Society’s unequivocal fascination with science and scientists, reflected by a growing presence as staples of film, television, and popular culture, has only been magnified by the enigmatic (and seemingly impenetrable) aura in which they are enveloped. Their studies decidedly abstruse, their coded language unintelligible, their habits quirky and eccentric, the world of the scientist has been an audiovisual shroud of mystery—until now. In perhaps the most authentic, unfiltered, extemporaneous portrayal of scientists in their environment ever recorded, new documentary Naturally Obsessed: The Making of a Scientist welcomes the lay audience into the laboratory as silent observers. No reservations, no restrictions, no preconceptions. The result is an emotionally stunning masterpiece that connects us to scientists as people, reaches out across professional divides, and places PhD students, the backbone of the modern scientific laboratory, under the microscope for the first time. ScriptPhD.com recently screened the movie with a group of UCLA PhD biology students. Under the “continue reading” cut is our review, along with an honest roundtable discussion that included reaction to the movie, its parallel to their lives, and the training of modern scientists. Continue reading ScriptPhD Roundtable: Naturally Obsessed—The Making of a Scientist→
In 2006, The Discovery Channel, in partnership with the BBC, premiered the 11-part Planet Earth, the most expensive natural history mini-series ever filmed, and the first in high definition. It gave viewers a sweeping, intimate overview of the Earth’s diverse natural habitats. Yet long before Planet Earth premiered, plans were already underway for its follow-up opus, LIFE, which would focus on the animals, insects, and creatures that call those habitats home. The result, four years in the making, is historic television—never-before-recorded mating rituals, survival scenes, and brutal savagery. For the naturalist and the nature-lover, LIFE will, quite simply, change your view of life. After the “continue reading” cut, we preview the first few episodes and offer a rare candid interview with executive producer Mike Gunton. We are proud to make LIFE on Discovery Channel an official ScriptPhD.com Editor’s Selection. Continue reading Discovering LIFE on Planet Earth—Editor’s Selection→
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’→
This was a remarkable week for autism science and publicity. In a stunning and rare reversal, medical journal The Lancetretracted the 1998 paper responsible for suggesting a link between autism and MMR vaccinations, incurring over a decade of acrimonious debate and frightened parents. Ironic then that this should be the week when HBO premieres their new feature film Temple Grandin, about the eponymous world-famous scientist. Dr. Grandin has written and spoken openly about her struggle with autism and how it’s colored her view of the world and influenced the science she studies. ScriptPhD.com is extraordinarily honored to extend a warm welcome to friend and fellow blogger Susan Etlinger, author of the autism spectrum blog The Family Room, to review the biopic and interview the project’s executive producer. For full content, please click “continue reading.” Continue reading Guest Article: HBO’s ‘Temple Grandin’ Biopic Honors Autistic Scientist→
It goes without saying that pretty much every work of fiction begins with the “what if” question. “What if I knew the world was ending tomorrow?” “What if my wife was secretly plotting to kill me?” “What if this article wins me the Pulitzer?” What separates the great (or simply enjoyable) work from that which cannot be accepted is a second level of consideration: actually thinking about the “what if” and seeing if it has any real value, any weight, beyond that first fleeting thrill that comes with the High Concept. FlashForward, the ABC TV series or the 1999 novel by Robert J. Sawyer upon which it is loosely, loosely based, is a perfect example of exactly that: the cool but ultimately unsatisfying idea that really can’t stand the stress of storytelling. Because hiding behind the spotty acting and cliché characters—on screen or in print—the whole concept has a serious problem: it just doesn’t make a lick of sense. Under the “continue reading” jump, an analysis of the logic and science flaws of FlashForward. Continue reading Why I Hate FlashForward: A Dissenter's Opinion→
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.
Music. We all know what it sounds like when we hear it. It has the ability to create powerful emotions, or bring back memories from the distant past in our lives. We may use it when we exercise, study for exams, read, or for traveling form point A to point B. But what is music? Is it unique to human beings? How do we interpret music when we hear it? Are the emotions created by music universal, irrespective of the listener’s culture and country of origin? Can music teach us anything about how the human brain functions? These interesting questions and more are explored in the fascinating documentary The Music Instinct: Science and Song, a PBS production that was recently honored with the top prize at the prestigious annual Pariscience International Science Film Festival. ScriptPhD.com’s newest regular contributor NeuroScribe provides his review and discussion under the “continue reading” jump. Continue reading This is Your Brain on Music→
It seems like we just can’t seem to stop saying goodbye to Battlestar Galactica. Perhaps the defining science fiction show of my generation, BSG’s post-finale swan song has included a bevy of cast appearances, an issue of the complete series on DVD and Blu-Ray, a recent Bryan Singer-helmed feature film announcement, and now, an upcoming two-hour television movie event. Battlestar Galactica: The Plan takes viewers on a journey of the events that transpired two weeks before the Cylon colony attacks, and their subsequent war with the humans, all from the Cylons’ viewpoint. Compiled with a combination of new footage and key plot highlight clips over the course of the show’s run, The Plan is designed to be the ultimate retrospective with a different perspective. ScriptPhD.com review + trailer under the “continue reading” jump. Continue reading REVIEW: Battlestar Galactica: The Plan→
Medical shows are a generational television stapleoften dramatic, rarely realistic, and only sometimes socially relevant. But tonight, on CBS, a different kind of medical show premiered. Three Rivers, based at a fictional world-famous transplant hospital in Pittsburgh, puts front and center an often misunderstood and ignored sector of modern medicineorgan transplantation. With wit, sensitivity, and a refreshing degree of accuracy, this important new show will shed light on the three branches of the organ donation and transplantation system: the donors, the recipients, and the transplant surgeons and staff who connect the two. Under the jump, ScriptPhD.com reviews the pilot and provides important information and resources for those who are considering signing up to be a donor.
Following up on Part I of our Fall Science Television preview, we continue with some of our picks for best bets in comedy, drama, and even reality covering the scope of medicine, physics, forensics, fantasy and pure old-fashioned science fiction. Tonight, in Part II, ScriptPhD.com give you a sneak peek of the return of Dexter, House, MD, Grey’s Anatomy, MythBusters, The Big Bang Theory and the highly anticipated television adaptation FlashForward. Tomorrow night, our coverage concludes with a review of the V pilot and previews of programming from the holy grail of science fiction television, the SyFy Channel. Our reviews, under the jump. Continue reading Fall Science TV Preview Part II→