Elevator Pitch Contest

By Sean Carroll | November 20, 2008 11:49 am

Yesterday’s launch event for the Science and Entertainment Exchange was a smashing success. The enthusiasm of everyone in the room was palpable, especially on the Hollywood side — these folks would love to be interacting more closely with scientists on a regular basis. (Let me pause to give a plug for Eleventh Hour, a show which I haven’t actually seen yet, but whose writers were complaining that they sometimes take grief for being too scientifically accurate.) I came away from the symposium with lots of new ideas, and also a deep-seated fear of our coming robot masters.

So, in honor of the new program, we hereby announce the Cosmic Variance Elevator Pitch Contest. I don’t know about you, but many folks I know with an interest in science take great pleasure in complaining about the embarrassing lack of realism and respect for the laws of nature apparent in so many movies and TV shows. Here’s your (fictional) chance to do something about it.

Opening scene: you step into an elevator at the headquarters of CBS/Paramount Television in Hollywood. (Unclear why you are there — perhaps to have lunch with your more-successful friend from high school, who works for their legal team.) There is only one other person in the elevator with you for the journey to the top floor — and it’s Les Moonves, President and CEO of CBS! (Again, unclear why he is taking the same elevator as you — we’ll fix that in post-production.)

Here is the perfect opportunity for your elevator pitch.

You have thirty seconds — which, as this blog is still a text-based medium, we’ll approximate as strictly 100 words or less — to pitch your idea for a new TV show that is based on science. It can be an hour drama, a half-hour sitcom, a reality show, game show, documentary, science fiction, whatever you like. For example:

I have an idea for a show called Cosmic Variance. It’s about seven scientists who blog during the day, but at night they fight crime! And to do it, they used advanced notions from modern physics and astrophysics, from adaptive optics to quantum decoherence. They’re young, they’re sexy, and they break hearts as they bust heads. But their university colleagues are already suspicious of their blogging, so they have to keep the crime-fighting activities completely secret. They have a deep underground lab where they carry out cutting-edge experiments, and there’s a canine sidekick named Sparky.

Okay, that’s a fairly silly example. I’m not eligible to win the contest. But you, the reader, are! So here are some of the ideas you want to keep in mind while polishing your pitch:

Most importantly: Les Moonves’s goal in life is not to make science look good. It’s to make money. So don’t pitch that this show would make the world a better place, or make science seem interesting; convince him that it’s exciting to everyone and will attract millions of eyeballs.

Use the science. For our purposes, we’re less interested in a show idea that tacks on some science to make things sound cool, as we are in a concept that couldn’t happen without the science.

Story is paramount. As much as we love accuracy and realism, there has to be a compelling narrative. You need to convince Moonves that people will be emotionally connected to the characters and their situation.

It’s easy to mock the efforts of others, but here’s a chance to see whether you could really put together a compelling show idea. Leave your entry in the comments. They will be judged by our crack team of scientists/bloggers/crime-fighters, and the winner will get a Cosmic Variance T-shirt. (We have plans to upgrade the quality of our current swag options.) Please note that there is not some hidden plan to actually make any TV shows out of this — we have no clout along those lines, so if you are a professional scriptwriter, don’t dump your plans out in public here on our blog. But if you’re a pro you already knew that.

And then: memorize your pitch! You never know when you might find yourself trapped in an elevator with the right person, and you have to be ready.

  • Low Math, Meekly Interacting

    Oh, man. Agreed, this is tough. I mean, the whole baffling thing about Hollywood & TV’s apparent increased interest in scientific accuracy is that it’s seemingly very difficult to market. Nothing glows an eerie green, nothing levitates, there are few, if any, explosions, experiments take days to get results instead of seconds, everybody has pretty average looks, people with poor social skills actually aren’t very entertaining, etc. I’ve always assumed that the kind of stuff I could write, or would laud for its realism, would have such a limited audience no one would ever pick it up. I admit it: I’m nowhere near creative enough to keep it real and make a wide swath of the public happy. Unless, of course, a wide swath of the public has very different tastes than I assumed…

  • Low Math, Meekly Interacting

    Ooops! Forgot to add “But I’ll give it a shot!”

  • Julianne

    Aw man, Sean! You stole my idea!

    Except the dog was going to be called “Buttons”.

  • gimpols

    How about…
    “Ow, my balls: A study of F=ma”
    Just go for a mix of MXC and in between sessions explain exactly how hard the last person hit the door-that-turned-out-to-be-solid.

    -34 words and out

  • http://sifter.org/~aglisi Garrett

    Hi Sean, I’ll bite. Several people have approached me about hosting interesting science shows, but I haven’t had a chance to describe an idea I think would be good.

    People don’t realize how much science goes into adventure sports and creating the accompanying gear. Over the years, I’ve had a chance to spend time with the inventors and athletes who make surfboards, snowboards, hang gliders, … and even see new sports invented, such as kitesurfing. This process of creation is all about science. Inventors think about what will and won’t work, make it, and test it — usually with a team of athletes to give feedback. It would be great to have a show where, for each episode, the host joined up with athletes and immersed themselves in a different adventure sport, including touring the workshops and talking science with the creators behind the gear. A fair amount of humor would come from the scientist-host as they tried out unfamiliar sports — a lot of things well understood in theory are incredibly difficult in practice. The show would be a hell of a lot of fun to do, and the audience could see how science works in a very practical, understandable, and entertaining way.

    Best,
    Garrett

  • Schwa

    So what if we had a Top Cancer Researcher show? The format would be pretty similar to Top Chef, except the quick challenges would be stuff like fastest/most accurate pipetting or fastest miniprep and the elimination challenges would be explaining the data they generated that day/week to a lay audience who would rate the contestants’ ability to explain the workings and significance of their work to the public. The judges could be the editors of Cell! Another option would be having lab groups compete instead of individuals, and you could compare things like the amount and quality of data they generate.

  • http://lablemminglounge.blogspot.com/ Lab Lemming

    Survivor: Grad school.

    Follow-up second season:
    Survivor: Grad school:
    Prelim preparation.

  • Eva Hubble

    Take a handful of scientists, sit em’ at a table and have them talk about interesting scientific shit. If it’s kind of boring, give em’ beer.

  • Matt

    A faux reality show that’s really a scripted comedy. Contestants are God, a super computer simulating the universe, and a Boltzmann Brain, all living together in a huge flat. Each week, they pit their respective universes against each other in a contest to win intellectual currency in the minds of the viewing public.

  • Tim

    When I read the title, I thought it was like the “bathroom stall pitch”. You know, when you’re in the stall make a humming noise until you get resonance from the walls, allowing you to measure the size of the stall? Oh well, just another science geek here, I guess.

  • Jason Dick

    New Horizons.

    Takes place about a century from now. Humanity has long since discovered that planets around other stars harbor life. We send out a ship to colonize a new world. This ship is a generation ship, where multiple generations of intrepid explorers will be born and die before it reaches its destination. This show follows their journey, where they are faced with mechanical failure, collisions with small dust grains that cause lots of damage, and people who just can’t take being trapped on the ship for their entire lives. Mostly it’d be about a human drama of extremely driven people who are in a difficult situation, and whose children are forced to carry the torch of their parents.

  • Jason Dick

    Oops! Went over by 17 words on the above post. Here’s my slightly revised pitch:

    Takes place about a century from now. Humanity has discovered planets around other stars harbor life. We send out a generation ship, where multiple generations of intrepid explorers will be born and die before it reaches its destination. This show follows their journey, where they are faced with mechanical failure, collisions with small dust grains that cause lots of damage, and people who crack under the stress of their situation. Mostly it’d be about a human drama of extremely driven people who are in a difficult situation, and whose children are forced to carry the torch of their parents.

    There! 99 words and basically the same content :)

  • Elliot

    The Pasadena Players

    A group of former Caltech students form a live theatre company in
    Pasadena which is a cover for their real purpose of dealing out justice.
    They deal with situations beyond the reach of law and serve the
    disenfranchised, by constructing real life dramas (ala Mission
    Impossible) that lead bad actors to appropriate outcomes . As former
    Caltech students, they employ scientific knowledge and tools in these
    dramas. They never use violence as they are funded by a reclusive
    billionaire who made his fortune in weapons but is deeply repentant and
    believes that violence can never resolve problems.

  • Count Iblis

    TV shows have to be spectacular, funny, interesting, certainly not boring. So, my proposal is to have a show in which we test out some of these ideas to see if they really work (and try to explain why it works or doesn’t work).

  • Tom Hendrix

    So I have this idea about this great movie, its about an intelligent guy. One day strange things start to happen. He is approached by these fysicists, and he has to choose between these two pills. He chooses the one that is radiating in the 0.7 micron frequency, and the fysicists tell him the copenhagen interpretation is wrong. They are able to travel to different universes using the many worlds interpretation. He finds out he is “the one”, he can see wave functions and manipulate the collapse of the wave functions (and other cool stuff, because he is “the one”). He and his friends now have to fight “the agents of the many worlds” (who in fact are string fysicists), because the agents want to use dark matter to create a singularity to roll up spacetime.

    Sounds cool right?

  • Imam Yahya, Commander of the Faithful, etc

    “Scientists investigating gravitational waves work out a way to use such waves to communicate with the inhabitants of a nearby brane world. To their amazement, they find that the aliens are believers in fundamentalist Christianity. A ruthless theorist from Caltech finds out about this and tries to eliminate the members of the team before they can communicate their findings to Sarah Palin.”

    Call it Brains vs Branes. Well, you didn’t say it couldn’t be a horror show.

  • Naveen

    Three guys share an apartment in Boston: a freelance writer training for an ultramarathon, a chemistry student who wants to work in a Michelin star restaurant, and a disillusioned theoretical physicist in grad school. The runner views himself as a lab rat and writes about his experiments with the latest training gadgets and techniques. The chemist hopes that molecular gastronomy will be his path to a dream job with Heston Blumenthal or Grant Achatz. The theoretician realizes how his math can be applied to topics ranging from tracking flu epidemics to studying the sociology of Facebook.

  • Low Math, Meekly Interacting

    Eh. I was thinking a grad. student in a fruit fly genetics lab with the usual troubles (inattentive supervisor and general P.I. from Hell, in crisis over career options and general panic about here thesis, etc.), and her hyper-politically active post-doc. boyfriend who works in a Level 3 microbiology lab studying a drug-resistant strain of [i]Y. pestis[/i] on the other side of town. Her boyfriend’s intensity and the politico-freaks he hangs out with have put their relationship in a state of limbo when she gets a distressed encrypted email from him, something about the FBI at his apartment and an outbreak of plague in some major city that’s on CNN in the background. Next thing she knows he’s a “person of interest”, and the only one he can trust is her..Unknown to her, he reveals, he’s gotten in a bit too deep with a modern-day Weather Underground, was looking for a way out, made some really bad decisions, and thinks he’s being scapegoated or framed. He swears he knows nothing about the outbreak, nor why Homeland Security thinks he has anything to do with it. He’s on unpaid leave, under surveillance, and is now as fearful of his erstwhile “friends” as the authorities. But he does know something, something so terrible he won’t even tell her, for fear of the danger she might be under if she knew too. She’s got to use her budding skills as a biologist, learn a whole lot of epidemiology and microbiology along the way, as well as get a crash course in clandestine sleuthing, to find out what the plague really is, where it came from, if her boyfriend is innocent, and if so, why and for who is he taking the fall.

    Or something, I dunno. That made my head hurt.

  • Low Math, Meekly Interacting

    Agh, totally missed the 100 word limit thing…

  • Andrew

    A black hole is created at the LHC but does not destroy the world…yet! As it turns out, a highly evolved alien civilization from another bubble universe detects the compact energy of newly created black hole and stabilizes it so that they can send messages through and eventually create a portal between universes. Very quickly they advance our knowledge of the sciences beyond the wildest imaginations of any physicists (turns out string theory was at least partially correct). Unfortunately for humans another advanced civilization has detected the black hole as well but they have much more sinister intentions…

    I totally ripped off John Cramer’s book Einstein’s Bridge. Someone should just make that into a TV show but remove all the crap about “reading” and “writing” genetic code. He should have just stuck to physics.

  • astromcnaught

    A physics book from the future falls into the home of young Ensten. She, with the help of her friends, begins to translate the text and create some marvelous devices. These devices assist the team in solving crime, etc mysteries. Super magnifying telescopes and microscopes, powerful particle weapons, super-conducting this and that, even a spot of biology. The local mechanics professor, small-minded Xyzzyst continually tries to steal the book but is ever-thwarted in his clumsy attempts. The dog is called Pharoah.

  • astromcnaught

    An enormous laser experiment blows a hole in local space-time. Things start to behave strangely, and hilariously, the world over. Young Ruford with the assistance of a mysterious mechanics professor has to adjust the parameters of reality back to normal. Different parameter each week. E.g. speed of sound drops to 1 meter a minute. Something electromagnetical causes clothes to start becoming transparent. Gravity becomes stronger…the world starts spinning faster…the moon draws closer…air becomes thicker…ice sinks. The dog’s called Rhombus.

  • A dead river

    Set before the Big Bang, everyone crammed into singularity, and thus interact outside our natural laws. For TV: it’s ridiculous and fantastic. For science: light is more prominent on a dark screen. The dog’s name is Cynthia Verity.

  • Jeremy

    Movie Title: Commutator Zero

    Movie Description: An alien, Z, who takes the form of a man, comes to earth from a far away galaxy. Actually, he comes from so far away that the physical laws in his home universe are much different from our own. One of the more interesting laws in his homeland is the “commutator zero” law, which is the name given for the fact that it does not matter what order you do things. Ever. For example, you would probably agree that the order of the following tasks is important for the ultimate outcome:

    1. Fill a pot with water
    2. Boil water
    3. Put hand in water
    4. Take hand out of water

    Now do this:

    1. Fill a pot with water
    2. Put hand in water
    3. Take hand out of water
    4. Boil water

    Very different outcomes due to a modest reordering of tasks, yes? But in Zuzuu (Z’s home planet, and universe, where also z and u are the only letters they have, so they have to use the same name for planet and universe, due of course to the very limited number of words they can actually create) the order does not matter! Wrap your head around that. Of course you can’t, it’s like trying to imagine a fourth spatial dimension, a new color, or a Brit with good teeth! (To the British readers: That was certainly a low blow, and very unoriginal. Here’s the problem though. My backspace key is quite honestly broken, so both you and I are stuck with that joke. Sorry.)

    Ok, so I hope you’re following. Now, Z comes to earth, and since he is used to the order of tasks never being an issue, hilarious occurrences, well, they occur. The first hilarious occurence will probably be the hand in the boiling water bit. I’m not sure how to motivate that scene, but it will come. Another hilarious occurrence could be when Z goes to the bathroom! Yes, you’ve probably already thought of this. Recommended order: Go to the bathroom, then clean yourself up. What Z does is this: Cleans himself up, then goes to the bathroom! Leaving himself unclean! Gross!

    So, after a good two hours of exploring Z and his interesting dilemma, the movie will “end” and the audience will be asked to leave. Once the patrons have left the theatre, the real ending will be shown to an empty theatre. This seemingly absurd conclusion of course is one final illustration, that indeed, on planet earth, the order of doing things is very important! This is art baby.

  • joulesm

    @ astromcnaught:
    Something electromagnetical causes clothes to start becoming transparent

    What a useful idea ;)

  • Elliot

    Since I was at exactly 100 words above, I did not include the dog. But as a brief addendum. The dog is a coonhound named “Feynmann”.

    e.

  • astromcnaught

    How about a super documentary where a brussels sprout* is subjected to extremes of nature…Flattened by gravity, shoved into a vacuum, heated to 2×10**20 degrees, frozen to absolute zero, suspended inside the worlds largest Van de Graf generator, LHC’d into pions, etc?

    *Could maybe use cauliflower, dunno, it’s hard to chose.

  • kim

    Mild mannered science teacher/blogger is fundamentalist, creationist, antivaccine, etc. Encourages others to be same. Except he’s not an earthling at all. He is actually an alian sent from Planet TMTS. TMTS is an advanced civilization with the ability to see into the future and they have realized that if Planet Earth continues on its scientific course, it will be a rival to TMTS within 500 years. The teacher has been sent to Earth to encourage earthlings to follow fundamentalist religions and junk science theories as a way to derail scientific progress on Earth, thus eliminating a future rival. Each week another nefarious plot of his is disrupted by real scientists doing real science. And his hot wife looks just like sarah palin.

  • Matt

    The pre-pitch (to sell you guys on what I’m about to pitch, not Les yet):
    If science is to be an integral part of the show, almost a character in its own right, it needs to be in fundamental conflict with something. Otherwise it becomes little more than set dressing. To keep it front and center in the structure of the show, I propose that the primary source of tension should be the struggle between scientific thinking, and non-scientific thinking. As often as not, this battle is waged within the mind of the main character.

    Now, the Moonves pitch:
    A lapsed cardinal with a rigorous scientific background is called back into service by the Pope. When the vatican is under pressure to bestow sainthood on a politically inconvenient deceased priest, they dispatch the show’s hero. Our cardinal has secret instructions to debunk the would-be saint’s requisite “miracles”, thereby denying sainthood. He does so with scientific acumen and great aplomb. Each week, he struggles with being used by an organization he doesn’t respect, as well as his own emotional desire to believe in something beyond the cold materialism he practices. Both cynical and hopeful, the show illuminates the boundary between evidence and faith, in a (perhaps Sisyphean) struggle to find a balance between the two.

  • Dave

    Would love to see a series based on the events of “Far-Seer” by Robert Sawyer. I know this isn’t a pitch for my own idea, but how can you beat this?

    “Imagine a distant world that parallels the technology and ideology of Galileo’s time. Our hero sets off on pilgrimage armed with the newly invented telescope, and not only discovers that their world is not the center of the universe, but that their world is like a moon going around Jupiter. Furthermore, he discovers that his homeworld is orbiting dangerously close to the Jupiter-like planet, and the whole world is in danger of being torn apart in a few generations as the orbit continues to decay. Ultimately, the heroes have to fight against church and state to change their society’s world views and to try to push their civilization to the space age before it’s too late.”

    Furthermore, in the book all the fauna on the planet has decended from dinosaurs that were transplanted by aliens millions of years previously – don’t know if the dinosaur part would sell to Moonves as well as it would to me… :-)

  • http://Cosmicvariance Simian

    A whacky group from PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Atoms) go from particle accellerator to particle accellator to stop the smashing of innocent atoms. In the process of rescuing atoms, “missing energy” is reported for collisions (which never really happened), leading to hilarious consequences for physicists, who think they have discovered black holes, extra dimensions, and dark matter/energy. The heroes have a dog named “Scraps.”

  • astromcnaught

    Whump.
    “Oh no, it’s you again”
    “Look Mr. Moonves, this one’s really great.”
    “Will you stop bugging me, your ideas are lousy, you have no commercial sense whatever. And you smell real bad.”
    “No, I mean yes, but you’ll love this one. Really.”
    Moonves sticks his fingers in his ears and starts humming.
    “This monolith appears on the moon…”
    “What?”
    “Er, We shrink folk and inject them into…”
    “Look, I’m about to call security”
    “Ok, Ok, Here we go. This kid gets shorted into a robot, vectored into a calculating machine.”
    “I’ll vector you!”
    “Yeah, wait, all the kid sees is math, equations of state, he’s stuck in the machine. No one believes his cries for help.”
    “I’m gonna cry.”
    “You must see, a thinking being in an algorithm, eh? Stuck fast to persuade with nothing but words.”
    Ping!
    “My floor.”
    “Is that that you, Mr. Moonves? Is that you in the machine too?”

  • http://scienceblogs.com/ethicsandscience Dr. Free-Ride

    My pitch is posted at my blog.

  • http://whenindoubtdo.blogspot.com/ Eugene

    I would say they should just revive MacGyver : the Caltech Days.

  • Julianne

    I nominate “The dog is named …” as the latest internet meme. Append after any slightly hair-brained scheme you’re suggesting.

    “…and then if the molecule radiatively de-excites before the next cosmic ray collision, then you can reproduce the bump in the spectrum. And the dog is named Scraps.”

  • astromcnaught

    “Hooray! Of course, there’s no saying who has hair…” said Rufus.

  • http://sciencefictionbiology.com Peggy

    I haven’t seen Eleventh Hour, so I can’t comment from personal experience, but from what I’ve read about the show I’m surprised they are being criticized for being too scientifically accurate, as opposed to too gory or too or too over-the-top.

    Here’s my pitch: Friends in a top university molecular biology lab. Three young men and three young women – a couple of postdocs, grad students, a Sigma sales rep and a departmental administrator – find love and laughs as they run gels, hang out in the departmental lounge, attend conferences, and interact with the other wacky lab denizens. Plenty of opportunity for sight gags, such as an unbalanced ultracentrifuge “walking” through a wall or the noob grad student accidentally setting her bench on fire. And lots of opportunities for romantic situations: all-night sample collecting in the cold room, working closely in the darkroom, or a mixup that puts our male and female postdoc in the same hotel room at the AAAS conference. And what holds them together is their love/hate relationship with their research.

  • HP

    The Uncertainty Principle. A serial drama about particle physicists doing a Big Experiment of some kind [NB: I am not a particle physicist [[and the brackets don’t count toward my word count]]]. Sure, some of them are socially inept geeks with unusual hair choices, but some are “normal” [whatever that is] and some are drop-dead gorgeous Hollywood types.

    The season-long story arc involves their efforts to secure funding for the Big Experiment. Along the way, we get to see their passion for the science, as well as their passions for each other. Romances blossom while marriages fail; money and power corrupt friendships. The focus is on the human drama, not neutrinos or the Higgs Boson or whatever. But the background science is top-notch and fully vetted, and the dedication of the scientists to their work is always evident. It’s ER meets Dallas, with nerds.

    Season finale: They run the experiment, and the results are … inconclusive. And that sets up season 2.

  • Fermi-Walker Public Transport

    World wide, there has been a number of mysterious disappearances of scientists and engineers, who according to colleagues, were on the brink of revolutionizing their respective fields. The FBI has two agents, Ted and Alice, assigned to track down who or what is responsible for these disappearances and why. Each episode finds them investigating the disappearance of one specific person, learning about the research of that scientist or engineer and how this may figure in the bigger mystery. Think X-files, but with disappearing geeks instead of UFOs.

  • Elliot

    Fermi-Walker,

    I love this premise. Particularly because I can think of at least 5 or 6 possible parties responsible for the disappearance. This would create all manner of opportunities to keep the plots going. Anyway here’s the list of potential abductors I came up with:

    1) The U. S. Government
    2) Criminal Syndicate
    3) Extraterrestrials
    4) A fundamentalist/Luddite religious Sect
    5) Nameless Powerful Multinational Corporation
    6) International Terrorists

    This one could be a lot of fun and the opportunity to teach science is implicit in the plots.

    Cheers,

    e.

  • astromcnaught

    One last attempt for the T shirt…
    This time a drama of conflict; intense, intellectual and personal.

    Modern science goes mad?
    “High energy science had been stuck for decades. Nothing new could be found. Yet the concensus was dreaming towards new dimensions of thought, new universes of reality. Further and further they plunged, excited by their dreams. Yet one or two brave souls could not agree. They thought they could see through the shimmering gleam of the new mathematics. This story is of the battles, the arguments and the entrenched viewpoints coming to boil. Yet always revealing some view of the new nature of reality which appears to be emerging.”

  • http://physicsmuse.wordpress.com Sandy

    First we need a strong and beautiful female lead (a painkiller Jane). She is infiltrating a secret lab where scientists are doing work that they REALLY want to keep secret. Why? For a number of reasons. 1) Some are discovering that everything is due to chance 2) Some are working on new recreational drugs. 3) The few scientists working on meaningful research are subject to constant backstabbing and sabotage from their evil and lazy colleagues. Whatever it is, its not ready for prime time (but that’s exactly where its going). The dog is grafy.

  • http://www.cthisspace.com Claire C Smith

    Lift goes vertically uuupp all floors then the same lift goes horizontally aacrrooss building on the top floor level (visual).

    Says to Les Moonves,

    “I just wanted to prove to you that Physics is just inverse square laws and things that go at right angles to other things”.

    Claire

  • Liam

    You know…. i think i would watch any of these shows.

    NUMB3Rs was good..for a while. we could definitely use more geeky, action, romance, hilarious, smart, science related programing. The closest thing right now is “Fringe”….the main scientist is quite noble..but also mentally ill. and its more pseudo-science (something the characters have commented on) and total fiction than anything. but its success is heartening, perhaps it will open up the market for this kind of show.

    “At some point the public at large has to step up to the plate in terms of scientific and policy literacy, in terms of commitment to education and strong and effective political leadership, and in terms of their own general self-improvement.”

    there really hasn’t been anything brilliant on the telly since Arrested Development.

    perhaps in addition to the dog, there could be a cat named Schrodinger

  • Fermi-Walker Public Transport

    Thanks Eliot,

    The large number of possible parties responsible for the disappearances means that the plot can have more “red herons” than available from a fishing fleet.

  • Fermi-Walker Public Transport

    OOps, meant “red herrings”.

  • Elliot

    Fermi,

    Just one more item

    you forgot your dog….

    ;)

    e

  • onymous

    Whatever it is, it should star Kristen Bell and Michael Cera.

  • mr paul

    Piled Higher and Deeper – a sitcom based on the cartoon by Jorge Cham.

    Or, xkcd a bizarre collection of shows based on the extremely funny cartoon by Randall Munroe

  • mr paul

    Lab B10: Dr. Tangen loses funding for his lab in room B10 of Edwin Hall. Tangen moves to a new university, and only appears occasionally. We follow the “three tenners” (as they call themselves) as they move on in their lives. Stan, who spent more time home-brewing than studying, opens a microbrewery, and they opt to continue the weekly lab meeting, now on Wednesday night at Stan’s “H Bar.” Jenny changes to a new group, while post-doc Hank gets a job at a local engineering firm. The three share their struggles with new lives, life outside “hard-science”, and have fun.

  • too much

    “Reality” show in which scientists make project proposals. In order to win funding, they must explain their proposals to non-technical lay people with whom they are forced to live.

    When I read “elevator pitch”, I first assumed it was pitch in the navigational sense — sort of like Willy Wonka’s elevator which had pitch, yaw and roll.

  • mr paul

    The Scientist: Twelve undergraduates and graduate students participate in this reality show modeled after The Apprentice. Each week, they are divided into two teams and assigned a task. Tasks are a mixture of things active scientists in academia and industry or those educated in science but employed elsewhere are likely to encounter, including finding funding for a project, teaching an unruly high-school class, guiding a TV show on scientific matters, explaining a complicated topic to a news reporter, allocating limited funding to a set of projects, modeling a complex business problem, etc. The winner gets a 1-year job at Discover.

  • mr paul

    funny, I was busy typing my reality show, just as “too much” was typing too.

    Damn, 100 words is hard. I had all sorts of interesting plot ideas for Jenny, Stan, Hank, and others, but had to cut it all out. Which is good. Ultimately, good writers will make or break a show, not little early character sketches. The best shows survive fine when characters leave. And the show can’t really be ABOUT science. Just like MASH and Cheers were not about war or bartending, if the show is to reach a broad audience, it needs to focus on something to which everyone can relate – which pretty much is relationships. That is even true with good reality shows. One if the ideas I had for “The Scientist” was for Trump to appear in an episode and talk about how business is not about money, it is about relationships and passion for accomplishing something. But, in the end, it is still about money. And so it is with science and problem solving.

  • Federico

    The race for a future light against light collider promises to solve the mistery of the time dimension.
    The two leading scientific blocks convince politicians that whoever gets it first will dominate the future technology.
    The war for the top scientists takes over and no labs are safe anymore. Stupidity becomes the best disguise. The dog, Feyny, helps gorgeous and bright Jenny unite the undercover scientists and get help from the future.
    Are they just helping the winners? Or are scientific ideals stronger?
    And will Jennys lover Mark get away with his plot or will Feyny stop him?

    Well, there’s room for a follow up!

  • http://www.timelessinformation.com Armen Shirvanian

    This reminds me of the elevator pitches they gave at a recent tech start-up gathering, where up-and-coming companies had to describe the purpose of their company in the time it would take to go up an elevator with someone. They pointed out that if someone could not explain the role of their company in that period of time, they would have some work to do to be able to market their concept. The experience of riding with others in an elevator is one that is not going anywhere anytime soon, as buildings remain tall, and continue to be built even taller.

  • Buddy

    BLACK PROJECTS
    It is undeniable some of the top scientists today are working on government “black” or secret projects. What are these projects and what is the cutting science behind them? We try to separate fact from fiction in investigating these lesser known government projects and the fascinating potential of these new sciences.

  • Pingback: Elevator Pitches: Time for Focus-Group Input | Cosmic Variance | Discover Magazine()

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Cosmic Variance

Random samplings from a universe of ideas.

About Sean Carroll

Sean Carroll is a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Physics at the California Institute of Technology. His research interests include theoretical aspects of cosmology, field theory, and gravitation. His most recent book is The Particle at the End of the Universe, about the Large Hadron Collider and the search for the Higgs boson. Here are some of his favorite blog posts, home page, and email: carroll [at] cosmicvariance.com .

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