Science in the Movies

Some time ago, I wrote a feature for the now-defunct HMS Beagle on on the subject of science in the movies. I interviewed various scientists and people in the movie industry about the role of experts in advising on plot lines and details. It was quite a departure from the usual research reporting and was part of my once-monthly Adapt or Die column for the webzine. Sadly missed, for a short time by many life scientists.

One thing that strikes me repeatedly is the lack of chemistry in the movies, other than the chemistry of weapons of mass destruction, of course. Carl Djerassi attempted to bring chemistry to the fore in his Nobel play, Oxygen, but that was a one-off and was in a sense a test-bed for his ethical and moral debates which he embeds in many of his science in fiction scripts. Andrew Sun discusses the issues surrounding science fiction in his all-new Nature Networks Blog.

5 thoughts on “Science in the Movies”

  1. That’s a great list Mark. Yep, you caught me there. I think that was a far too sweeping and naive a statement I made in that feature article way back when. Yep, Man in the White Suit, I should have mentioned that one at the very least. I hope Sciencebase readers will check out your list and maybe even rent those movies or get to the cinema to see some of them.

  2. David, I wanted to let you know that I read your article about scientists as movie consultants in HMS Beagle when you published it. On the other hand, I take issue with your statement that there are no movies with chemistry in them other than explosives. It turns out that Chemistry in the Movies happens to be one of my favorite topics and I have posted a list of my Top 10 Best “Chemistry in the Movies” (plus a few bad movies that are entertaining in their own way) at

  3. Sadly, I don’t think the consultancy work of this sort that I have been asked about would ever have brought me into close contact with Ms Jolie or any other starlet for that matter. Nearest I got was advising a British soap opera researcher on whether or not there is a chemical that can stifle libido. (Depo Provera, a progestin, and tamoxifen, the breast cancer drug, can act as chemical castrators, by the way)

  4. It’s an interesting career direction for scientists. It’s also a shame that it’s not an area where scientists receive more notoriety, particularly when their contributions can lend so much authenticity to the movie.

    Can you imagine the ads for it though? ‘Renowned Hollywood director seeks a scientist who is an expert in global warming issues. Job perks include casual Fridays and working in close proximity to Angelina Jolie (insert Clive Owen for my incentive).’ ;)

  5. On a similar note, my friend Peggy writes Biology in Science Fiction which is always a good read.

    As for the coupons, I had no idea you had a section for them here. I’ll be sure to check anytime I need to buy something. :)

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