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Lab Coats in Hollywood


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In the gap between science fact and science fiction stands the motion picture and television science consultant. In this brisk, lively account, David Kirby provides us with a history of these often unheralded scientific ambassadors to Hollywood and the critical role they play in shaping how film and television makers depict science -- depictions which in turn shape how science is understood by the public at large. -- Zack Stentz, writer/producer ( Thor, X-Men: First Class, Fringe, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles) Kirby convincingly shows us that the interaction between science and cinema is not limited to the portrayal of scientists and science themes in the media, but can significantly contribute to shaping a movie's core concepts and -- even more interestingly -- scientists' own activity in the research sphere. -- Massimiano Bucchi, Professor of Science and Technology in Society, University of Trento Kirby makes a compelling case that scientists and filmmakers need each other. I know of no other book like it. -- David Saltzberg, Professor of Physics and Astronomy, UCLA, and Television Science Consultant There have been many books written on the intersection of science and Hollywood. But David Kirby's excellent tome is the first to examine seriously the role of the science consultant in the movie-making process and assess its potential impact. Lab Coats in Hollywood is essential reading for anyone who shares Kirby's passion for bringing science into the service of storytelling for the silver screen. -- Jennifer Ouellette, science writer and former director, National Academy of Sciences' Science and Entertainment Exchange We all know -- or think we know -- what science consultants do on Hollywood films: they check accuracy. They would be wrong. David Kirby shows the relation as much more complex, and vastly more interesting than that. Hollywood wants a landscape of verisimilitude, an elaborately produced naturalness, and legitimization of their image of the future. For their part, scientists can alter the public status of their fields and gain a powerful hand in articulating visions of how their own fields might work, from supercomputing to genetic alteration. This is an original study of a field that combines real knowledge of Hollywood films, scientist-consultants and science studies. It is fun to read, taking you to the back and forth between science and film everywhere from 2001 to Contact and Minority Report. I recommend it with enthusiasm. -- Peter Galison, Pellegrino University Professor in History of Science and Physics, Harvard University, and Producer/Director, Secrecy

About the Author

David A. Kirby is Senior Lecturer in Science Communication Studies at the Centre for the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine at the University of Manchester, England.


For movie-lovers everywhere, it provides a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at how art and science meet in producing motion pictures we find delightful. -Science
For that strange corner where science nut meets movie buff, this is a very enlightening book. -Booklist
From 'prophetic' early films like 1929's Woman in the Moon science-focused movies like 2001: A Space Odyssey to admitted fiascos like The Core, Kirby's command of the subject makes for entertaining reading and, likely, more informed viewing. -Publishers Weekly
[O]ne of the most in-depth books on the intersection of science and Hollywood to date.
Kirby's book is honest and true, well-researched, unique, and easy to read. -Jeff Schmerker, The Journal of Mind and Behavior
This is a must-read for anyone interested in popular representations of science. Kirby describes the ways that visual media interpret, naturalize, and engage with scientific theories (be they well-accepted, controversial, or fantastical), and how some scientists in turn manipulate cinematic depictions for their own ends. Plus, have I mentioned how much fun it is? -Carla Nappi, New Books in Science, Technology, and Society

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