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Lab Coats in Hollywood
Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, released in 1968, is perhaps the most scientifically accurate film ever produced. The film presented such a plausible, realistic vision of space flight that many moon hoax proponents believe that Kubrick staged the 1969 moon landing using the same studios and techniques. Kubrick’s scientific verisimilitude in 2001 came courtesy of his science consultants—including two former NASA scientists—and the more than sixty-five companies, research organizations, and government agencies that offered technical advice. Although most filmmakers don’t consult experts as extensively as Kubrick did, films ranging from A Beautiful Mind and Contact to Finding Nemo and The Hulk have achieved some degree of scientific credibility because of science consultants. In Lab Coats in Hollywood, David Kirby examines the interaction of science and cinema: how science consultants make movie science plausible, how filmmakers negotiate scientific accuracy within production constraints, and how movies affect popular perceptions of science.
Drawing on interviews and archival material, Kirby examines such science consulting tasks as fact checking and shaping visual iconography. Kirby finds that cinema can influence science as well: Depictions of science in popular films can promote research agendas, stimulate technological development, and even stir citizens into political action.
About the Author
David A. Kirby is Senior Lecturer in Science Communication Studies at the Centre for the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine at the University of Manchester, England.
Table of Contents
- Lab Coats in Hollywood
- Lab Coats in Hollywood
- Science, Scientists, and Cinema
- David A. Kirby
- The MIT Press
- Cambridge, Massachusetts
- London, England
- © 2010
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form by any electronic or mechanical means (including photocopying, recording, or information storage and retrieval) without permission in writing from the publisher.
- For information about special quantity discounts, please email special_sales @mitpress.mit.edu
- This book was set in Stone Sans and Stone Serif by Toppan Best-set Premedia Limited. Printed and bound in the United States of America.
- Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
- Kirby, David A.
- Lab coats in Hollywood : science, scientists, and cinema / David A. Kirby.
- p. cm.
- Includes bibliographical references and index.
- ISBN 978-0-262-01478-6 (hardcover : alk. paper) 1. Science in motion pictures. 2. Scientists in motion pictures. I. Title.
- PN1995.9.S265K57 2011
- 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
- To Laura. A true bean.
- Acknowledgments ix
- Preface xi
- 1 Scientific Expertise in Hollywood:
- The Interactions between Scientific and Entertainment Cultures
- 2 Cinematic Science:
- Scientific Representation, Film Realism, and Virtual Witnessing Technologies
- 3 Valuing Expertise:
- The Entertainment Industry’s and Scientific Community’s Motivations in the Science Consulting Relationship
- 4 Scientists on Screen:
- Being a Scientist, Looking Like a Lab
- 5 Cinematic Fact Checking:
- Negotiating Scientific Facts within Filmmaking Culture
- 6 Best Guesses:
- Scientific Uncertainty, Flexibility, and Scientists in the Aisles
- 7 Fantastically Logical:
- Fantastic Science, Speculative Scenarios, and the Expertise of Logic
- 8 Preventing Future Disasters:
- Science Consultants and the Enhancement of Cinematic Disasters
- 9 The Future Is Now:
- Diegetic Prototypes and the Role of Cinematic Narratives in Generating Real-World Technological Development
- 10 Improving Science, Improving Entertainment:
- The Significance of Scientists in Hollywood
- Notes 235
- Index 259
—Zack Stentz, writer/producer (Thor, X-Men: First Class, Fringe, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles)
—Massimiano Bucchi, Professor of Science and Technology in Society, University of Trento
—David Saltzberg, Professor of Physics and Astronomy, UCLA, and Television Science Consultant
—Jennifer Ouellette, science writer and former director, National Academy of Sciences’ Science and Entertainment Exchange
—Peter Galison, Pellegrino University Professor in History of Science and Physics, Harvard University, and Producer/Director, Secrecy