Bringing science to entertainment

Making movies is not rocket science, but the National Academy of Sciences wants to change that

The National Academy of Sciences is hosting a Hollywood gathering of high-powered producers, directors and scientists next week to kick off its Science and Entertainment Exchange, an effort to inject a little reality into Tinseltown.

The exchange 'provides entertainment industry professionals with access to top scientists and engineers to help bring the reality of cutting-edge science to creative and engaging storylines,' the NAS says on the Web site.

The NAS was established in 1863 by President Abraham Lincoln as a source of scientific advice to the rest of the nation, serving as a liaison between the lights of the scientific community and the rest of the country. This puts the academy in a strong position as a source to the purveyors of make-believe for separating fact from fiction.

'Relying on the special connections available to the academy, the Science and Entertainment Exchange can quickly and efficiently make introductions, schedule briefings, and arrange for consultations to anyone developing science-based entertainment content,' NAS says. 'By constructing an informational nexus between science and entertainment, the Exchange is able to facilitate a valuable connection between the two communities.'

The Nov. 19 symposium on will kick off with a press briefing with NAS president Ralph J. Cicerone, film director Jerry Zucker and film producer Janet Zucker.

Speakers will include Bonnie Bassler, director of graduate studies, department of molecular biology, Princeton University; Rodney Brooks, Panasonic Professor of Robotics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and chief technical officer of iRobot Corp.; Nobel laureate Steve Chu, director of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and professor of physics and professor of molecular and cell biology at the University of California, Berkeley; Neil DeGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist; Frederick P. Rose, director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History, New York City; V.S. Ramachandran, director of the Center for Brain and Cognition at the University of California, San Diego; and J. Craig Venter, president of the J. Craig Venter Institute.

'The portrayal of science ' its practitioners, its methods, its effects ' has often posed a challenge to the entertainment community,' NAS said. 'Though it has inspired some of the most intelligent and compelling storylines, science's many complexities have confounded even the most talented writer, director or producer time and again pitting creative license against scientific authenticity and clarity.'

The exchange can help. 'We can help flesh out ideas that depend upon accurate details relating to insects, extraterrestrial life, unusual Earth-based life forms, or the mysteries of oceans. We can refine concepts relating to emerging science concepts in areas such as space travel, multiple dimensions, nanotechnology, computer technology, and engineering. We can find experts in environmental and ecological issues, health, medicine, and disease, and U.S. educational practices. We are also well-positioned to work with you on public policy issues that relate to science such as stem cell research, global climate change, and teaching about evolution and the nature of science.'

Of course, too much science could prove anathema to the entertainment industry. Here are just a few troubling facts to consider:
  • Animals can't talk.
  • Monkeys and elephants can't fly.
  • Mars does not need women.
  • And it is a scientific fact that really hot girls do not go out with average guys.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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