels. Loose equipment bounces around the cabin at the thud of Earth impact.

These images, recorded by Richard Garriott from inside the Russian Soyuz TMA-12 capsule as it descended from orbit, feature prominently in Mike Woolf‘s documentary Man on a Mission. Released in January, the film includes about twenty minutes of zero-gravity footage captured by Garriott, who in 2008 became the sixth private citizen to visit the International Space Station. These scenes include eating with crewmates, shaving, juggling tennis balls and performing science experiments. Garriott also takes viewers on an end-to-end tour of the International Space Station from the research labs to crew quarters.

Robots! Aliens! Time travel! Superheroes! SCIENCE!

At the 2012 San Diego Comic Con we’re putting the Sci in SciFi with the return of the popular panel:

The Science of Science Fiction: Canon Fodder

Packed with the names behind some of the biggest science fiction hits in Hollywood and TV, the panel will explore the science behind movies and series including Thor, Eureka, Prometheus, and SyFy’s upcoming blockbuster series Defiance. Keeping the science straight in an ongoing series can be a nightmare for writers, so we’ve tapped some of the best to talk about how it’s done, and how to remain faithful to both reality and story mythology. We’ll be talking prequels, sequels, and creating good stories with good science from the ground up.

It must be true…I saw it in a movie

I can’t say I have a particular aptitude for science, or that I have had years of film experience, but I can proudly say that I was the catalyst for The Science & Entertainment Exchange, or rather my defective pancreas was. When I was eleven I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.  It’s all a bit of a fog now, but I do know that that particular day changed my parents’ lives forever.  My parents, Jerry and Janet Zucker spent the first few months after I was diagnosed buying me presents and basically tending to my every need (it was awesome) but they soon realized that this wasn’t going to cure me, and would most likely turn me into a rather inept teenager. They immediately sprung into action and started Cures Now, a non-profit with the goal of finding cures for diseases through stem cell research.

“Anything Is Possible”….which might be the problem

There’s a saying that’s meant a lot to me for quite some time.

It’s nothing new, it doesn’t change your life when you hear it and it’s not a wise observation on the complexity of life or an enlightening insight into our culture.

It’s very simple.

“Anything Is Possible”

I love that saying probably more than any other. 

One of the first movies I remember seeing when I was young was Star Wars.  I was just a kid but I could still appreciate the enormity of the world Lucas created.  Of course I had no clue how he made that world come to life but neither did a lot of people in the room much older than me.  Suddenly, space seemed real, it seemed that this might actually be going on in a galaxy far, far away.   Space finally seemed possible.

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