“What is the most contagious parasite?” asks Leonardo DiCaprio’s character Mr. Cobb in the early moments of Inception. “An idea.” From the tiniest seed, it spreads like a virus, he explains. This is what makes it vulnerable to manipulation and theft. In many ways, the same could be said for Inception itself. Bending time, delving layers of dreams within dreams, shifting between reality and fantasy, the movie is instantly contagious. By the final shocking scene, when four concomitant worlds finally weave together in a breathlessly taut salvo, one is left downright feverish. It also happens to be one of the smartest, best-written, enigmatic additions to the typically content-light action genre. ScriptPhD.com’s full review of Christopher Nolan’s chef d’œvre under the “continue reading” cut.
Nothing has done more to reinvigorate discussions about energy and fuel dependence than the tragic oil spill currently afflicting the Gulf Coast [excellent resource for trajectory, timeline and news sources]. Though scientists and oil manufacturers continue to debate the validity of the “Peak Oil” theory, a very uncomfortable reality looms that oil production may not be able to keep up with thirsty demand. With an ever-increasing global population, a constant proliferation of technology choices and lifestyle improvements, and a rising middle class in third world countries, the factors contributing to fuel consumption may be the precipice of an eventual geopolitical crisis. In an effort to showcase their dedication to addressing the most salient energy and environmental questions affecting our generation, the Discovery Channel, backed by founder John Hendricks, is launching a revolutionary four-part documentary called Powering The Future. In it, they address a range of economics, national security, social and scientific questions related to energy and fuel all through the single focal point of searching for a modern, clean, limitless supply of energy. Our coverage of Powering the Future includes a review of the first installment and an exclusive podcast interview with the show’s host, lead scientist for the Nature Conservancy, Dr. M. Sanjayan. For full content, please click “continue reading.”
About a week and a half ago, scientists achieved a remarkable evolutionary stepping stone in the technological holy grail of eventually engineering synthetic life. Nicknamed ‘Synthia’ by her experimental progenitors, the latest discovery is a viable, self-propagating yeast cell hosting a bacterial Mycoplasma mycoides genome (consisting of non-biological DNA) purely composed in the laboratory. In eerily apt timing, Splice, a new science fiction thriller premiering this week, explores the scientific ramifications and bioethical morass encompassing the creation of a human-animal hybrid by a rogue superstar genetics couple. Under the “continue reading” cut, ScriptPhD.com’s review of Splice, discussion of the expanding frontiers of genetic engineering, and a special video interview with the director/writer, producer and stars of the film.
What is time? How does it work? Why is it immutably unidirectional (moving from the past and towards the future)? And most importantly, why does time exist at all? These are among the preeminent metaphysical questions to date for scientists and laypeople alike. Using the principles of entropy and universe expansion since the Big Bang, cosmologist Sean Carroll (recently profiled in the New York Times) hypothesizes about the arrow of time in a brilliant new book From Eternity to Here: The Quest for the Ultimate Theory of Time. In addition to reviewing the book, ScriptPhD.com’s in-house physics and astronomy guru, Stephen Compson, had an extraordinary opportunity to sit down with Dr. Carroll in his physics lab at Caltech University. In a stunningly in-depth, rich interview, they explored everything from the creation of our universe, to entropy, the time-space continuum, how physics and film intersect, and why the principles in Dr. Carroll’s book are important and topical for the general public to grasp. It’s rare to see this wide-ranging of a discussion on popular physics from such an authoritative researcher, so sit back, enjoy and click “continue reading” for more.
Happy Earth Week 2010, everyone! Here at ScriptPhD.com, we have devoted a number of articles to environment, sustainability and eco-awareness as part of our continuing “It’s Not Easy Being Green” series. This year, in celebration of the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, we are devoting the entire week to articles, interviews and profiles of companies, individuals and content that raises awareness of sustainability efforts and new ideas for the green science revolution. Because water lies at the heart of most modern environmental crises, we kick off Earth Week with CaptainPlanet’s review of the stellar new DisneyNature documentary Oceans, a truly spectacular oeuvre that celebrates the majesty of our most important and delicate resource. We also include a number of practical, easy things you can do right now to make a difference globally by acting locally. For our Oceans review and to find out what you can do to help protect our Earth’s water supply, please click the “continue reading” cut.
Society’s unequivocal fascination with science and scientists, reflected by a growing presence as staples of film, television, and popular culture, has only been magnified by the enigmatic (and seemingly impenetrable) aura in which they are enveloped. Their studies decidedly abstruse, their coded language unintelligible, their habits quirky and eccentric, the world of the scientist has been an audiovisual shroud of mystery—until now. In perhaps the most authentic, unfiltered, extemporaneous portrayal of scientists in their environment ever recorded, new documentary Naturally Obsessed: The Making of a Scientist welcomes the lay audience into the laboratory as silent observers. No reservations, no restrictions, no preconceptions. The result is an emotionally stunning masterpiece that connects us to scientists as people, reaches out across professional divides, and places PhD students, the backbone of the modern scientific laboratory, under the microscope for the first time. ScriptPhD.com recently screened the movie with a group of UCLA PhD biology students. Under the “continue reading” cut is our review, along with an honest roundtable discussion that included reaction to the movie, its parallel to their lives, and the training of modern scientists.
“Whiskey is for sipping, but water’s for fighting.” —Mark Twain
Today, March 22, 2010, is World Water Day, an initiative formed at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development. As we head into Earth Day next month, no environmental issue carries more sociopolitical, economic and health ramifications than a clean and abundant supply of water. Some of the highest global morbidity and mortality rates are directly related to lack of access to clean water—both in contracting communicable diseases as well as agricultural impact that aggravates famine. At the heart of this discussion is a frenzied (and growing) thirst for bottled water; Americans alone bought more than 29 billion bottles in 2007. If you have long suspected that bottled water is not good for the environment, but only had a hazy notion about the specific consequences of the bottled water industry, Tapped, an Atlas Films documentary about to be released on DVD, will knock your socks off. The film expertly chronicles the insidious practices of bottled water companies and the dire consequences it has on our collective health, communities, environment, economy and policy in ways you never would have imagined. Our special World Water Day post under the “continue reading” cut.
The Hubble Space Telescope is the world’s first observatory that actually orbits—you guessed it—through outer space. Over the last decade, Hubble has captured some of the deepest and most detailed images of our universe. All those recent headlines about exoplanets: those discoveries come from Hubble. Scientists viewing pictures of light projected from stars over 13 billion years ago (almost at the origin of the universe): that’s Hubble, too. Hubble 3D documents the 2009 mission by the crew of the Shuttle Atlantis to make vital repairs to one of mankind’s most expensive, and significant, science projects. There would be no second chances. If the mission had failed, Hubble would be just another piece of junk orbiting above the earth, like my Direct TV satellite and Elvis’s body. The tension is real, the suspense extraordinary, and the imagery? Out of this world. And fortunately for terrestrial audiences, the entire mission was captured by the crew and director Toni Myers on some of the most breathtaking, brave film ever recorded. We are proud to make Hubble 3D an official ScriptPhD.com Editor’s Selection.
In 2006, The Discovery Channel, in partnership with the BBC, premiered the 11-part Planet Earth, the most expensive natural history mini-series ever filmed, and the first in high definition. It gave viewers a sweeping, intimate overview of the Earth’s diverse natural habitats. Yet long before Planet Earth premiered, plans were already underway for its follow-up opus, LIFE, which would focus on the animals, insects, and creatures that call those habitats home. The result, four years in the making, is historic television—never-before-recorded mating rituals, survival scenes, and brutal savagery. For the naturalist and the nature-lover, LIFE will, quite simply, change your view of life. After the “continue reading” cut, we preview the first few episodes and offer a rare candid interview with executive producer Mike Gunton. We are proud to make LIFE on Discovery Channel an official ScriptPhD.com Editor’s Selection.
Esteemed drive-in movie critic Joe Bob Briggs has a single three-word critique of a certain kind of genre picture: “too much plot.” That’s a little easy and dismissive, but it does speak to an underlying truth: the best horror and suspense movies have to be easy to follow, or you’re in trouble. This particular genre is all about being In The Moment, especially if The Moment is designed to scare the heck out of the audience. Forcing them to pause and say, “Hey, wait a minute: why’s he doing that? Who’s that guy again? Why is he doing that?” rips the viewer out of that Moment. A better formula is to keep it simple. Or even better: keep it relentless. Out in theaters today is the well-made, competent, if flawed, bio-horror thriller The Crazies. Ironically enough, while The Crazies has some not-so-crazy plot and technical problems, the biology and science of this movie (with some minor exceptions) are the most enjoyable part. ScriptPhD.com full review and discussion under the “continue reading” cut.