Scientific education through films?

January 28, 2016

Magic swords, wands, cauldrons and cloaks of invisibility do not exist in reality. In contrast, it is possible that scenarios like crashed aircrafts looming out of the mists of an alien planet, patients being snatched from the jaws of death by a risky medical breakthrough, or smug murderers who are betrayed by a few molecules left at the scene of crime are part of our current or future reality. Those along with other manifestations of science in films may even have greater potential to capture an audience's attention than pure products of our imaginations.

On top of that, could films add to the public's education by giving people an understanding of actual state-of-the-art science and technology? That's the question Kevin R. Grazier and Stephen Cass pursue in their book Hollyweird Science: From Quantum Quirks to the Multiverse.

According to the authors, the portrayal of science in fiction is often grounded in real-world, cutting-edge science and technology. They look at Hollywood depictions science to discover that the film industry is actually doing quite a good job of familiarizing the public with scientific facts. They examine topics such as quantum mechanics, parallel universes, and alien worlds to examine screen science fiction from the sometimes-conflicting vantage points of storytellers, researchers, and viewers. In order to present an authentic and many-voiced survey on the field, the authors include material from interviews with writers, producers, and directors of acclaimed science-themed productions as well as scientists and science fictions authors.

The result is a book that is appealing to all readers from the layperson to the armchair expert to the professional scientist, and will delight all of them equally through its lighthearted and quirky style.
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Kevin R. Grazier, Ph.D. was a research scientist for fifteen years at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory on the Cassini/Huygens Mission to Saturn and Titan. Still an active researcher, he performs large-scale computer simulations of early Solar System evolution. Grazier served as the science advisor for the film Gravity, and on the television series Eureka, Defiance, Ascension and the Peabody-Award-winning Battlestar Galactica. Stephen Cass is an Irish science and technology journalist based in New York City. He has been an editor at Discover magazine and MIT Technology Review and has written for outlets such as Popular Science and Nautilus. He has also edited several science fiction anthologies and currently works as a senior editor at IEEE Spectrum.

Springer

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