From its earliest inceptions, science fiction has blurred the line between reality and technological fantasy in a remarkably prescient manner. Many of the discoveries and gadgets that have integrated seamlessly into modern life were first preconceived theoretically. More recently, the technologies behind ultra-realistic visual and motion capture effects are simultaneously helping scientists as research tools on a granular level in real time. The dazzling visual effects within the time-jumping space film Interstellar included creating original code for a physics-based ultra-realistic depiction of what it would be like to orbit around and through a black hole. Astrophysics researchers soon utilized the film’s code to visualize black hole surfaces and their effects on nearby objects. Virtual reality, whose initial development was largely rooted in imbuing realism into the gaming and video industries, has advanced towards multi-purpose applications in film, technology and science. The Science Channel is augmenting traditional programming with a ‘virtual experience’ to simulate the challenges and scenarios of an astronaut’s journey into space; VR-equipped GoPro cameras are documenting remote research environments to foster scientific collaboration and share knowledge; it’s even being implemented in health care for improving training, diagnosis and treatment concepts. The ability to record high-definition film of landscapes and isolated areas with drones, which will have an enormous impact on cinematography, carries with it the simultaneous capacity to aid scientists and health workers with disaster relief, wildlife conservation and remote geomapping.
The evolution of entertainment industry technology is sophisticated, computationally powerful and increasingly cross-functional. A cohort of interdisciplinary researchers at Northwestern University is adapting computing and screen resolution developed at DreamWorks Animation Studios as a vehicle for data visualization, innovation and producing more rapid and efficient results. Their efforts, detailed below, and a collective trend towards integration of visual design in interpreting complex research, portends a collaborative future between science and entertainment. Continue reading How Animation Technology Is Helping Scientists Visualize Data→
The current scientific landscape can best be thought of as a transitional one. With the proliferation of scientific innovation and the role that technology plays in our lives, along with the demand for more of these breakthroughs, comes the simultaneous challenge of balancing affordable lab space, funding and opportunity for young investigators and inventors to shape their companies and test novel projects. Los Angeles science incubator Lab Launch is trying to simplify the process through a revolutionary, not-for-profit approach that serves as a proof of concept for an eventual interconnected network of “discovery hubs”. Founder Llewelyn Cox sits down with ScriptPhD for an insightful podcast that assesses the current scientific climate, the backdrop that catalyzed Lab Launch, and why alternatives to traditional avenues of research are critical for fueling the 21st Century economy. Continue reading Podcast: Disrupting Incubator Innovation With “Lab Launch”→
The last 25 years have brought an unprecedented level of scientific and technological advances, impacting virtually all dimensions of society, from communication and the digital revolution, to economics and food production to nanotechnology and medicine – and that’s just a start. The next few decades will rapidly expand this progress with exponential discovery and innovation, amidst more pressing global challenges than we’ve ever faced before. The opportunities to develop faster, better and cheaper products that improve modern living are limitless – Tesla electric cars, energy-saving fuels and machines, robotics – but they all share a common basic need for developing and studying materials in a more efficient manner. This will require a real-time acceleration of sharing, analytics and simulation through readily accessible databases. Essentially, an open-source wiki for materials scientists. In our in-depth article below, ScriptPhD.com explains why materials science is the most critical gateway towards 21st Century technology and how California startup company Citrine Informatics is providing revolutionary new information extraction software to create a crowdsourced, open access database available to any scientist. Continue reading Citrine Informatics: Jump-Starting the Materials Science Revolution→
Engineering has an unfortunate image problem. With a seemingly endless array of socioeconomic, technological and large-scale problems to address, and with STEM fields set to comprise the most lucrative 21st Century careers, studying engineering should be a no-brainer. Unfortunately, attracting a wide array of students — or even appreciating engineers as cool — remains difficult, most noticeably among women. When Google Research found out that the #2 reason girls avoid studying STEM fields is perception and stereotypes on screen, they decided to work with Hollywood to change that. Recently, they partnered with the National Academy of Sciences and USC’s prestigious Viterbi School of Engineering to proactively seek out ideas for creating a television program that would showcase a female engineering hero to inspire a new generation of female engineers. The project, entitled “The Next MacGyver,” came to fruition last week in Los Angeles at a star-studded event. ScriptPhD.com was extremely fortunate to receive an invite and have the opportunity to interact with the leaders, scientists and Hollywood representatives that collaborated to make it all possible. Read our full comprehensive coverage below. Continue reading Searching For The Next “MacGyver” (On TV And On Campus)→
“It’s like a war. You don’t know whether you’re going to win the war. You don’t know if you’re going to survive the war. You don’t know if the project is going to survive the war.” The war? Cancer, still one of the leading causes of death despite 40 years passing since the National Cancer Act of 1971 catapulted Richard Nixon’s famous “War on Cancer.” The speaker of the above quote? A scientist at Genentech, a San Francisco-based biotechnology and pharmaceutical company, describing efforts to pursue a then-promising miracle treatment for breast cancer facing numerous obstacles, not the least of which was the patients’ rapid illness. If it sounds like a made-for-Hollywood story, it is. But I Want So Much To Live is no ordinary documentary. It was commissioned as an in-house documentary by Genentech, a rarity in the staid, secretive scientific corporate world. The production values and storytelling offer a tremendous template for Hollywood filmmakers, as science and biomedical content become even more pervasive in film. Finally, the inspirational story behind Herceptin, one of the most successful cancer treatments of all time, offers a testament and rare insight to the dedication and emotion that makes science work. Full story and review under the “continue reading” cut. Continue reading From The Lab: Pharmaceutical Documentary a Blueprint for Hollywood Science Storytelling→
Read through any archive of science fiction movies, and you quickly realize that the merger of pop culture and science dates as far back as the dawn of cinema in the early 1920s. Even more surprising than the enduring prevalence of science in film is that the relationship between film directors, scribes and the science advisors that have influenced their works is equally as rich and timeless. Lab Coats in Hollywood: Science, Scientists, and Cinema (2011, MIT Press), one of the most in-depth books on the intersection of science and Hollywood to date, serves as the backdrop for recounting the history of science and technology in film, how it influenced real-world research and the scientists that contributed their ideas to improve the cinematic realism of science and scientists. For a full ScriptPhD.com review and in-depth extended discussion of science advising in the film industry, please click the “continue reading” cut.
In his State of the Union speech in January, US President Barack Obama proclaimed that “we need to teach our kids that it’s not just the winner of the Super Bowl who deserves to be celebrated, but the winner of the science fair.” A noble (and correct) assessment, to be sure, but one mired in numerous educational and cultural obstacles. For one thing, science fairs themselves are at a perilous crossroads. A New York Times report issued in February stated that not only is participation in science fairs among high school kids falling, but that the kind of creativity and independent exploration that these competitions necessitate is impossible under current rigid test-driven educational guidelines for teaching mathematics and science. Indeed, an interesting recent Newsweek article on “The Creativity Crisis” conveyed research studies showing that for the first time, American creativity is declining. How appropriate, then, that this April (national math education month) brings the culmination of the Google World Science Fair, the first ever competition of its kind transpiring online and open to lab rats from all over the globe. ScriptPhD.com discusses why this could be a game-changer for the next generation of young scientists, under the “continue reading” cut. Continue reading From The Lab: Google World Science Fair and a New Generation of Idea-Makers→
You can always tell you’ve gone too far when you reach the wind farms. They populate the barren wastes of California’s northern interior, rows of them spinning atop camel-haired hills starved of moisture to slake the thirst of the Los Angeles glitterati. These motionless pinwheels are an ironic green afterthought to the ecological disaster that embraces the Interstate-5 freeway: now that we’ve created the dust bowl we may as well use the wind to power our air filters. There’s more than wind and dust out here. This is where they put the kinds of facilities the government doesn’t want people snooping around in. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is one of them—a secretive development center for our nation’s nuclear arsenal during the Cold War. Here in Livermore, the world’s finest physicists are on the verge of a breakthrough that could power entire cities on a bathtub full of water. The National Ignition Facility, also known as the world’s largest laser, is on the cusp of achieving the first break-even nuclear fusion reaction. NIF is the U.S. Department of Energy’s Sagrada Familia. If successful, the four billion dollar facility will be the first ever to demonstrate Ignition: a fusion reaction that releases more energy than was put into it. The energy, national security, economic and environmental ramifications for the United States, if not the world, would be staggering. ScriptPhD.com’s Stephen Compson gained ultra-exclusive access to the normally reclusive facility, including tours, interviews, and a peek at the lasers that could hold the key to the United States’s global rebirth. With nuclear fusion on the brink of break-even, Stephen recounts we tour the world’s next scientific revolution. Continue reading From The Lab: A Future Barely Glimpsed→
Each of the brain’s 100 billion neurons has somewhere in the realm of 7,000 connections to other neurons, creating a tangled roadmap of about 700 trillion possible turns. But thinking of the brain as roads makes it sound very fixedyou know, pavement, and rebar, and steel girders and all. But the opposite is true: at work in our brains are never-sleeping teams of Fraggles and Doozers who rip apart the roads, build new ones, and are constantly at work retooling the brain’s intersections. This study of Fraggles and Doozers is the booming field of neuroplasticity: how the basic architecture of the brain changes over time. Scientist, neuro math geek, Science Channel personality and accomplished author Garth Sundem writes for ScriptPhD.com about the phenomenon of brain training and memory. Continue reading Guest Post: Is Brain Training Real?→
Scientists are becoming more interested in trying to pinpoint precisely what’s going on inside our brains while we’re engaged in creative thinking. Which brain chemicals play a role? Which areas of the brain are firing? Is the magic of creativity linked to one specific brain structure? The answers are not entirely clear. But thanks to brain scan technology, some interesting discoveries are emerging. ScriptPhD.com was founded and focused on the creative applications of science and technology in entertainment, media and advertising, fields traditionally defined by “right brain” propensity. It stands to reason, then, that we would be fascinated by the very technology and science that as attempting to deduce and quantify what, exactly, makes for creativity. To help us in this endeavor, we are pleased to welcome computer scientist and writer Ravi Singh’s guest post to ScriptPhD.com. For his complete article, please click “continue reading.” Continue reading Guest Post: Can Creativity Be Measured in a Laboratory?→