On Slate–Contagion: A dialogue about movies, viruses, and reasonable fear

By Carl Zimmer | September 8, 2011 5:36 pm

Last year, while I was working on a profile for the New York Times of a virus hunter named Ian Lipkin, he told me he was consulting on a Hollywood movie about the outbreak of a new pathogen. Kate Winslet would be an epidemiologist. Lawrence Fishburne would work at the Centers for Disease Control. He was hanging out with Gwyneth Paltrow. The director was Steven Soderbergh.

I had a hard time picturing all this.

In fact, he was not blowing a single puff of smoke my way. It was all true. A couple weeks ago, I got a chance to see the movie–called Contagion–which will be released tomorrow. I liked it very much, but, of course, I have a thing for viruses (and for scary movies). So be sure to delicately place a grain of salt on top of my upturned thumb. I’ve embedded the trailer below.

On the occasion of the release, Slate asked me to join in a written dialogue with Arthur Allen, the author of the book Vaccine and frequent contributor to Slate. We’ve each contributed a piece today, and tomorrow we’ll each contribute another. Allen opens, I return…and we continue tomorrow to talk about the issues that the movie raises, such as how much we should worry about (and direct resources towards) the next big virus.

WARNING: While the trailer below gives away little, in my Slate pieces I give away all!


Comments (4)

  1. David B. Benson

    That’s ok, Carl; I don’t do movies any more.

  2. Daniel J. Andrews

    We saw it Friday night. It is obvious the director not only had a science advisor but also listened to him/her. It was the most realistic plague movie I’ve ever seen–which made it all the more chilling. Not a scary movie with things jumping out of the dark or the usual bag of tricks, but scary as in, “This could really happen just like that”.


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The Loom

A blog about life, past and future. Written by DISCOVER contributing editor and columnist Carl Zimmer.

About Carl Zimmer

Carl Zimmer writes about science regularly for The New York Times and magazines such as DISCOVER, which also hosts his blog, The LoomHe is the author of 12 books, the most recent of which is Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed.


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