Section 10 Course Description

Course Name: Fact and Fantasy: The Interaction of Science and Cinema
Section 10
Instructor: Paul Duffin

Is Jurassic Park possible? Could we really conduct a Mission to Mars? What is the science behind Minority Report, Deep Impact, Contact, and other movies? How do filmmakers choose to portray science? Why do scientists serve as consultants for movies? This course will explore and examine how science and scientists are depicted in movies and the ways that science informs and shapes movies. Additionally, we will consider how scientific reality is conveyed in movies, and whether movies affect science policy, technology, and public discourse of science. 

The primary text (Lab Coats in Hollywood: Science, Scientists, and Cinema) is an academic work that will provide the foundation of how scientists consult with filmmakers to create and depict science in movies. We will examine a variety of films, essays, and articles to analyze the interaction between science and movies. You do not have to be a science major to take this class, just a person who is interested in understanding the interactions between science and movies as well as exploring how these interactions shape our society.

Some potential research topics include: How do movies affect popular perceptions of science? Is science valued in movies? Are movies driven by scientific discoveries? Is realism necessary for a successful movie? If so, how is this achieved in an entertaining way? How do audience expectations dictate/affect movies? How do movies affect the public view of science and scientists? How do movies depict the future?

Some potential topics for your research include:

  1. How do depictions of science affect how society views science and scientists?
  2. How do movies affect popular perceptions of science?
  3. Why do filmmakers consult scientists? What is the outcome?
  4. Do movies affect science? How?
  5. Do movies ameliorate science misconceptions?
  6. Do movies affect science policy? Or funding?
  7. Why do scientists serve as consultants? Do they have an agenda? What is their agenda?
  8. How do movies affect technological development?
  9. Can movies change public views?
  10. How do movies about climate change (or evolution) generate controversy?
  11. Why are movies with depictions of science successful (make $)?
  12. What is the public view of science? Is it accurate?
  13. Should scientists consult or be concerned with movies?
  14. Examine a movie and analyze the science…what arguments can be made regarding how the science  is  depicted? What is left out? What is true? False? How have science consultants impacted the movie? What decisions have the filmmakers had to make regarding the science?
  15. Is science valued in movies? What about scientists?
  16. How does technology drive movies? What about the other way around?
  17. Do futuristic movies spur technological creativity? Why or why not?
  18. Are movies driven by scientific discoveries?
  19. How do movies depict science and scientists? Is it accurate? Why or why not?
  20. Does the public view movie science and actual science differently? Why or why not?