Skip to content
Guest Thinkers

Learn About the Science Behind Hollywood Blockbusters like Thor and The Avengers

If you are a fan of Big Think, the newly re-launched Science and Entertainment Exchange website will offer you hours of interesting reading and viewing.  A program of the National Academies, the Science & Entertainment Exchange connects the entertainment industry with top scientist and engineers.

The expanded site features in-depth articles exploring highlights from The Exchange’s interactions in Hollywood which includes consulting on highly anticipated films like The Avengers, and interviews with industry insiders like Watchmen production designer Alex McDowell and Exchange consultants like Fringe adviser and neurobiologist at the Salk Institute, Ricardo Gil da Costa.

For a summit of scientists and film producers held this past spring, the National Academies commissioned me to research and write a background paper on the portrayal of science in film and television and the potential educational uses.  You can read that background paper –co-authored with Anthony Dudo— at the summit web sitealong with other background resources

David Kirby, a scholar at the University of Manchester, has recently published a seminal book exploring the history and role of scientists as consultants on film and television projects.  You can read about the book here which has received very strong reviews both at the journals Nature and Science.  

Here’s an excerpt from our background paper:

In this literature review, we examine four major questions related to the relationships among science, entertainment, and education. First, we discuss relevant research from the fields of history, science and technology studies, and communication that have analyzed and systematically tracked the different narratives about science and scientists appearing in film and television across time and genre. Second, we examine the scholarship and analysis that have been published on the work of scientists and science organizations as advisors and consultants on film productions and television programs. Third, we discuss research from the field of communication that has analyzed how patterns of entertainment media use are related to perceptions of science generally and to specific controversial topics such as genetic engineering. Fourth, we review research published mostly in the field of science education evaluating the use of fictional film, educational games, and virtual environments as tools for promoting different types of education‐related outcomes, placing these uses in the context of broader trends and issues within science education.


Up Next