Science Goes To The Movies Gets Inside Out And Funny

The latest edition of Science Goes to the Movies marks a first for the program.  The guest for this episode, Lewis Black, plays one of the characters in the featured film, Inside Out.  He portrays Anger in the animated film, specifically the emotion anger felt by the young girl that is the focus of the film.

With Black’s experience as a comic as well as an author and actor, hosts Faith Salie and Dr. Heather Berlin discussed more than just how Inside Out helps people (particularly kids) better understand their emotions, how to express them and how to manage them.  They talk about comedy, how it works, and how it can help people engage with different ideas.  There’s also a brief discussion of comedy and obscenity that manages to be safe for work.

The next episode of Science Goes to the Movies tackles The Martian.  The guest is Sarah Stewart Johnson, Assistant Professor of Planetary Sciences at Georgetown University.  It should be available online sometime this weekend.

Science and Technology Guests on Late Night, Week of May 2

I am torn.  Tonight (Monday) on Conan will be Amanda Crew, one of the cast of Silicon Valley.   However, also on the program tonight is Dr. Phil, and with rare exceptions I don’t care to draw attention to doctors on talk shows as the segments rarely provide meaningful science content.  So watch Conan tonight, just skip Dr. Phil’s segment.  Similarly Emily Deschanel, who plays anthropologist Temperance Brennan on Bones, will appear on Jimmy Kimmel Live Monday, but Dr. Mehmet Oz is on the same program.  On Thursday Deschanel can be seen on The Talk, with Oz nowhere to be seen.

Between some television programs wrapping up their seasons, and the ramp-up to summer blockbuster season, actors promoting their latest projects are out and about this week.  Of those that merit inclusion here, Tuesday morning’s Live with Kelly and Michael program is notable for having two people on who play doctors on television: Lucy Liu from Elementary and Morris Chestnut from Rosewood.  Chestnut is also on Monday’s edition of The Late Show.  In other appearances, Chloe Bennett, of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., will visit Jimmy Kimmel Live Thursday.  She plays a tech expert on the program.

Finally, things to note from last week.  I missed that Mark Feuerstein, who plays a doctor on Royal Pains, was on Friday’s edition of The Late Show.  The full interview is not online outside of the full episode, but there is this segment from his interview about how much medical knowledge he does or doesn’t have.  In that same show host Stephen Colbert noted the recent research that suggests dogs don’t care to be hugged.  On Wednesday’s edition of The Late Show, Colbert noted the rare occurrence of a poor Apple sales report.  Last week started with The Nightly Show once again updating its audience on the lead poisoning in Flint and drawing attention to the work of one of the doctors in Flint who first highlighted the crisis, Mona Hanna-Attisha.

If that’s not enough Nightly for you, there is this web-only clip from Bill Nye’s latest appearance on the program, where he and Larry talked about robot design and it’s likely uses.

Tune In For The Whales, Stay For The Cousteau

The sixth episode of the second season of Science Goes to the Movies is online, and ostensibly focuses on In The Heart of the Sea.  This is the 2015 film based on the non-fiction book of the same name that follows the whaling ship Essex and her crew.

Joining hosts Faith Salie and Dr. Heather Berlin is Fabien Cousteau.  Cousteau is an ocean explorer and filmmaker, son of Jean-Michel (who readers might remember from his visits on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson) and grandson of Jacques Cousteau.

The first few minutes discuss whales and whaling, but the bulk of the episode dives into (pun very much intended) Cousteau’s work and that of his grandfather, who was a critical person in developing the first self-contained diving technology.  Fabien has spent a lot of time expanding his grandfather’s work in seafloor stations, advancing the ability to conduct long-term underwater exploration and research.  Talk transitioned to the current state of the oceans and ocean life in particular.  Personally I found this all quite fascinating, and I’m happy to have the chance to learn more about the third generation of Cousteaus.

The next episode of Science Goes to the Movies premiered this weekend.  It focuses on Inside Out, last year’s Pixar film that spends most of its time inside a child’s brain.  Lewis Black, who plays Anger in the film, joins the show to discuss the film and the science behind comedy.

Mathematics Drives The Man Who Knew Infinity

Released this weekend in the United States, The Man Who Knew Infinity is a film chronicling the short life and career of Srinivasa Ramanujan.  Ramanujan traveled from his native India to the United Kingdom just over a century ago to study with G.K. Hardy at Cambridge.  His career was cut short by tuberculosis, but his achievements in number theory and other branches of mathematics led to him being the second Indian elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society.

Dev Patel plays Ramanujan, and Jeremy Irons plays G.K. Hardy.  While the film is about Ramanujan, it is told from Hardy’s perspective.  The film is written and directed by Matthew Brown, and mathematicians Ken Ono and Manjul Barghava worked on the mathematics presented in the film.

There is a contest associated with the release of The Man Who Knew Infinity.  The website Expii is hosting the competition, where participants solve math quizzes and puzzles.  The contest runs through May 20, and appears to be mainly for exposure, both for Expii and those seeking to prove their mathematical skills.

National Academy Of Science Getting Popular With Its Public Welfare Medal

On Sunday, during its 153rd Annual meeting, the National Academy of Sciences will present several awards.  Among them is the Public Welfare Medal, which honors ‘extraordinary use of science for the public good.’

This year the Academy is awarding the medal to Alan Alda.  The actor has a long history of working with science and scientists, dating back to at least his stint hosting Scientific American Frontiers from 1993-2005.  Besides hosting that program, which ran on PBS, he has hosted other science programs, and performed and wrote scientifically themed plays.  He is the face of The Flame Challenge, which tests the ability of scientists to communicate concepts to young kids.  In what spare time he has Alda is Visiting Professor at the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at the Stony Brook University.

This marks the second year in a row the Public Welfare Medal has recognized the work of someone engaged in public science.  Last year Neil deGrasse Tyson was recognized for his work in science education and science entertainment.  That the award came the year after Tyson hosted the 2014 edition of COSMOS is not likely a coincidence.  Especially since Carl Sagan, who hosted the 1980 edition, also received the Public Welfare Medal (but not until 1994).

Two data points do not make a trend, and with only three recipients in 102 years having this kind of connection to popular culture, I don’t expect to see the MythBusters recognized with the Public Welfare Medal any time soon.  (Besides, such recognition would make more sense coming from the National Academy of Engineering, which doesn’t have a comparable medal.)

Congratulations to Alan Alda, who could make a lovely acceptance speech on Sunday.  Until *that* video becomes available, you can watch Tyson’s acceptance speech from 2015.

Google Looking For Good Scripts For Computer Science

At the Tribeca Film Festival last week Google announced that its CS Education in Media Program is partnering with the website The Black List for a fellowship competition to support the image of computer science and computer scientists in media (H/T STEMDaily).  The Black List is a screenwriting site known for hosting the best unproduced screenplays in Hollywood.

The fellowship could award up to $15,000 for as many as three scripts (one film script and two episodic television pilots).  The writers would use the money to support their work on new materials for six months.  At the end of that period the writer(s) would present that work to Google along with a summary of how the grant helped advance that work and/or affected their career.

The submitted work would change the perception of computer science and/or computer scientists in popular culture.  Projects that feature underrepresented groups in computer science would certainly qualify.  The Black List will review the scripts submitted and select 10 for further consideration by Google.  Those finalists will include a short biography with their work.  Google would then choose as many as three recipients, but may decide not to award any if they don’t believe the 10 are of sufficient merit.

The competition period ends on July 15th.  Contestants would need to post their submission on The Black List, and meet several other eligibility requirements (such as the work is original and the writer is able to enter a contract).  Any script on The Black List that has a paid evaluation by 11:59 p.m. on June 15th is eligible for consideration, but authors will have to opt in to the competition.  While the site does not explicitly state this, it would seem that an evaluation – and paying the fee – must happen in order to compete.

STEM Is On The Fastrack

On the Fastrack is a long running comic strip set at a modern day business.  Many of the characters featured in the strip are technologically inclined, but technology is not as explicit of a theme in the strip as it is in say, Foxtrot or Dilbert.

Starting with Saturday’s strip (April 23) the comic is running a storyline around STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).  Fistula Breech has been asked to make a presentation on STEM to encourage girls to take math and science classes.  But Fi is far from a people person and is getting help from Dethany, a co-worker, on the presentation.

I’m not sure how long the storyline will go (as often happens, the Sunday strip is separate from the weekday story), and cannot find any indication that the storyline has been done in partnership with an organization seeking to promote STEM or STEM education.  Regardless, On the Fastrack isn’t the first, and likely won’t be the last comic strip I’ve seen tackle a science and/or technology story on the funny pages.