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Guest Thinkers

The Science Behind Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons

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.


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