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Saturday, June 26, 2004

(fictional) Science Role Models

Plotline: Cold warriors are out to eliminate an American scientist (Elisabeth Shue) who's developed a formula for cold fusion that could solve the country's energy crisis. (The Saint, 1997)

I don't know why, but the role of Dr. Emma Russell, despite the gaps in logic, seemed so realistic in so many ways. Particularly in the little details, as in the way she keeps all her notes scribbled on Post-Its and her naivete in other matters (I guess the cliche is absent-mindedness).

Second best: Val Kilmer (coincidentally co-star of Shue's in The Saint), playing the hot-shot student in the JPL-like school in Real Genius. He essentially reminded me of every student that breezed through school.

Richard Smalley says engineering and science role models are needed to dream up new solutions to the energy crisis and to attract students to a dwindling (since the moon push) supply of science graduate students. Be a scientist, save the world

Interesting, when asking this "favorite" question to several colleagues at work, one M.E. agreed on Shue (he claimed to be just thinking about this movie before I blurted out my own favorite) and another CompSci said without hesitation, Real Genius and proceeded to quote "“At times like this I remember the words of the immortal Socrates who said, ‘I drank what?”"

But after this, the pickings get slim. I have seen just a few of these, but based on my informal survey:
  • Never Cry Wolf - Charles Martin Smith as Arctic biologist (one that has been on my list to see forever)
  • Insignificance - Nicholas Roeg featuring an Einstein-like character in a kind of "what-if" scenario
  • Apollo 13 - Clint Howard as the wisecracking engineer manning the boards at Houston central command
  • Stargate - Kurt Russell and James Spader as SciFi explorer/scientists.
  • Naked Gun series - The comical deadpan Forensic Scientist Ted Olson1
  • Marathon Man - Dustin Hoffman as a meek history Columbia U graduate student. Not exactly a scientist, but he liked running and had the research down pat.
  • Chain Reaction - Keanu Reeves, not very memorable, IMO.
  • Incredible Hulk - Bruce Banner, for completeness

The Discovery Channel produced an awful list of Top 10 Movie scientists that serves to purely irritate. This list is equivalent to saying the Top 10 movie athletes would include Air Bud and Robin Williams as Flubber.

1 No, not the Ted Olsen that resigned from the Bush cabinet.


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