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A Defense of Scientific Inaccuracy

Making science accurate in movies without taking out the wonderment Science has always had a hard time fitting in movies. From the Terminator franchise to What the #$*! Do We (K)now!?, filmmakers often pit creative license against scientific authenticity. A cluster of recent TV shows, however--Fringe,..

Making science accurate in movies without taking out the wonderment

Science has always had a hard time fitting in movies. From the Terminator franchise to What the #$*! Do We (K)now!?, filmmakers often pit creative license against scientific authenticity. A cluster of recent TV shows, however--Fringe, Numb3rs, and The Big Bang Theory-employ accurate science and mathematics to dramatic (or comedic) effect. In the realm of feature films though, some movies may cling close to scientific principles, most toss in a muddle of jargon, lab coats, flashing lights, or worst-case scenario: cast Denise Richards as a nuclear physicist.The National Academy of Sciences is aiming to put an end to playing outside the rules of science with its new initiative, the Science and Entertainment Exchange. According to Jennifer Ouellette, the program's director, its long-term goals are to "improve the portrayal of science and scientists in film and television by developing lasting relationships and collaborations between scientists and entertainment industry professionals."When science is adhered to like scripture, the results can be outstanding. Take 2001: A Space Odyssey, which was co-written by famed futurist and science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke. Sure, we don't have computers like HAL yet, but the movie's more accurate moments imbue it with an eerie, futuristic ambiance. For example, all the scenes in outer space are silent, since sound does not travel in a vacuum. Star Wars--for all its whooshing space ships and clattering, cosmic explosions--evidently never received that memo.

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