For the third year in a row, Discover hosted a panel on science in science fiction at this year’s Comic-Con. This year’s edition was moderated by Phil Plait and featured a great lab-meets-film panel: Jamie Paglia (creator of Eureka); Kevin Grazier (JPL planetary physicist, Science Not Fiction blogger); Zack Stentz (writer for Fringe, Thor); and Sean Carroll (Caltech theoretical physicist, Cosmic Variance blogger).
The conversation was good and lively, with a nice mix of funny and interesting bits. But don’t take my word for it:
Spring boarding from Amos’ post on Thursday’s Discover panel, I want to delve into some unexplored tension. The panel focused on how science could make storytelling better, and it included a mix of scientists and TV writers.
Jamie Paglia (Co-creator of Eureka) conceded that sometimes he’s had to “stretch the boundaries a little thin for my comfort zone,” and he was somewhat abashed thinking of those moments. But Fringe producer Zach Stentz threw down the gauntlet.
“Sometimes you have to break the rules to tell the story you want to tell,” he said, and ran a Fringe clip in which Olivia and Peter realize that Bell has extracted memories from Walter’s brain by removing actual pieces of Walter’s brain.
“He literally had his memories removed,” Stentz said. “We knew when we wrote it that memories aren’t stored in a discrete portion of your brain.”
Which I thought was a pretty direct challenge to Kevin Grazier, Sean Carroll, and Phil Plait, all scientists trying to make the case that accurate science can ratchet up the tension and provide a more satisfying resolution.
Alas, the argument never got going, and it left me wondering: where’s the line between acceptable and unacceptable scientific rule breaking?