Science

Sophia Nasr 12 Monkeys
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Interview with 12 Monkeys Science Advisor Sophia Nasr

David Latchman

As the hit time-travel TV show 12 Monkeys enters its fourth and final season, we talked to the show's season four science advisor, Sophia Nasr. Sophia is an astroparticle physicist working on dark matter. We talked to her about the work she does at UC Irvine, why dark matter (not the show) is so important,...
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God is an algorithm: why we're closer to a Black Mirror-style reality than we think

Helena Bassil-Mozorow

This article contains spoilers about Black Mirror, season four Do we have free will, or are we controlled by a higher power? The capacity to act and determine one’s own actions in an increasingly technologised world is the most prominent theme in the latest season of Netflix’s Black Mirror. And the question writer Charlie Brooker...
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The Force of biology is strong in 'Star Wars'

Allison E. McDonald

Star Wars: The Last Jedi follows the journey of Rey as the heroine discovers and learns about the Force, just as her teacher Luke Skywalker and his father Anakin did in the Galactic Rebellion and Clone Wars (more on this later). This raises an obvious question: What is the Force and where does it come...
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What the robots of 'Star Wars' tell us about automation, and the future of human work

Paul Salmon

Millions of fans all over the world are eagerly anticipating this week’s release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the eighth in the series. At last we will get some answers to questions that have been vexing us since 2015’s The Force Awakens. Throughout the franchise, the core characters have been accompanied by a number...
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Star Wars' last Jedi may use the Force of quantum science

Christopher Wiebe

As Star Wars: The Last Jedi opens in theatres and its heroine Rey seeks to learn the ways of the Force from an aged and isolated Luke Skywalker, it raises some obvious and ongoing questions: Is there anything in science — particularly in quantum physics — that resembles the Force? Can objects be manipulated instantaneously...
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Physics of Orville vs. Enterprise

David Latchman

In The Orville episode, "Pria," we learn that the ship can travel upwards of ten lightyears (ly) an hour. Like the warp factor scale used in Star Trek, this is a measure of a ship's speed. To determine which ships are faster, whether the Orville is faster than any of the ships that have borne...
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Why War is Inevitable on 'The Expanse'

David Latchman

Two hundred years in the future, humanity has colonized the Sol System -- Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt, and some of the Outer Planets -- in the TV series The Expanse. Resources are scarce on Earth and the planet relies heavily on resources from the Belt to run its global economy. Despite migrating to...
radioisotope thermoelectric generator Martian
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Staying warm with a box of radiation on 'The Martian'

David Latchman

In the 2015 science fiction film, The Martian, NASA astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) finds himself stranded on Mars after being struck by debris during a forced evacuation. Left for dead, the intrepid astronaut must not only survive on the barren planet, he needs to find a way home. Mark must use every resource at...
Meaning of Arrival
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Deciphering the Science and Linguistics of 'Arrival'

David Latchman

Communication is one of the messiest things we humans do on a daily basis. We translate the thoughts inside our head into words that another person (hopefully) can understand. Assuming this other person shares a common language and culture, this should be easy (most of the time). But even when we do share a common...
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An Interview With A Particle Physicist On What It Takes To Become A Ghostbuster

David Latchman

Ghostbusters is set to hit theaters in just over a month, and while the film might be fiction, it has some basis in actual science. We've already looked at why the Ghostbusters reboot is important and the real-world physics behind the Proton Pack. This time, I am interviewing the MIT particle physicist, Lindley Winslow, whose...
Ghostbusters Proton Pack
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An Interview with the Real Scientist who Redesigned the Ghostbusters Proton Pack

David Latchman

In my last article, I looked at the science behind the Ghostbusters' Proton Pack. The Proton Pack is a miniature particle accelerator and the design incorporates technology and some real-world physics. Many of the movie's designs and props seen in the Ghostbuster's reboot was the work of experimental particle physicists, James Maxwell and I had the...
Transporter Death Machine
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Is Star Trek's Famous Transporter Really a Death Machine?

David Latchman

Star Trek's transporter is about every fan's dream method of travel. Step onto the platform and you are instantaneously disintegrated while the information from every single atom in your body measured. The energy from being disintegrated is beamed into space and the information gained is used to reassemble you. Need to get to Mars in...
Ghostbusters Proton Pack
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The Science of The Ghostbuster's Proton Pack

David Latchman

The Ghostbusters trailer contains an Easter egg hidden in the whiteboard filled with physics equations. This Easter egg goes by quickly but if you pause at just the right moment, you will see one "equation" on top is a URL that spells paranormalstudieslab.com. Fans will recognize this is a nod to the original movie as...
Ghostbusters women reboot
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The New Ghostbusters Are Women And Why It Matters

David Latchman

The latest trailer to the new Ghostbusters came out last week and fan response has been resoundingly negative. Within hours of release, the trailer had garnered twice as many dislikes to likes on YouTube. While vitriol from fans is expected, the 1984 movie is a classic, so the almost 1-to-2 like to dislike ratio is...
Tube Travel Futurama
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Can you travel The Tube 'Futurama' style?

David Latchman

Set in the year 3000, the series Futurama features one of the most interesting forms of personal travel—pneumatic tubes. These were used primarily in the late 19th to the early 20th century to transport small packages over short distances, typically within a building or city. Though it is in very limited use today, there has been renewed...
physics star killer base
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The Physics of the Death Stars and Starkiller Base

David Latchman

The Star Wars films feature not one but three battle stations capable of destroying planets. In "A New Hope," the DS-1 Orbital Battle Station employed a super laser powered by a hypermatter reactor to destroy Alderaan. Following the "Battle of Yavin," the Empire returned with the Death Star II, an even more formidable weapons platform...
The Expanse Explosive Decompression
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Explosive Decompression in "The Expanse"

David Latchman

In the season 1 episode, CQB of The Expanse, the flagship of the Martian Congressional Republic Navy's Jupiter fleet, The MCRN Donnager, finds itself in a space battle with the six ships that attacked the Canterbury. Seriously outgunned, the Martian ship takes heavy damage from railgun fire; Canterbury med-tech, Shed Garvey (Paulo Costanzo) is struck...
Space Travel
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The Space Elevator and the Bruntouchables

David Latchman

In the Limitless episode, "Headquarters!", Brian Finch (Jake McDorman) tracks down the FBI's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives to get his own office. This quest is important to Brian as he sees his role in the FBI as not to only fight crime but the “Enemies of Joy,” and he needs his personal "Headquarters!" to do...
Parson brain prions
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Can the Project Castor prions be an STD?

Phil Nista

In the penultimate episode of season 3, we learned a key piece of information about the Orphan Black clones—the origins of the Castor and Leda Projects lie within a single solitary individual person, Kendall Malone (Alison Steadman). This mysterious woman with a murky legal record is not only a genetic chimera and hence able to...
children tooth stem cells
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Can Kira's stem cells save Cosima?

Phil Nista

Times are getting pretty tough for Cosima Neihaus (Tatiana Maslany), the one-woman Clone Club R&D department in the Orphan Black universe. What started out as an irksome cough has progressed into a full-blown autoimmune disorder affecting her respiratory and reproductive systems. In one recent episode (Community of Dreadful Fear and Hate), the extent of Cosima’s...
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Can clones fall on different parts of the sexuality spectrum?

Phil Nista

We’ve considered an awful lot about what makes Sarah Manning (Tatiana Maslany), Alison Hendrix, (Tatiana Maslany), and the swelling multitude of clones in the Orphan Black universe so dang diverse. Essentially, each week we’ve asked the science questions on the minds of all Orphan Black fans: “Why aren’t these clones identical?” “What gives? Aren’t they...
Cloning Legality
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Is it legal to own clones?

Phil Nista

So far, this series on the science behind Orphan Black has made a number of conclusions, or should I say clone-clusions? To very briefly summarize: (1) it’s hard to make a synthetic genome; (2) it’s harder to make viable clones, even without first synthesizing their genomes; (3) clones can be wildly different from each other...
Clone Dance
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Does epigenetic variation explain differences among clones?

Phil Nista

In a recent a blog post (nature vs. nurture), I outlined how it is that we aren’t much closer to understanding what makes each of the clones of Orphan Black totally unique. Though they sure do look alike, Orphan Black Wikia - Sarah Manning (Tatiana Maslany) is a rebel, Orphan Black Wikia - Alison Hendrix...
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What is "Evo-Devo's" role in Orphan Black

Phil Nista

Season 2 of Orphan Black left us with a couple of doozies. First and foremost, we found there is But we also found out that the scholarly clone Orphan Black Wikia - Cosima Niehaus (Tatiana Maslany) is perhaps . Luckily, Cosima is a biologist currently working from inside the maligned Dyad Institute so at least...
nature vs nurture
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Does Nature vs Nurture explain differences among clones?

Phil Nista

The third season of BBC America’s critically acclaimed Orphan Black picked up right where it left off. Once again the defiant Sarah Manning (Tatiana Maslany), brainy Cosima Niehaus (Tatiana Maslany), and straight-laced Alison Hendrix (also, somehow, Tatiana Maslany) are cascading through the Orphan Black universe as technologically impossible clones (as discussed in two previous blog...
Orphan Black Spindle Proteins
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Are 'spindle proteins' preventing human cloning on Orphan Black?

Phil Nista

Last time we learned that modern synthetic biology is still (thankfully?) years away from synthesizing human genomes. But I also hinted that the challenge of writing a genome from scratch wasn’t the only thing preventing the Dyad Institute from dominating the world with an army of clones. In episode 6 of season two, To Hound...
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Did Rose murder Jack in the Titanic drowning scene?

Nikola Raic

Whether it is because people are trying to spoil one of the greatest romantic movies, or they are just trying to convince themselves that Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) was really supposed to die, the debate about the scene when Rose (Kate Winslet) drops Jack into the sea is still going on. The question everyone is asking...
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Is the science presented in Contagion relevant and accurate?

Mark Plummer

THERE ARE NO SPOILERS HERE YOU CAN READ WITHOUT KNOWING EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENS "Contagion" is one of the few Hollywood films to employ on, the whole, highly credible science. As a movie "Contagion" more than hits home and, in my view, the most frightening aspect is the deliberate feel of the mundane and ordinary. It...
Orphan Black CLones
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Can synthetic biology create Orphan Black's clones?

Phil Nista

Ever since Frankenstein, science fiction has warned us of the dangers science and technology pose to our very humanity, and the BBC America series Orphan Black does a better job of this than most. As if it weren’t creepy enough to clone humans and clandestinely spy on their lives, the ethically questionable Dyad Institute also...
Walking on Miller's Planet
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Surfing on Interstellar Tidal Waves

David Latchman

In the movie Interstellar, Joseph Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) lands the Ranger 1 on Miller’s planet, a water world orbiting the supermassive black hole, Gargantua. Initial scans show the planet rich with the organic molecules, water, and sunlight necessary for life. Instead, what the team encounters is a shallow water world with 1.2-kilometer high waves. These...
Breaking Bad Mercury Fulminate
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Is Walter White's chemistry genius real?

Eliot Durand

Breaking Bad tells the story of Walter White (Bryan Cranston), a high school chemistry teacher, who is bored, boring and tragically middle aged. He is a logical thinker who seems to end up the loser in every situation. After being diagnosed with terminal cancer, he decides to make a drastic change to his life as he may leave...

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