Pop culture has seen a recent resurgence of science in its mediums of film and television.
Thanks to shows like Breaking Bad and even The Colbert Report, the sciences have become something audiences are more attracted to actively seek out. Inspired, we have collected five instances where this field of study has influenced popular culture and even at times helped form it.
This series which has found a huge fan base around the world has brought an incredible fascination to the endless possibilities of time travel. Most are usually just wibbly wobbley timey wimey theories that are fun to think about. However, some of the folks over at Cornell have done a study and deduced that if a time travel vehicle like the T.A.R.D.I.S. were to exist that it would be better referred to as a Traversable Achronal Retrograde Domain In Spacetime. It’s very theoretical and would require it to be moved backwards faster than the speed of light on curved space time, which in a sense is essentially what the TARDIS does. However, it would have to be made by “weird unphysical matter” which doesn’t exist. To be fair the show mostly exists in very fantastical science fiction, but it’s still fun to see what fictional technologies could be rooted in very real technologies. As far as the sonic screwdriver goes, it has been made into a universal remote.
Over the years since Titanic’s release, director and proclaimed science nerd James Cameron would get constant “snarky” emails from Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson telling him that the sky Rose looks up at was not the correct sky, that audiences were seeing random stars and a mirror image of the same clusters on screen instead of the actual star field from the night the ship sank. It resulted in a very public and witty banter in the media between the two addressing the star issue as the years went on. Tyson would go on to playfully chide James about this even through promotion for Avatar, pointing out how much the sky blemished Titanic’s accuracy. So, for the IMAX 3D re-release Cameron had Tyson send him the correct star map of the night the Titanic sank with the correct positions of the constellations that would have been in view for Rose to put in his picture.
Breaking Bad (Series Spoilers Ahead)
Chemistry was truly catapulted into the the spotlight with what could be considered the greatest drama of our generation. In Breaking Bad, anti-hero Walter White starts off as a chemistry teacher diagnosed with cancer. He, along with former student Jesse Pinkman, embarks on a harrowing journey to produce the purest meth on the streets – “Blue Sky”. It followed their rise to prominence as drug kingpins and captivated audiences during its five season run. The show also drew attention to the scientific methods behind W.W.’s madness and blinded people with science.
The series finale title has been speculated to be embedded with clues that allude to the end of the show. If you separate the letters as such: Fe Li Na, which is a three element word composed by the symbols for Iron (Fe), Lithium (Li), and Sodium (Na), which are elements that represent blood, meth and tears. And yes, there have even been cases of life imitating art when a meth bust of real life “Blue Sky” that turned out to be drugs colored baby blue with food coloring. Heisenberg they are not.
Sherlock uses various methods of deduction and science for his cases, but a notable example is in “The Great Game”. In the beginning there is a casual reference that reveals Sherlock doesn’t have elementary knowledge of astronomy, which he in his defense declares that he only takes up space in his mind with fields of study that would pertain to his work. This is key, because after a few cases set up for him to solve under time constraints by Moriarty, he is challenged to figure out how an art piece is a forgery. The curator of the gallery where this painting hangs refutes his claim and denies that it’s a fake but as Sherlock begins to unravel clues, including the help of a Professor who had projected an astronomy presentation around them before she died. Finally, as Sherlock faces the painting with time running out he realizes that the Van Buuren Supernova in the painting appeared in 1858, and thus could not have been painted by the original artist or be in the original work from the 1640s.
Recently, a team of scientists with the aid of art historians used the known dates Monet painted the Normandy coast in one of his pieces to determine the exact time it was created. Forensic astronomers traveled to France to the exact location to scout where he painted, plugged in the sun’s position on the canvas into a planetarium’s star field software to nail down the time by matching it with the tide in the piece to finally settle on February 5, 1883 at 4:53 p.m.
And in a reversal of sorts, because pop culture has become so influenced by science recently, it has prompted the reboot of a beloved show. Cosmos: A SpaceTime Odyssey is scheduled to return this year for a 13 part series hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson starting March 9 on Fox and March 10 on National Geographic. The new show follows Sagan’s fondly remembered series and is produced by Seth MacFarlane (creator of Family Guy). The news that it’s going to be on Fox is a surprise, but MacFarlane and Sagan’s widow Ann Druyan are confident in bringing Tyson’s brand of explaining things in fun layman’s terms to a broader audience.
Here’s hoping Aaron Paul will make an appearance.
Images: BBC, Paramount, AMC, Fox