July 20, 2016
From: Reddit AMA
Everyone likes to point out the scientific inconsistencies in sci-fi movies & TV shows (e.g., completely ignoring the laws of physics). But what do filmmakers miss when they portray scientists and innovators themselves?
I’m often quite shocked at how bad the portrayals of science are even in high-budget movies. Sometimes I can see that getting the science wrong is necessary in order to have the story work. But often the bad science seems to be quite gratuitous. And I have to believe that for extremely little extra effort there’d be an extra market for these movies etc. if they got the science right.
A few years back, my company made the math content for a TV show called Numb3rs—and people really seemed to appreciate the “real math” (see http://numb3rs.wolfram.com/). The Wolfram Language and Mathematica get used a lot to create effects and sometimes displays for movies (e.g. by Kip Thorne et al. for Interstellar: https://www.wolfram.com/mathematica/customer-stories/academy-award-visuals-mathematica-wolfram-language.en.html).
About a year ago I happened to get involved in doing science consulting for a fairly big-budget movie that’s now called Arrival that’s supposed to be released this fall. It was an interesting experience; I’m very curious how the actual movie will come out. Who knows, perhaps some of my mannerisms will even wind up portrayed by the actor who’s a physicist in the movie… (Oliver Sacks once told me what an uncanny experience he’d had watching Robin Williams portray him in a movie and interpret his various mannerisms so well…)