Tag Archives: NASA

How “Hidden Figures” Can Help Inspire a STEM Generation

Hidden Figures film poster and images ©2016 20th Century Fox, all rights reserved.

History abounds with examples of unsung science heroes, researchers and visionaries whose tireless efforts led to enormous breakthroughs and advances, often without credit or lasting widespread esteem. This is particularly true for women and minorities, who have historically been under-represented in STEM-related fields. English mathematician Ada Lovelace is broadly considered the first great tech and computing visionary — she pioneered computer programming language and helped construct what is considered the first computing machine (the Babbage Analytical Engine) in the mid-1800s. Physical chemist Dr. Rosalind Franklin performed essential X-ray crystallography work that ultimately revealed the double-helix shape of DNA (Photograph 51 is one of the most important images in the history of science). Her work was shown (without her permission) to rival King’s College biology duo Watson and Crick, who used the indispensable information to elucidate and publish the molecular structure of DNA, for which they would win a Nobel Prize. Dr. Percy Julian, a grandson of slaves and the first African-American chemist ever elected to the National Academy of Sciences, ingeniously pioneered the synthesis of hormones and other medicinal compounds from plants and soybeans. New movie Hidden Figures, based on the exhaustively researched book by Margot Lee Shetterley, tells the story of three such hitherto obscure heroes: Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughn and Mary Jackson, standouts in a cohort of African-American mathematicians that helped NASA launch key missions during the tense 19060s Cold War “space race.” More importantly, Hidden Figures is a significant prototype for purpose-driven popular science communication — a narrative and vehicle for integrated multi-media platforms to encourage STEM diversity and scientific achievement.
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Editor’s Selection: “The Martian” is a Transcendent Sci-Fi Opus

Movie poster and stills from "The Martian" ©2015 20th Century FOX. All rights reserved.
Movie poster and stills from “The Martian” ©2015 20th Century FOX. All rights reserved.

The Martian, is a film adaptation of the inventive, groundbreaking hard sci-fi adventure tale. Like Robinson Crusoe on Mars, it’s a triumph of engineering and basic science, a love letter to innovation and the greatest feats humans are capable of through collaboration. Directed by sci-fi legend Ridley Scott, and following in the footsteps of space epics Gravity and Interstellar, The Martian offers a stunning virtual imagination of Mars, glimpses of NASA’s new frontier – astronauts on Mars – and the stakes of a mission that will soon become a reality. Below, ScriptPhD.com reviews The Martian (an Editor’s Selection) and, with the help of a planetary researcher at The California Science Center, we break down some basics about Mars missions and the planetary science depicted in the film (interactive video).
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Why Disney’s “Tomorrowland” Matters

Tomorrowland poster and stills ©2015 Walt Disney Pictures. All rights reserved.

One of Walt Disney’s enduring lifetime legacies was his commitment to innovation, new ideas and imagination. An inventive visionary, Disney often previewed his inventions at the annual New York World’s Fair and contributed many technological and creative breakthroughs that we enjoy to this day. One of Disney’s biggest fascinations was with space exploration and futurism, often reflected thematically in Disney’s canon of material throughout the years. Just prior to his death in 1966, Disney undertook an ambitious plan to build a utopian “Community of Tomorrow,” complete with state-of-the-art technology. Indeed, every major Disney theme park around the world has some permutation of a themed section called “Tomorrowland,” first introduced at Disneyland in 1955, featuring inspiring Jules Verne glimpses into the future. This ambition is beautifully embodied in Disney Picttures’ latest release of the same name, a film that is at once a celebration of ideas, a call to arms for scientific achievement and good old fashioned idealistic dreaming. The critical relevance to our circumstances today and full ScriptPhD review below.
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REVIEW: SyFy Channel takes off with “Ascension”

As part of an ongoing recommitment to its sci-fi genre roots, SyFy Channel is unveiling the original scripted drama Ascension, for now a six hour mini-series, and possible launch for a future series. It follows a crew aboard the starship Ascension, as part of a 1960s mission that sent 600 men, women and children on a 100 year planned voyage to populate a new world. In the midst of political unrest onboard the vessel, the approach of a critical juncture in the mission and the first-ever murder onboard the craft, the audience soon learns, there is more to the mission than meets the eye. Which can also be said of this multi-layered, ambitious, sophisticated mini-series. Full ScriptPhD review below.

Ascension poster
Ascension poster and stills ©2014 NBC Universal, all rights reserved.

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Editor’s Selection: ‘Gravity’

Gravity 1
Gravity poster and stills ©2013 Warner Brothers Pictures, all rights reserved.

Space movies are almost always grandiose in their storytelling aspirations. The enormity of space, the raw power of the shuttle, the existential quandary of whether we are alone in a vast Universe, and (as is the case in Gravity) an almost-inevitable crisis that must be resolved to steer the astronauts onboard to safety. There is one critical detail, however, that most fail to convey visually—solitude. Dr. Katherine Coleman, who spent thousands of hours aboard the shuttles Columbia and the International Space Station, and who was a primary mentor to star Sandra Bullock, recounts isolation—spatial separation, physical movements, zero gravity and a distant Earth—as the biggest challenge and reward she faced as an astronaut. With a tense, highly focused storyline centered almost entirely on one brave scientist, Gravity is a virtual space flight for the audience, but also a gripping examination of emotional and physical sequestration. Through this vista, we are able to perceive how beautiful, terrifying and enormous space truly is. Full ScriptPhD.com Gravity review under the “continue reading” cut.
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REVIEW: Battle: Los Angeles

Battle: Los Angeles images and stills

©2011 Sony Pictures Entertainment, all rights reserved.

Imagine the end-of-the-world, fiery destruction of Armageddon and Deep Impact. Now ratchet up the action with the artillery of Saving Private Ryan and the greatest war movies you’ve ever seen. Add in a dash of sci-fi with highly evolved aliens—a hybrid of the metalloid Cylons of Battlestar Galactica and a gooier version of the extra-terrestrial from Alien. Top it off with some of the best computer generated imagery (CGI) of any recent film, and you have Battle: Los Angeles, Sony’s much-anticipated spring blockbuster that first caught our attention this summer at San Diego Comic-Con. ScriptPhD.com was fortunate to get a sneak peek this week in Los Angeles. Click “continue reading” for our complete review of Battle: Los Angeles.
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PODCAST: Professor Brian Cox and the ‘Wonders of the Solar System’

Our solar system, a true wonder to behold! Image © NASA, all rights reserved.

“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.
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Comic-Con 2010: Day 1

Greetings from sunny San Diego, everyone! ScriptPhD.com is in the absolute epicenter of sci-fi, comics and the illustrative arts: Comic-Con 2010. Armed with a press pass, our wonderful correspondent Brian Stempien of Lefty Films, and an industrial-sized vat of Purell, we are proud to bring you four-day coverage that spans the nexus of sci-fi, graphic arts, design, technology, film, television, and of course, the forum that started it all, comics. Day 1 coverage includes an array of panels covering the origins that drive an artist’s imagination, the future of cultural arts in a digital age, the future of space exploration with Iron Man’s Stark Industries as a model, good sci-fi, bad sci-fi, sci-fi that will change your life, and a conversation with two leading visionaries of the sci-fi genre, J.J. Abrams and Joss Whedon. ScriptPhD.com also got to chat with the stars and producers of our favorite forensics show, Dexter. Plus, we have a little secret teaser interview with a certain MythBusters star that we’ve been teasing for a good while now! As we always do at Comic-Con, we pick our Costume of the Day as part of our compete Day 1 coverage, under the “continue reading” cut.
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World Science Festival: Day 3

The 2010 World Science Festival Runs in New York City from June 2-6.

ScriptPhD.com’s coverage of the World Science Festival in New York City continues towards the physics and mathematics realm. Day 3 events on Friday included an intimate discussion about astrophysics and the new James Webb Telescope, set to replace Hubble in June of 2014, a panel about hearing and visualizing gravity with Albert Einstein’s modern successors, and a panel about the very limits of our understanding of science—the line between what we do and don’t (or can’t) know—and its bridge to culture and art. Contributions to our coverage were done by New York City science writers Jessica Stuart and Emily Elert. Synopses and pictures of three extraordinary panels with the premier scientists of our time under the “continue reading” cut.

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REVIEW: Hubble IMAX—Editor’s Selection

Hubble 3D IMAX poster ©2010 Warner Brothers Pictures, all rights reserved.

The Hubble Space Telescope is the world’s first observatory that actually orbits—you guessed it—through outer space. Over the last decade, Hubble has captured some of the deepest and most detailed images of our universe. All those recent headlines about exoplanets: those discoveries come from Hubble. Scientists viewing pictures of light projected from stars over 13 billion years ago (almost at the origin of the universe): that’s Hubble, too. Hubble 3D documents the 2009 mission by the crew of the Shuttle Atlantis to make vital repairs to one of mankind’s most expensive, and significant, science projects. There would be no second chances. If the mission had failed, Hubble would be just another piece of junk orbiting above the earth, like my Direct TV satellite and Elvis’s body. The tension is real, the suspense extraordinary, and the imagery? Out of this world. And fortunately for terrestrial audiences, the entire mission was captured by the crew and director Toni Myers on some of the most breathtaking, brave film ever recorded. We are proud to make Hubble 3D an official ScriptPhD.com Editor’s Selection.
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