Mutants, Androids, and Cyborgs: The science of pop culture films

October 7, 2010

The other day I was talking through the thin air on my Star Trek communicator while scanning genetically altered food with a laser when I noticed a guy with a bionic leg riding a gravitationally guided two-wheel vehicle! Yes - science fiction has both influenced and been influenced by the world of the scientifically possible.‚  Anyone carrying around a smartphone (you might even be reading this on one) is demonstrating that Gene Roddenberry effectively foresaw its creation in the 1966 television series. The fax machine was predicted by Jules Verne in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.‚  Hal 9000, in 2001, apart from his apparent psychotic episode, is a robotic system that people live inside just like your climate controlled office space.‚  Cyril Kornbluth's The Marching Morons -- the original version of Idiocracy --  predicts the basic idea is that selection now favors the stupid, and so if we go forward in time, that's what we'll see. Breeze Richardson (Executive Producer of the Off-Air Live Event series) and I liked this idea - a lot.‚  She likes smart events and I have my bathroom decorated with Marvel and DC action figures and own an original lightsaber from 1977. So we contacted the folks at Northwestern University's Science in Society and they, in turn, invited four of the top scientists in the country to join Clever Apes Gabriel Spitzer onstage to screen clips from classic science fiction films and give our listeners the scoop on what is and is not currently possible. Come hear Todd Kuiken, MD, PhD, the director of the‚ Neural Engineering Center for Artificial Limbs (NECAL), Malcolm MacIver, PhD, a scientific consultant for the Disney film TRON: Legacy and an associate professor at NWU, Tom Meade, PhD, the founder of four biotechnology companies and holder of more than 60 issued patents, and Catherine Woolley, PhD, who studies plasticity, or the capacity for structural and functional change, of neural circuits in the brain, focusing on brain areas important in learning and memory, addiction, and epilepsy.‚  Guided by Spitzer, these four mega-brains will answer the following questions and more:

  • Can we really get a cool bionic hand like Luke Skywalker?
  • Can we actually build crazy spider robots that can scan our retinas for ID?
  • Is it possible to pretend to be another person down to the DNA?
  • I wanna erase someone from my memory.‚  Can I?
  • AND I want to learn Kung Fu without practicing.‚  At all.‚  What are the odds?

Featuring film clips from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, Minority Report, Gattaca, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and Matrix and a reception of movie snacks, soda and Goose Island Beer, this will be the smartest thing you attend all year. Come absorb the smartness...er...intelligenciest...um...Come be made to know things!! Mutants, Androids, and Cyborgs: The Science of Pop Culture Films Ryan Family Auditorium, Technological Institute Northwestern University - Evanston Campus 2145 Sheridan Road Evanston, IL 60201 Wednesday, October 20 Doors open at 6:00PM Program starts at 7:00PM

Tickets$15/general admission $12/WBEZ members $10/students (with valid ID)
Categories