Real science in 'The Day the Earth Stood Still'

If aliens are out there, they can take some comfort from The Day The Earth Stood Still, as 20th Century Fox says it has asked the Cape Canaveral-based Deep Space Communications Network to broadcast the film at Alpha Centauri, the nearest star system at little more than 4 light-years away (one light year is about 5.9 trillion miles). Not clear if cable television satellites will also get the transmission, but only four years hence Alpha Centaurians (if they exist) can curl up on their g'zurbs and stuff their gullet-pouches with popcorn while enjoying Keaunu Reeves's performance.

Collaborations between scientists and filmmakers might be the order of the day, if a new National Academies of Science effort, The Science & Entertainment Exchange, takes hold. Endorsed by the Directors Guild of America, the exchange aims to hook up scientists with movie-makers to contribute expertise during the development of films. Jennifer Ouellette who runs a noted science blog (and is Carroll's wife) heads the effort.

Carroll, a science blogger himself, says he was a little surprised to meet filmmakers who expect to be criticized by scientists. "They come into the room saying please don't yell at me," he says. "It's clear scientists have done a certain job getting a certain reputation, something we need to work on." The one thing he would really like to see is movies predicting how often things don't work in science, "trial and error, that's reality for most scientists." Other than that, scientists really don't expect fictional stories to take a backseat to scientific verisimilitude, Carroll says. "Accurate or at least true to the spirit-of-science entertainment shouldn't be impossible."

"At least we have a sexy and smart scientist in our movie," Derrickson says. Scientists will likely, at least, appreciate that.

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