Archive for the 'science in movies' Category

Human imagination has been rife with creatures that are part human and part animal ever since we started to express ourselves artistically as a species, and all the way to modern sci-fi stories. Centaurs, satyrs, the minotaur, mermaids, werewolves, Ganesha, and on and on. In this episode, Gil Kidron and Dr Rutger Vos review three movies that depict human-animal hybrids: Prometheus (2012), Splice (2009), and The Lobster (2015). With guest appearances from Ripley, The Beatles, a very expensive orca, Jeff Goldblum (but not in The Fly), Frankenstein, Leonard Nimoy, Napoleon Dynamite, and the chestburster from SpaceBalls.

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When you interact with someone else and you have to decide whether to cooperate with them or cheat them, the difference between the choices can sometimes be expressed in simple cost/benefit analyses. If we are generous with each other we might both reap the rewards. But maybe cheating is cheaper - unless you punish me for it. The mathematical analysis of these choices is called game theory. Extrapolate that to the Cold War. In this episode, Gil Kidron and Dr Rutger Vos explore four movies on this topic: A Beautiful Mind (2001) about the life and times of John Nash, one of the pioneers of game theory, and three Cold War nuclear stare-down movies, Dr Strangelove (1964) and Fail Safe (2000), and War Games (1983).

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Hollywood's disaster movie industry has created the sub-genre of biological apocalypse movies, which are now more relevant than ever. In this episode, Gil Kidron and Dr Rutger Vos talk about movies that depict scenarios that were once farfetched but are now mostly just exaggerated. In 12 Monkeys (1997) a deadly virus wipes out 5 billion people, 28 Days Later (2002) follows a "rage virus" that we gave to animals and then they infected us with is which led to a total breakdown of society, and Contagion (2011) famously depicts how the Chinese animal industry got us all into lockdown and social distancing.

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Both nature and computing are at certain levels digital. Code organized in discrete symbols (DNA bases, bits) can be understood, decoded, and manipulated. But do we understand these systems well enough to meddle with them? In this episode, Dr Rutger Vos explores this question in a review of three movies: The Imitation Game (2014), Jurassic Park (1993), and Independence Day (1996). And, how will our ability to manipulate these codes affect our fight against the coronavirus?

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The jungle has long been a very attractive topic in movies and books, with its unstoppable nature teeming with mysterious and dramatic creatures and plants. In this episode, Dr. Rutger Vos joins Gil Kidron to talk about the jungle from a scientific perspective, as well as about how it is perceived in the human imagination. We explore the topic through five movies: Apocalypse Now (1979), Avatar (2009), Apocalypto (2006), Jungle Book (2016) and The Legend of Tarzan (2016). One fictional jungle and jungles in Latin America, India, Africa, and South East Asia. 

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In this episode, we dive into The Expanse season 4 and its many layers. As humans travel farther than ever before, to a new world - new evolutionary opportunities arise. And pitfalls. Rutger and Gil break down the evolutionary opportunities and pitfalls that await organisms that move to new habitats. In our own world, new environments sometimes open up either because they suddenly appear - like volcanic islands rising up from the ocean floor - or because key innovations in the evolution of a lineage make the environment accessible. For example, when a lineage evolves the ability to fly and the skies open up. In The Expanse, a whole universe of different planets has suddenly opened up. What might that mean for humans if they radiate outward into this vast space? And what about the organisms they might bring along? What do bats have to do with it? And jellyfish in the Mediterranean?

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In this Science in Movies podcast Gil again welcomes Rutger, this time to talk about how global epidemics (known as pandemics) have been portrayed in movies. We talk about Outbreak (1993), Contagion (2011), Philadelphia (1993), and Black Death (2010). We discuss the scientific aspects of these epidemics, fact-check their movie versions, how they have affected society in the past or will affect us in the future, and how the depiction of pandemics has evolved in the past few decades.

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In this Science in Movies podcast Gil again welcomes Rutger - this time to talk about natural disasters on an unprecedented scale: asteroids, sudden climate change, and the eruption of a supervolcano. We break down the science, fact check it and review the way movies portrayed these disasters at the time they were made. The movies are Armageddon (1998), The Day After Tomorrow (2004) and Supervolcano (2005).

 

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HBO's Chernobyl mini-series has been a smash hit with audiences and critics alike, lauded for its brutal realism, historical accuracy, cinematography and great acting. In this podcast, Gil and Rutger break down the main political messages in Chernobyl, the depiction of the USSR in light of the (mis)handling of the disaster, relate it to current politics and geopolitics in the age of climate change, and talk about the state of nature in and around Chernobyl today.

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We launch our new series of podcast episodes - science in movies! With Dr. Rutger Vos, an evolutionary biologist from Leiden University and Naturalis Biodiversity Center, both in The Netherlands. In our inaugural science podcast episode, we talk about the evolution of humans from apes, and how this theme is portrayed in movies. Our movies of choice: the original Planet of the Apes (1968), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and Altered States (1980). What do these movies say about how we view ourselves? Our predecessors? Our evolution? And what do they say about the scientific thought when they were made.

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