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Hollywood Science : Movies, Science, and the End of the World



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Columbia Univ Pr
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This is the edition with a publication date of 2/1/2010.

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Whether depicting humans battling aliens or a brave geologist saving lives as a volcano erupts, science-fiction films are an exciting visual and sensuous introduction to the workings of science and technology. These films explore a range of complex topics in vivid and accessible ways, from space travel and laser technology to genetic engineering, global warming, and the consequences of nuclear weaponry. Though actual scientific lab work might not be as exciting, science fiction is an engaging yet powerful way for a wide audience to explore some of the most pressing issues and ideas of our time. In this book, a scientist and dedicated film enthusiast discusses the portrayal of science in more than one hundred films, including science fiction, scientific biographies, and documentaries. Beginning with early films like Voyage to the Moonand Metropolisand concluding with more recent offerings like The Matrix, War of the Worlds, A Beautiful Mind, and An Inconvenient Truth, Sidney Perkowitz questions how much faith we can put into Hollywood's depiction of scientists and their work; how accurately these films capture scientific fact and theory; whether cataclysms like our collision with a comet can actually happen; and to what extent these films influence public opinion about science and the future. Movies, especially science-fiction films, temporarily remove viewers from the world as they know it and show them the world as it might be, providing special perspective on human nature and society. Yet "Hollywood science" can be erroneous, distorting fact for dramatic effect and stereotyping scientists as remote and nerdy, evil, or noble, doing little to improve the relationship between science and society. Bringing together history, scientific theory, and humorous observation, Hollywood Sciencefeatures dozens of film stills and a list of the all-time best and worst science-fiction movies. Just as this genre appeals to all types of viewers, this book will resonate with anyone who has been inspired by science-fiction films and would like to learn how fantasy compares to fact.

Author Biography

Educated as a physicist, Sidney Perkowitz has produced dozens of research papers and books, along with four popular science books, works for stage and screen, and numerous magazine articles. He is the Charles Howard Candler Professor of Physics at Emory University and is happy to hear from readers at

Table of Contents

Preface: A Personal Notep. ix
Looking for Science in the Movies?: Check Out Science Fiction Films Firstp. 3
Dangers from Nature
Alien Encountersp. 19
Devastating Collisionsp. 49
Our Violent Planetp. 67
Dangers from Ourselves
Atoms Unleashedp. 93
Genes and Germs Gone Badp. 116
The Computers Take Overp. 142
The Good, The Bad, and The Real
Scientists as Heroes, Nerds, and Villainsp. 167
Solid Science and Quantum Loopiness: Golden Eagles and Golden Turkeysp. 196
Hollywood Science vs. Real Sciencep. 213
Afterword: Finding Real Science in the Movies and Beyondp. 227
Appendix: Alongside Hollywood Science, There's Popcorn Sciencep. 229
Further Reading and Viewingp. 231
Filmographyp. 239
Acknowledgmentsp. 243
Indexp. 245
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

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