As far back as last summer, when pilots for the current television season were floating around, a quirky sci-fi show for NBC called Awake caught our eye as the best of the lot. Camouflaged in a standard procedural cop show is an ambitious neuroscience concept—a man living in two simultaneous dream worlds, either of which (or neither of which) could be real. We got a look at the first four episodes of the show, which lay a nice foundation for the many thought-provoking questions that will be addressed. We review them here, as well as answering some questions of our own about the sleep science behind the show with UCLA sleep expert Dr. Alon Avidan.
In years past, Valentine’s Day has been a fun chance to explore the more lighthearted aspects of science, as pertains to matters of the heart (such as our post on the neurobiology of love and dating). This year, we use Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to talk about a different, more serious matter pertaining to our hearts — keeping them healthy. And while blogs, magazines and popular media provide men with no shortage of ideas about what to shower the many women in their lives with on Valentine’s Day, they provide little coverage of the biggest silent killer and danger to women every day: heart disease. So this year, join us in Going Red For Women and learning more about an issue truly close to our hearts. For more, click “continue reading.”
Read through any archive of science fiction movies, and you quickly realize that the merger of pop culture and science dates as far back as the dawn of cinema in the early 1920s. Even more surprising than the enduring prevalence of science in film is that the relationship between film directors, scribes and the science advisors that have influenced their works is equally as rich and timeless. Lab Coats in Hollywood: Science, Scientists, and Cinema (2011, MIT Press), one of the most in-depth books on the intersection of science and Hollywood to date, serves as the backdrop for recounting the history of science and technology in film, how it influenced real-world research and the scientists that contributed their ideas to improve the cinematic realism of science and scientists. For a full ScriptPhD.com review and in-depth extended discussion of science advising in the film industry, please click the “continue reading” cut.
“Don’t talk to anyone, don’t touch anyone.” The austere slogan of the new film Contagion mirrors the gripping subject matter of the latest addition to the pandemic disaster movie club. One of the most science-oriented films to be released in the last few years, Contagion follows the path of several scientists, public health workers, and ordinary citizens as a full-fledged pandemic breaks out from an unknown virus. It explores scientific, moral, social and ethical questions for how we would prepare as a modern society if such a tragedy ever struck us. Additionally, Contagion is a cinematic ode to the visual and technical wonders of modern science, on full display here, both in the storyline and the beatifully-designed sets and costumes. For a full ScriptPhD review, including information on the behind-the-scenes science consultants that worked with the film’s producers to create scientific realism, click “continue reading” below.
About a year ago, a little publicized, unheralded documentary named Mountaintop Removal (which ScriptPhD.com reviewed) attempted to deconstruct the environmentally devastating practice of the same name literally destroying the Appalachian geography of West Virginia’s coal river valley. Honest, yet modestly shot and produced, the small-scale documentary needed a Hollywood touch to resonate on a human level to advance its powerful cause. It got what it needed in The Last Mountain, a celebrated selection of this year’s Sundance Film Festival. This important new documentary succeeds in both relaying the urgency of a destructive coal mining practice that is literally zoning in on one last undamaged mountain as well as forging a human connection with the townspeople battling to save it. Full ScriptPhD.com review under the “continue reading” cut.
I was recently watching Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, the sequel to the Oscar-winning 1987 financial cautionary tale. In the middle of a movie that had nothing to do with science, the lead character started explaining the financial investment potential of a national research facility loosely based on the ultra-exclusive National Ignition Facility in Livermore, CA (which ScriptPhD.com was fortunate to visit and profile recently). The film did such an impressive job of explaining the laser technology being used in real life to harness endless quantities of energy from a molecular fusion reaction that it could have easily been lifted from a physics textbook. Translating, explaining and visually presenting complex science on film is not an easy task. It got us to thinking about some of the greatest science and technology moments of all time in film.
In no particular order, with the help of our readers and fans, here are ScriptPhD.com’s choices for the Top 10 gamechangers of science and/or technology cinematic content that was either revolutionary for its time, was smartly conceived and cinematically executed, or has bared relevance to later research advances.
Approximately a year ago, the California Science Center added a 45,000 square foot permanent exhibit called ‘Ecosystems,’ nearly doubling the size of the museum. Ten years in the making, at a cost of $165 million, ‘Ecosystems’ manages to impress visually and scholastically. ScriptPhD.com recently got a private tour and in-depth guide of the ambitious exhibit and didactic tool. Afterwards, we had the opportunity to sit down with the man that conceptualized ‘Ecosystems’ and curator of ecology at the California Science Center — Dr. Chuck Kopczak. An avid geologist, and devoted to the promulgation of quality science education, Dr. Chuck graciously sat down with us for an in-depth conversation about ‘Ecosystems,’ the future of science education, and energizing environmental causes through science. Our full tour and podcast, under the “continue reading” cut.
Dr. Michio Kaku recently consolidated his position as America’s most visible physicist by acting as the voice of the science community to major news outlets in the wake of Japan’s major earthquake and the recent Fukushima nuclear crisis. Dr. Kaku is one of those rare and prized few who possesses both the hard science chops (he built an atom smasher in his garage for a high school science fair and is a co-founder of string theory) and the ability to reduce quantum physics and space time to layman’s terms. The author of Physics of the Impossible has also followed up with a new book, Physics of the Future, that aims to convey how these very principles will change the future of science and its impact in our daily modern life. (Make sure to enter our Facebook fan giveaway to win a free copy this week!) Dr. Kaku graciously sat down with ScriptPhD.com’s physics and astronomy blogger, Stephen Compson, to talk about the recent earthquake, popular science in an entertainment-driven world, and his latest book. Full interview under the “continue reading” cut.
In his State of the Union speech in January, US President Barack Obama proclaimed that “we need to teach our kids that it’s not just the winner of the Super Bowl who deserves to be celebrated, but the winner of the science fair.” A noble (and correct) assessment, to be sure, but one mired in numerous educational and cultural obstacles. For one thing, science fairs themselves are at a perilous crossroads. A New York Times report issued in February stated that not only is participation in science fairs among high school kids falling, but that the kind of creativity and independent exploration that these competitions necessitate is impossible under current rigid test-driven educational guidelines for teaching mathematics and science. Indeed, an interesting recent Newsweek article on “The Creativity Crisis” conveyed research studies showing that for the first time, American creativity is declining. How appropriate, then, that this April (national math education month) brings the culmination of the Google World Science Fair, the first ever competition of its kind transpiring online and open to lab rats from all over the globe. ScriptPhD.com discusses why this could be a game-changer for the next generation of young scientists, under the “continue reading” cut.
How many times have you said to yourself, “If only I didn’t have to sleep.” Or “If only I tap into my brain’s full neuronal capacity, imagine the things I could do?” Such neurocognitive superpowers would seem to be the stuff of science fiction…for now. In the new film “Limitless,” these wishes unexpectedly come true for a struggling writer, but the results—and unexpected side effects—cause him to wonder whether it was all worth it. Sleek, stylish, sexy and well-crafted, “Limitless” is part scientific inquiry into the limits of expanding the pharmacopeia beyond current human capacities and part thriller to see if the main character who dares to try will get away with it. ScriptPhD.com’s full review of Limitless under the “continue reading” cut.