The Science Behind Dan Brown's Angels and Demons
Matthew C. Nisbet, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Communication Studies, Public Policy, and Urban Affairs at Northeastern University. Nisbet studies the role of communication and advocacy in policymaking and public affairs, focusing on debates over over climate change, energy, and sustainability. Among awards and recognition, Nisbet has been a Visiting Shorenstein Fellow on Press, Politics, and Public Policy at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, a Health Policy Investigator at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and a Google Science Communication Fellow. In 2011, the editors at the journal Nature recommended Nisbet's research as “essential reading for anyone with a passing interest in the climate change debate,” and the New Republic highlighted his work as a “fascinating dissection of the shortcomings of climate activism."
On the road giving talks this spring and in several forthcoming articles, I recommend that one way to widen the net in terms of public engagement is to hook science around entertainment media. A leading initiative I spotlight is the National Academies' Science & Entertainment Exchange which pairs scientists with TV and film producers. A recent success was the incidental news coverage generated by scientific consultation on the movie-version of The Watchmen.
This week comes another great strategy for "going broad" with science communication. As the NSF spotlights, more than 45 lectures are taking place across the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico as part of the series "Angels and Demons: The Science Revealed". Events are also planned in particle physics institutions across Europe, Asia, Central and South America.
As the sponsoring web site explains:
This May will see the world premiere of Angels & Demons, an action-packed thriller based on Dan Brown's best-selling novel that focuses on an apparent plot to destroy the Vatican using a small amount of antimatter. In the book and the movie, that antimatter is made using the Large Hadron Collider and is stolen from the European particle physics laboratory CERN. Parts of the movie were actually filmed at CERN. It's not every day that a major motion picture places particle physics in the spotlight, especially one starring Tom Hanks and directed by Ron Howard. Through a series of public lectures, the particle physics community is using this opportunity to tell the world about the real science of antimatter, the Large Hadron Collider and the excitement of particle physics research.
The Web site is impressive as is the national and local coordination in terms of media outreach. I will be interested to track the initiative as an important case study and to learn about any formal evaluation that takes place.
New research links urban planning and political polarization.
- Canadian researchers find that excessive reliance on cars changes political views.
- Decades of car-centric urban planning normalized unsustainable lifestyles.
- People who prefer personal comfort elect politicians who represent such views.
Progressive America would be half as big, but twice as populated as its conservative twin.
- America's two political tribes have consolidated into 'red' and 'blue' nations, with seemingly irreconcilable differences.
- Perhaps the best way to stop the infighting is to go for a divorce and give the two nations a country each
- Based on the UN's partition plan for Israel/Palestine, this proposal provides territorial contiguity and sea access to both 'red' and 'blue' America
Science and the squishiness of the human mind. The joys of wearing whatever the hell you want, and so much more.
- Why can't we have a human-sized cat tree?
- What would happen if you got a spoonful of a neutron star?
- Why do we insist on dividing our wonderfully complex selves into boring little boxes
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