Using Bad Movies To Teach Good Science

Science News has a good article (What's Wrong with This Picture? Educating via analyses of science in movies and TV via BoingBoing) on how science educators can make use of even the most outlandish films and television shows.


(From Méliès' Trip to the Moon)

Some highlights:

  • In last summer's blockbuster The Day after Tomorrow, global warming causes an ice age within a few weeks. Very convenient for the plot line of the film, but climate scientists around the world responded with computer models demonstrating that "abrupt" climate change in the real world might take place over decades, not weeks.
  • A recent NBC miniseries 10.5 about a fictional series of spectacular earthquakes triggered powerful temblors in the scientific community (sorry about that). Although the California Geological Survey website is an unlikely spot for movie reviews, it was a good opportunity to put more accurate information before the public.
Some movies do offer scientifically accurate scenarios and devices. In 2001: A Space Odyssey, a rotating space station provides artificial gravity for travelers in a valid manner.

Here on Technovelgy.com, of course, I enjoy presenting both scientifically reasonable ideas and inventions from science fiction (like retro rockets, the actinoscope, and waldoes), as well as less likely ideas (like the infinite improbability drive, bounce tubes and the farcasters). Although I usually rely on the common sense (and scientific training) of readers to distinguish between them, I often provide links or discussion of the real science.

Have a favorite "bad science" movie? Or a movie that really sticks to the facts? Leave a comment below.

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