Lab Coats in Hollywood: Science, Scientists, and Cinema

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MIT Press, 2011 - 265 pages
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How science consultants make movie science plausible, in films ranging from 2001: A Space Odyssey to Finding Nemo.

Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, released in 1968, is perhaps the most scientifically accurate film ever produced. The film presented such a plausible, realistic vision of space flight that many moon hoax proponents believe that Kubrick staged the 1969 moon landing using the same studios and techniques. Kubrick's scientific verisimilitude in 2001 came courtesy of his science consultants--including two former NASA scientists--and the more than sixty-five companies, research organizations, and government agencies that offered technical advice. Although most filmmakers don't consult experts as extensively as Kubrick did, films ranging from A Beautiful Mind and Contact to Finding Nemo and The Hulk have achieved some degree of scientific credibility because of science consultants. In Lab Coats in Hollywood, David Kirby examines the interaction of science and cinema: how science consultants make movie science plausible, how filmmakers negotiate scientific accuracy within production constraints, and how movies affect popular perceptions of science.

Drawing on interviews and archival material, Kirby examines such science consulting tasks as fact checking and shaping visual iconography. Kirby finds that cinema can influence science as well: Depictions of science in popular films can promote research agendas, stimulate technological development, and even stir citizens into political action.

 

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Contents

1 Scientific Expertise in Hollywood
1
2 Cinematic Science
21
3 Valuing Expertise
41
4 Scientists on Screen
65
5 Cinematic Fact Checking
95
6 Best Guesses
119
7 Fantastically Logical
145
8 Preventing Future Disasters
169
9 The Future Is Now
193
10 Improving Science Improving Entertainment
219
Notes
235
Index
259
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About the author (2011)

David A. Kirby is Lecturer in Science Communication Studies at the Centre for History of Science, Technology, and Medicine at the University of Manchester, England.

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