“I think we’re living through the greatest age of discovery our civilization has ever known,” declares British physics superstar Professor Brian Cox as a preamble for each episode of The Science Channel’s BBC import Wonders of the Solar System. Episode by episode, Dr. Cox deconstructs our wondrous Universe one focus at a time—the Sun, the Big Bang, life on other planets. But he does something even more important. He infuses his own obvious enthusiasm and passion for his field in each experiment and factoid. As a viewer, you can’t helped but be absorbed in the intergalactic vortex of knowledge. The timing of this mini-series and emergence of Cox’s exuberant personality could not be better. Funding for NASA missions has been cut dramatically, with an ongoing re-evaluation the role space exploration should play in the national budget and science ambition. American viewers should get used to Cox as a modern-day Carl Sagan, because his star is rising fast. ScriptPhD.com was extraordinarily fortunate to sit down with Dr. Cox in Los Angeles for a one-on-one podcast about the show, the current state of space exploration, and what is possible to achieve experimentally if we only try. My conversation with the inspirational, eloquent and brilliant Brian Cox, along with our review of Wonders of the Universe, under the “continue reading” cut. Continue reading PODCAST: Professor Brian Cox and the ‘Wonders of the Solar System’→
…a nanoscientist’s quest to mimic Nature’s molecular blueprints
Have you ever found yourself entranced by the exquisite beauty and complexity of living things? Like the intricacies of a budding flower, or the mesmerizing patterns on a butterfly’s wing? Have you ever wondered: “what are living things made of?” Are these materials just as beautiful if we were to zoom way way in and look at the actual molecular building blocks that make up life? Take a look at the interactive link The Scale of Things to see just how small the building blocks of life really are! Well the answer is “OMG – totally!” All living things share a ubiquitous set of molecular building materials we call proteins, and they are absolutely stunning! They are not only smashingly beautiful to look at, they are capable of performing a mind-numbing myriad of very intricate and complex functions that are essential to life. In a very special guest post, leading nanoscience Professor Ron Zuckermann of the renowned Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory recounts his life’s mission as a chemist to try and build artificial microscale sheets made up of nature’s very own building blocks—proteins. Everything you wanted to know about what nanotechnology is, exactly, why engineering proteins is the science of the future, and what we plan to use these discoveries for, under the “continue reading” cut. Continue reading Guest Article: Beauty and the Building Blocks…→
Dr. Mark Changizi, a cognitive science researcher, and professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, is one of the most exciting rising stars of science writing and the neurobiology of popular culture phenomena. His latest book, The Vision Revolution, expounds on the evolution and nuances of the human eye—a meticulously designed, highly precise technological marvel that allows us to have superhuman powers. You heard me right; superhuman! X-ray vision, color telepathy, spirit reading, and even seeing into the future. Dr. Changizi spoke about these ideas, and how they might be applied to everything from sports stars with great hand-eye coordination to modern reading and typeface design with us in ScriptPhD.com’s inaugural audio podcast. He also provides an exclusive teaser for his next book with a guest post on the surprising mindset that makes for creative people. Read Dr. Changizi’s guest post and listen to the podcast under the “continue reading” cut.
All right class, settle down, settle down. My name is Mr. Ross, but you may call me BR. Welcome to Pop-Culture Science 101. I know what many of you are thinking: “Science is boring; I just don’t get it.” I can understand those sentiments. But that’s only because of the ways you’ve been taught in the past. Today is going to be different. On this, the third day of the Science Week collaboration between ScriptPhD and CC2K, we decided to have a bit of silly fun and cover a couple of traditionally esoteric science topics from an angle I doubt any of you have considered before—pop culture icons. So get out your notebooks and pens, today’s lesson begins now! Please click “continue reading” for more. Continue reading Guest Article: A Pop-Culture Science Lesson→
ScriptPhD.com is extraordinarily proud to present our first ever Science Week! Collaborating with the talented writers over at CC2K: The Nexus of Pop Culture and Fandom, we have worked hard to bring you a week’s worth of interviews, reviews, discussion, sci-fi and even science policy. We kick things of in style with a conversation with Professor Malcolm MacIver, a robotics engineer and science consultant on the SyFy Channel hit Caprica. While we have had a number of posts covering Caprica, including a recent interview with executive producer Jane Espenson, to date, no site has interviewed the man that gives her writing team the information they need to bring artificial Cylon intelligence to life. For our exclusive interview, and Dr. MacIver’s thoughts on Cylons, smart
You spot someone across a crowded room. There is eye contact. Your heart beats a little faster, palms are sweaty, you’re light-headed, and your suddenly-squeamish stomach has dropped to your knees. You’re either suffering from an onset of food poisoning or you’re in love. But what does that mean, scientifically, to fall in love, to be in love, to stay in love? In our special Valentine’s Day post, Editor Jovana Grbić expounds on the neuronal and biophysical markers of love, how psychologists and mathematicians have harnessed (and sometimes manipulated) this information to foster 21st Century digital-style romance, and concludes with a personal reflection on what love really means in the face of all of this science. You might just be surprised. So, Cupid, draw back your sword… and click “continue reading” for more! Continue reading Love is a Many-Splendored Algorithm→
ScriptPhD.com’s coverage of Comic-Con 2009 included an interesting panel entitled Mad Science: The Science Behind Science Fiction, which consisted of a panel of top science fiction shows Eureka, Battlestar Galactica, Eureka, Caprica and Fringe. There, we met Dr. Ricardo Gil da Costa, a neurobiologist who is one of the official science advisors to the writers of Fringe. We recently had the opportunity to visit Dr. Gil da Costa on location in his laboratory at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in San Diego, CA. We sat down to talk about his science, what it’s like to be “on-call” for one of the biggest hit shows on television, how the writers use his knowledge and integrate it into the show, and more broadly, how creatives in the entertainment industry can best utilize the skills of research scientists as they integrate more sophisticated material into their scripts. Watch the full video below. Continue reading Video: ScriptPhD Interviews the Science Advisor of ‘Fringe’→
During a recent trip to New York City, I had the pleasure of befriending exciting new author Ernesto Robles, whose debut novel The Malthusian Catastrophe is a ScriptPhD.com recommended pick. Smart, topical, fast-paced and decidedly engrossing, this biomedical thriller drives at the roots of our cultural obsession with the fountain of youth and the perilous socioeconomic repercussions of actually finding and disseminating it. In a year when the Nobel Prize for Medicine and Physiology went to a team of researchers for their discovery of how chromosomes are protected by telomeres and the enzyme telomerase, essential biological components of the human aging machinery, and a cultural era that has anointed juvenescence as sacrosanct, Malthusians overarching themes are especially germane. ScriptPhD.coms discussion includes a review of the book, the biology and ethics of current aging research, and a one-on-one interview with Mr. Robles. For full content, please click continue reading.
One of my favorite movies as a kid, and now, as a professional scientist, is Andromeda Strain. The heroes are mostly older, professorial types who work feverishly to understand an alien organism and save the planet. After being asked to review ReAction! Chemistry in the Movies for ScriptPhD.com, I was so curious to consume (with relish) the book’s guesswork about the chemistry found in Andromeda Strain. After returning to the beginning of the book and giving it a read, I was thrilled to find that ReAction! is a detailed, thoughtful exploration of the representation of chemistry in film. The book addresses, first and foremost, the fact that chemistry can play a lead role in film. The authors also discuss the dichotomy between the dark and bright sides of chemistry (and science) as illustrated by films in which chemistry or chemists play a central role. Also included are several playful explorations of the real science behind some famous examples of fictional chemistry in film. After the break is a full review of the book along with an in-depth interview with authors Mark Griep and Majorie Mikasen on the process of working together as chemist and artist, portrayal of chemists in film and how film can change public perception in science.
The Human Spark is a new three-part documentary special on PBS in which Alan Alda soldiers after the genetic and cognitive elements that make him smarter than your average chimpanzee. In the first episode, he travels to numerous archaeological sites and many of the world’s finest research centers to look at how humans diverged from neanderthals and why we’re the ones writing the history books. Episode two tracks a series of experiments on chimpanzees and human children to illustrate the psychological differences. The final installment shows off some of the latest brain imaging studies and and linguistics research to postulate a theory on the nature of the ‘human spark’. With an interesting scientific premise as a basis, a hot field in which a lot of exciting, new information has been discovered within the last decade, and financial sponsorship by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, one of the most generous and prestigious in all of science, this should have been a knockout for PBS. Sadly, the finished product is merely another example of a strong concept with poor execution, punctuated by bloopers that the documentary’s creators were too pressed for content to take out.