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Podcast Episode 104: Real Scientists Talk About Reel Science

Looking at cult sci-fi films through a new lens

William Hurt stars as a scientist who experiments with sensory depravation an...

Credit: Warner Brothers

Above: William Hurt stars as a scientist who experiments with sensory depravation and mind altering drugs in "Altered States." But what does a real neuroscientist think of the film? Find out in Cinema Junkie Podcast 104 when real scientists talk about reel science.

Episode 104: Real Scientists Talk About Reel Science

Find out what an entomologist, a neuroscientist, and a geneticist think of the science in science fiction. Plus discover what we can learn about the planet Mongo if we treat "Flash Gordon" like a found footage film.

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Cinema Junkie Podcast is back from holiday break with a show about real scientists talking about reel science.

I hope you all had a fabulous holiday break and got to watch a lot of movies.

If you love sci-fi films and especially if you love cult sci-fi, then here is the show for you. A new film series called Reel Science: Cult Sci-Fi Films Meet Real Science pairs real scientists every Saturday in January. theNAT will pair up a scientist with a sci-fi cult classic in order to compare movie science with the real thing, and provide a new context to view the films.

Since not everyone lives in San Diego and can actually attend the films, here is your opportunity to listen to these scientists talk about the films they will be introducing and a lot more. This way you can recreate the event in your own home.

Michael Wall, curator of entomology at theNAT, explained, “At the beginning of each screening a scientist is going to provide what we are saying is a context or a lens through which to view the film. In some cases the scientist will talk a little bit about their own research and how you can use their research as a lens for the film to view the screening of the film. Or in my case, I won’t be talking about my own science as much as the practice of science, and how that can inform the way you watch different films.”

The scientists will explain what the films got right and what they got wrong in terms of the science presented. Reel Science will take place on Saturdays in January, with theNAT and Digital Gym hosting the program on alternating weekends.

The series kicks off with neuroscientist Bradley Voytek (co-author of "Do Zombies Dream of Undead Sheep?) introducing Ken Russell’s trippy “Altered States” at the Digital Gym Cinema at 7 p.m., Jan. 7. Then there will be the John Hughes comedy “Weird Science” with geneticist Adam Haberman at 7 p.m., Jan. 14 at theNAT; followed by “Donnie Darko” with physicist Daniel Sheehan on at 4 p.m., Jan. 21 at Digital Gym Cinema, and will conclude at 7 p.m., Jan. 28 at theNAT, with Wall presenting “Flash Gordon” from 1980.

For the podcast I speak with Wall (who will treat "Flash Gordon" like a found footage films), Voytek, and Haberman.

Reel Science is a collaboration between theNAT, Digital Gym Cinema, and Film Geeks SD.

You can listen to Cinema Junkie Podcast 15B with Michael Wall talking about scary bugs and horror movies.


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Beth Accomando
Arts & Culture Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI cover arts and culture, from Comic-Con to opera, from pop entertainment to fine art, from zombies to Shakespeare. I am interested in going behind the scenes to explore the creative process; seeing how pop culture reflects social issues; and providing a context for art and entertainment.

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