science | January 01, 2013

Movie Science Isn't Anything Like Real Science: Janna Levin on BBC

We all know that we are supposed to suspend our disbelief when we watch movies and television shows. As Janna Levin explains in a video segment on the BBC, this is especially true when it comes to the science shown in film and on TV. Levin was one of several prominent real-life scientists asked to discuss the blatant errors and misconceptions about the scientific community that are portrayed in the media. As Levin explains, whenever there is a problem that a scientist needs to address on the big or small screen, it is always solved within a five minute span and generally never requires going back to the drawing board to come up with a Plan B. In real life however, the process rarely, if ever, works that fast—or that easily. "Science involves a lot of very slow processing of ideas and mistakes and missteps," she says. While one obviously has to consider the fact that time restraints require things to happen more quickly on screen than in real life, she says it is extremely amusing to her that movie scientists are able to solve the world's problems so quickly.

Accessible and entertaining, Levin combines the smarts of a cosmologist with the compelling narrative style of an author in her keynotes and media appearances. She is the author of two books, A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines and How the Universe Got Its Spots, a Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Barnard College of Columbia University, and a new Guggenheim Fellow. Her research is eye-opening and revolutionary and she is skilled at conveying her findings to any audience. It may take her more than five minutes to come up with her discoveries—but she is able to take her audiences to the furthest reaches of scientific study and relate it back to our everyday lives, all within the span of a keynote speech.