Source Code, a sci-fi thriller released last week, is based on the premise that science will let people really get into each other’s heads. The eponymous technology, the trailer tells us, is a computer program that “enables you to cross over into another man’s identity.” What results is a scenario that’s part Matrix, part Groundhog Day: lugged into the Source Code program, Jake Gyllenhaal—er, Captain Colter Stevens—lives through the last eight minutes of another man’s consciousness, just before the man’s train was blown up in a terrorist attack, in an effort to identify the bomber. (Stevens’s body, like Neo’s, stays in one place while his mind is elsewhere.) When the first run-through fails to turn up a culprit, Stevens relives those eight minutes again and again, having a different experience—new conversations, new sensations—each time.
Could something like that ever happen? While much of the technology in Source Code will remain purely fiction, says University of Arizona neuroscientist and electrical engineer Charles Higgins, modern science may eventually let us take a peek at, and even play around with, someone else’s consciousness. Among the movie’s technological inventions, Higgins says, “the idea of monitoring and influencing consciousness with a physical neural interface is the most plausible.”
Ever watched a science fiction movie and groaned when the science is spun, folded, and mutilated? Sure, outrageous science is fun, but so is making fun of it.
In that spirit, we’re happy to announce DISCOVER’s panel at Comic-Con 2010, in sunny San Diego. If you’re at the convention tomorrow (Thursday) night, come by for a little discussion we’re calling “Abusing the Sci of Sci-Fi.” It will run from 6-7 pm, in room 5AB.
The panel will be moderated by DISCOVER’s Bad Astronomy blogger Phil Plait, who will talk with five sci-fi movers and shakers about their favorite moments in good and bad sci-fi science. The panelists include two other DISCOVER bloggers: physicist Sean Carroll of Cosmic Variance and NASA scientist and Eureka advisor Kevin Grazier, who blogs here at Science Not Fiction.
These scientists will be joined on stage by three people who actually make the sci-fi happen: Jaime Paglia (producer and writer for Eureka), Zack Stentz (producer for Fringe and writer for the upcoming movie Thor), and Bill Prady (executive producer of The Big Bang Theory).
DISCOVER: The Science and the Fiction, a gallery of sublime and ridiculous science in sci-fi
Discoblog: World Science Festival: The Science of Star Trek
Discoblog: Scientists to Hollywood: Please Break Only 1 Law of Physics Per Movie