Celebrating Three Years of Science and Entertainment Exchanges

Written by: admin

This past weekend, The Exchange celebrated its three-year anniversary. On November 19, 2008, the program officially launched with a symposium bringing together the science and entertainment communities, and three years later, we are close to 400 consults! To celebrate we are taking a quick look at our in-depth articles on past consultations. (Next year, be on the lookout for Under the Microscope articles on The Avengers and Battleship!)

Cupcakes, the only way to celebrate 3 years and nearly 400 consults.

Apollo 18 

The Exchange connected producer Michelle Wolkoff to Gerry Griffin, an aeronautical engineer and the former director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center, to bring a sense of realism to this science-fiction film. Griffin recalled his experience on the set in Vancouver, assisting with script changes and set design, to give Apollo 18 the look of a real mission to the moon.


Executive story editors Rob Chiappetta and Glen Whitman contacted physicist (and Exchange consultant) Sean M. Carroll for a particularly puzzling wormhole/radiation conundrum during the third season of the hit series. The consultation resulted in a few lines of dialogue – barely noticeable but vital to allowing the emotional plot, not the science, to run the story.

Green Lantern 

Supervising art director François Audouy and researcher Ozzy Inguanzo gave us a look inside the consultations for Green Lantern, which brought to life one of DC Comics’ most popular superheroes. University of Minnesota physics professor James Kakalios gave the film’s art team a hypothetical look inside of a black hole. Seth Shostak, senior astronomer at the SETI Institute, consulted on what an alien body might look like. Bonnie Bassler, a molecular biologist and professor at Princeton University, answered questions on bioluminescent bacteria – all of which helped shape the film’s art direction.

House, M.D. 

Inspired by real science, supervising producer and writer for House, M.D., Kath Lingenfelter, contacted The Exchange for advice on a rare memory condition called hyperthymesia. Two neuroscientists, John Mazziato (Department of Neurology at UCLA) and Gisele Petzinger (Department of Neurology at USC), answered Lingenfelter’s questions. The episode “You Must Remember This” features a character with hyperthymesia, and plausible connection to McLeod’s syndrome, the resulting diagnosis in the episode.


Physicist Sean M. Carroll wrote about his consultant work on Marvel’s Thor, including changing the character of Jane from a nurse to an astrophysicist and working the term “Einstein-Rosen bridge” into the dialogue. After seeing the film, Carroll gave the film two thumbs up.

Tron: Legacy 

Downloading a human into a computer is not as easy as Tron: Legacy, the long-awaited sequel to Tron, makes it appear. Physicist Sean M. Carroll breaks down his consultation with director, Joe Kosinski, and producers, Sean Bailey and Jeff Silver. Early on in the film, a character uses the terms “genetic algorithms” and “quantum teleportation,” which Carroll points out are important and real concepts. As for sucking a human into a computer, the laser that does so in the film is designed with four containers to hold raw materials (oxygen, carbon, etc.) required for reassembling a human. “You won’t even notice them when you watch the movie, but they’re there, and I count that as a small victory,” wrote Carroll.

The statements and opinions expressed in this piece are those of the event participants and do not necessarily reflect the views of any organization or agency that provided support for this event or of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.