Hollywood Science – Perkowitz

I don’t know how everyone in the class is doing in terms of completing our textbook, Hollywood Science, but I just had the opportunity to complete it this weekend. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed reading it. Although it was very informative, I also found it very entertaining. It almost read like a novel as opposed to an academic textbook. It certainly helped that many of the movies the author cited are quite popular. He also did a great job of explaining the more obscure films to the reader.

A few things really stood out to me as I was reading. The first was the description of the movie The Thing from Another World. For those of you who don’t remember, this is one of the movies that was related to the effects of possible nuclear exposure. It was released in 1951 during the Cold War, a time when global nuclear exchange seemed like a real threat. The part that really struck me as unusual was the fact that the main character in the movie was described as some kind of giant mutant carrot. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen the movie, but I was able to view the trailer online and it certainly did not disappoint. Even more amazing is that the movie was re-made in 1982. At some point, I will have to find time to watch these movies as I feel that this is one of those things that needs to be seen to be believed.

The other part of the book that I found intriguing was the chapter on alien encounters. In the chapter, Perkowitz takes a very rational and logical approach to the subject matter. He describes several different reasons why there may or may not be life on other planets, which planets may have the right conditions for alien life, and what we could expect alien life to look like. A lot of the information presented in the chapter was new to me, such as the fact that we have “vent worms” living here on Earth in volcano chambers. These worms can grow to be over six feet in length!

At the end of the book, Perkowitz awards each movie based on their scientific accuracy. The Core, a movie that we watched a clip from earlier in the semester received the “Golden Turkey” award. The Day After Tomorrow, another one of our selected films received a “Special Award”. Perkowitz didn’t give it the “Golden Eagle” award because of some of the liberties that were taken with the timing of the events. We pointed out the same problem when discussing the film in class.

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