Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Can Movies Inspire Kids To Be Future Scientists?

CmdrTaco posted more than 3 years ago | from the look-at-all-the-kung-fu-pandas dept.

Education 298

Hugh Pickens writes "MSNBC reports on a recent panel that discussed studies showing that people, especially children, often model their behavior on what they see on the big (or small) screen and science shows up in many Hollywood films. In fact, 22 of the 60 top-grossing movies of all time are science-fiction or superhero flicks, including history's No. 1 box office hit, Avatar. The movie science doesn't even have to be entirely accurate, some of the panelists added when asked to consider the role and impact of science in cinema. As long as it plants a seed of curiosity in viewers, it may spur them to investigate scientific issues on their own — and perhaps consider a career in science down the road. 'It's not an educational medium, it's an emotional medium,' says Seth Shostak, an astronomer with the SETI Institute in Mountain View, Calif. 'Kids get turned on by the emotion.' Interestingly enough although movies work hard to get the science right, many make errors ranging from the understandable to the egregious, but that's ok, say the panelists. 'Even if a film or media product is not very accurate, that becomes a teaching moment,' says Arvind Singhal. 'So there's room for everything.'"

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Bogus. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34692342)

What a load of moldy old baloney.

Avatar is what? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34692372)

Avatar is a modern fantasy, not science fiction. There's barely anything plausibly speculative about Avatar. The few pieces of plausible fiction (cold sleep, avatars, aliens, and mechs) are plot devices, not plot points. All of the actual plot is implausible speculative fantasy.

Re:Avatar is what? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34692612)

Sure is no Star Trek.

Re:Avatar is what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34692742)

So they create the first movie depiction of an alien world, making every part of that alien world at as plausible as possible by obeying the physical laws, by making the creature able to walk and fly for real, and give every part of the world a purpose as a part of the living biosphere, and you say it's not science fiction? If it wasn't science fiction why didn't they just put dragons and magic, and probably some trolls?

Re:Avatar is what? (2)

Alex Belits (437) | more than 3 years ago | (#34692812)

and probably some trolls?

Trolls are not fantasy, you have just responded to one.

Re:Avatar is what? (3, Insightful)

BobMcD (601576) | more than 3 years ago | (#34692792)

Didn't read the article, did ya? The protagonists in Avatar are all scientists. They go on to win the day. Ergo, kid scientists. The movie doesn't need to be about lab tests and submitting papers to have the desired effect...

Re:Avatar is what? (2)

zarzu (1581721) | more than 3 years ago | (#34693218)

Oh really? And there I was thinking the main character was a former marine who had absolutely no understanding of science and simply stumbled into everything. I was also under the misconception that the whole movie was resolved in an armed conflict, where scientists were hardly more than feel-good side characters that provided the necessary moral frame for the main act, which was senseless war.

wargames (1)

slriv (473167) | more than 3 years ago | (#34692386)

need I say more?

The problem in the US... (0, Flamebait)

theNAM666 (179776) | more than 3 years ago | (#34692402)

Is not to inspire future scientists. It is that every kid with an IQ of 90 or more is told that they can be a doctor, lawyer, or scientist, and allocated resources as if they could, when only the 1st percentile or less can actually fill these positions.

I don't see how 'movies' solves this problem: instead, it makes people with Wal-Mart skills, think that they *should* have a better lot in life, and resent that something is wrong if they don't, and spend money trying to get degrees that are meaningless, and so forth ad infinitum.

Re:The problem in the US... (4, Insightful)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 3 years ago | (#34692434)

It is that every kid with an IQ of 90 or more is told that they can be a doctor, lawyer, or scientist

Who is telling them that? Last I checked, we were telling our children that they should aspire to be either businessmen or celebrities.

Re:The problem in the US... (1)

theNAM666 (179776) | more than 3 years ago | (#34692570)

Those kids must be going to the school designated for the second arc. With the hairdressers.

Re:The problem in the US... (1)

k6mfw (1182893) | more than 3 years ago | (#34692600)

Who is telling them that? Last I checked, we were telling our children that they should aspire to be either businessmen or celebrities.

They may also simply be following the money stream. There is lots of discussion about inspiring children to become engineers (i.e. STEM, Engineers Week, etc) and there is always the example of Sputnik. But then in 1958 there was a huge influx of money into schools and govt contracts, so not surprising many followed it.

Re:The problem in the US... (2)

Pharmboy (216950) | more than 3 years ago | (#34692654)

Who is telling them that? Last I checked, we were telling our children that they should aspire to be either businessmen or celebrities.

Or a basketball/football/baseball player. Or a rock star, or supermodel, or simply a celebrity, which is even better since you don't have to have any appreciable talent. (Snooki, Paris, Charro, etc.)

Re:The problem in the US... (1)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 3 years ago | (#34692890)

OK, keeping in mind this is /., could you please tell me who Charro is? I swear to you, this is not a troll post.

Re:The problem in the US... (1)

Pharmboy (216950) | more than 3 years ago | (#34692996)

My bad, one too many r's: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charo [wikipedia.org]

I just wanted to include someone not very current.

Re:The problem in the US... (1)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 3 years ago | (#34692922)

Charo has a couple of appreciable talents.

Re:The problem in the US... (1)

NiceGeek (126629) | more than 3 years ago | (#34692982)

Um, if you mean Charo, she is actually an amazingly talented flamenco guitarist.

Re:The problem in the US... (3, Interesting)

Pharmboy (216950) | more than 3 years ago | (#34693114)

Um, if you mean Charo, she is actually an amazingly talented flamenco guitarist.

While you are completely correct in this, however, it is not why she is a celebrity nor what she is primarily known for. I hesitated before including here, but decided she belonged solely because the vast majority of her public appearances have nothing to do with guitar, and many people who know who she is don't even know that she is a very good guitarist. To quote wikipedia: best known for her flamboyant stage presence, her provocative outfits, and her trademark phrase ("cuchi-cuchi").

I knew she played and have heard her many times, it was a judgement call. Basically, if she didn't have a giant rack and yell "cuchi cuchi", you likely would never had heard her play guitar, as she is pretty good, but not good enough to obtain celebrity for that alone. But technically, she *does* have an worthwhile talent, granted.

Re:The problem in the US... (2)

BobMcD (601576) | more than 3 years ago | (#34692814)

It is that every kid with an IQ of 90 or more is told that they can be a doctor, lawyer, or scientist

Who is telling them that? Last I checked, we were telling our children that they should aspire to be either businessmen or celebrities.

Guidance counselors are telling them that from Junior High. They're telling them to go to college. Then when they get to college and want to study 'underwater basket weaving', the colleges aren't kicking them out, they're actually offering PhD's in it.

Re:The problem in the US... (1)

causality (777677) | more than 3 years ago | (#34693416)

It is that every kid with an IQ of 90 or more is told that they can be a doctor, lawyer, or scientist

Who is telling them that? Last I checked, we were telling our children that they should aspire to be either businessmen or celebrities.

Guidance counselors are telling them that from Junior High. They're telling them to go to college. Then when they get to college and want to study 'underwater basket weaving', the colleges aren't kicking them out, they're actually offering PhD's in it.

And when we've reached the destination at the end of that path, we will have made a college degree (i.e. K-12 + college) into a much more time-consuming, much more expensive equivalent of what a high school diploma is today.

I wish that about three quarters of the energy, effort, and attention we pour into "inspiring kids" were instead put towards teenagers and young adults. You can have the most inspired children in the world; it won't matter much by the time peer pressure, celebrity worship, and your average high school curriculum gets through with them (my sig line is apropos).

Teaching them how to do basic things like balance a checkbook, manage credit, and live within their means so they can eventually build wealth would be a great starting point. From there you can teach them how to think critically, use logic, perform basic research, to understand what skepticism is and isn't. A generation or two of that and we'd have a much better and healthier society.

A few entrenched monied interests would also make less money that way, and that's the problem with actually implementing it.

Re:The problem in the US... (4, Insightful)

kerohazel (913211) | more than 3 years ago | (#34692696)

Intelligence is not fixed at birth. The brain is a muscle that can - and must - be exercised to fulfil its owner's potential.

And only the top percentile of humanity gets to have a job in the medicine/science professions? What sort of Gattaca-fueled world do you live in?

Re:The problem in the US... (2)

Interoperable (1651953) | more than 3 years ago | (#34692978)

Furthermore, being smart isn't everything in the sciences or the professional world. Being knowledgeable and creative will take you just as far, if not farther. I think that anyone with a passion for science could do very well in it, even if they're IQ is ranked fairly low during grade school.

What I see, is that people who seem dim are the ones who lack passion for any form of knowledge. Simply being interested in things makes the difference between being suited for working at Wal-Mart and being a doctor, a lawyer or a scientist. IQ doesn't play that big of a role.

Re:The problem in the US... (0)

theNAM666 (179776) | more than 3 years ago | (#34693312)

Hog-poop. IQ is a rough measure of problem-solving ability. Science is about problem-solving, medicine largely is, and law should be. If you don't have the neurons for it, you don't have the ability; someone with a greater than 150 IQ is five standard deviations above the average and is going to master (solve) a lot of problems faster and better than the average joe.

Anything else is liberal BS and wishful thinking. Deal with it.

Re:The problem in the US... (1, Insightful)

theNAM666 (179776) | more than 3 years ago | (#34693270)

Ever read the Bell Curve?

Sure, it "is not fixed." Perhaps you can train your brain to perform a half of a standard deviation above your average. But that's about it. It's reality. It's fixed.

You may not like that reality, but the kind of thinking you seem to be espousing, is that which makes my niece with a 19 ACT think she can get into a good college and get a scholarship, without work. She thinks she's entitled to it. And that's about all she thinks.

And I didn't say "a job in the science professions." I wrote "a scientist." And the reality is, only 1% of the population, more or less, has the intelligence and wherewithall to perform as a "scientist" and not a "research assistant."

How many professors are there in the US population, for instance? How many undergrads are taught that they can become professors? The difference is over 1:1000, and that's a problem.

Re:The problem in the US... (4, Insightful)

Saxerman (253676) | more than 3 years ago | (#34692714)

It's not just about inspiring kids to grow up and become scientists. It's also about how much the next generation will care about investment in a new fancy science fiction future. There are plenty of reason to want to cut government spending. And if you care nothing about space exploration and travel, you could easily see the budget of a government organization like NASA or the National Science Foundation as completely superfluous.

Pure science needs pure funding. If your lab is forced to spend more time worried about how to monetize an idea than to explore it's scientific ramifications, you end up in compromising positions of wanting to cut corners and fudge the numbers.

Re:The problem in the US... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34693112)

Almost half of the American population believes in creationism. If you're a jock (which I was), you get the respect of teachers, administration, family, friends, chicks. If you're any of a variety of nerds or geeks (which I also was, though more closeted), you are beat up, stuffed in a locker, and nobody cares to attend any of your events and you'll never get laid.

As long as we herald dog torturing football players and basketball thugs and belittle intellectual pursuit, there will be limited interest in the states.

Besides, the states are becoming nothing but a place of service industry. If you need actual work done, you hire someone overseas. If you need someone to fold pants or wait tables, you hire an American in America.

Re:The problem in the US... (1)

blincoln (592401) | more than 3 years ago | (#34692908)

The problem in the US... is not to inspire future scientists. It is that every kid with an IQ of 90 or more is told that they can be a doctor, lawyer, or scientist, and allocated resources as if they could, when only the 1st percentile or less can actually fill these positions.

Oh please. I didn't realize Charles Davenport was still alive, let alone had a Slashdot account.

Someone doesn't need to be a member of the Master Race to make a valuable contribution to society, and there are plenty of people with high IQs who waste their gift. And that's even assuming your original statement is accurate. I believe it's not.

I don't remember anyone being actively encouraged/motivated to go into *any* type of career when I was in school. There were a handful of AP classes for math, and one for science, but they were basically the same as skipping a year and going on to whichever one the older kids were taking.

I would love to see more emphasis on encouraging children to develop an interest in science. It makes it more likely that the ones who do have the most aptitude for it *and* a genuine long-term interest make use of their gifts. At the same time, it can potentially increase the overall knowledge of the others, who either decide they don't have enough interest or have skills better suited to some other field.

Re:The problem in the US... (1)

demonbug (309515) | more than 3 years ago | (#34692944)

Is not to inspire future scientists. It is that every kid with an IQ of 90 or more is told that they can be a doctor, lawyer, or scientist, and allocated resources as if they could, when only the 1st percentile or less can actually fill these positions.

I don't see how 'movies' solves this problem: instead, it makes people with Wal-Mart skills, think that they *should* have a better lot in life, and resent that something is wrong if they don't, and spend money trying to get degrees that are meaningless, and so forth ad infinitum.

Seriously? You think lawyers are in the top 1%?

I'm sure there are some lawyers in the top 1%, but it isn't exactly a requirement...

Likewise, although to a lesser extent, it is quite possible to be a good scientist without being one of the intellectual elites - you may not be at the forefront of your field, but you can be quite successful. Ask any scientists; 99% of discovery and advancement is really just drudgery in the lab/field. In most cases it is more about attention to detail, dedication, and rigor than being vastly more intelligent than everyone around you.

That said - you do have a good point that a lot of people are probably wasting resources going to college when they would be happier and more productive following a different route.

Re:The problem in the US... (1)

gandhi_2 (1108023) | more than 3 years ago | (#34692968)

Hmm... ):

Excuse me while I go suck-start my rifle.

Re:The problem in the US... (1)

infaustus (936456) | more than 3 years ago | (#34693206)

I think in some cases we have the opposite problem. You don't need to be a genius or even much above average to be a doctor, just to get into med school. There are easily twice as many qualified applicants as spots available.

Avatar (4, Funny)

Undead Waffle (1447615) | more than 3 years ago | (#34692406)

I know Avatar inspired me to be a one dimensional money-driven corporate manager.

Re:Avatar (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34692550)

It inspired me to be one-dimensional psychotic hate-driven colonel.

Re:Avatar (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34692744)

This article inspired me to double check inflation-adjusted receipts [boxofficemojo.com] , and Avatar ain't even in the top 10.

Re:Avatar (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34692884)

Those are also useless figures, like the "highest grossing one" although they might be closer. They fail into account everything else, like what other sorts of entertainment were available, how many other films were out there, etc. You can't create a figure that objectively shows how much interest the film spurred, different goods prices changed differently, some necessities become cheaper to obtain, new necessities were created, etc. This is only based in the change of the ticket price, to create a meaningful figure you should take into account a lot of other factors, and it is more or less very hard to do objectively.

Re:Avatar (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34692934)

It inspired me to be a one-dimensional, blue skinned pastiche of a Native American tribesman and live in harmony with the land in a fully self-sufficient Utopian jungle society.

Pendulum swings both ways (5, Insightful)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 3 years ago | (#34692412)

The media also strongly discourages participation in science when it depicts it as a field that only socially awkward people would ever have an interest in. We really see a lot more of that, coupled with a strong push for everyone to become some kind of businessman, than we see of movies that might encourage children to become scientists. Welcome to American culture.

And not just FUTURE scientists (1)

dmomo (256005) | more than 3 years ago | (#34692420)

We need Scientists of ALL kinds.

fuck you (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34692446)

You know what inspires kids to do something? The same thing that inspires people to take jobs outside of McDonald's. Money. Pay them assholes. Until you stop canceling projects and giving the banks bailout money to reward fucktards to game the stock markets instead of making something, expect more bullshit coming out of the schools. And why not? Who the fuck wants to be a starving scientist?

Oh and i almost forgot - fuck you slashdot.

OTOH (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34692460)

including history's No. 1 box office shit, "Avatar."

If the average 9 year old can't write a better script, there's zero for humanity!

Going off-topic but let's be clear, Camerons magnus-crapus got the box office record because of hype and ticket prices on 3D screens. If only it were possible to unsee that retarded movie and get a refund...

Violent movies ? (1)

h00manist (800926) | more than 3 years ago | (#34692482)

Some time ago, violent movies were supposed to be what caused violence. Now they generally blame videogames. Whatever, if that was true, smart movies should make smart people too. But to be honest, I think movies are just education. Like any educational tool, it teaches anything. It can teach good, bad, right, and wrong. If people decide to do good, bad, right, and wrong, smart or dumb, it mosly takes a lot more study, education, effort, time, and encouragement, from parents, teachers, friends, family, neighbors, government, and private groups. So do movies contribute to make smart or dumb people? Yes, about a 0,01% contribution towards that end. A lot more is needed.

Positive views of the future (1)

rwa2 (4391) | more than 3 years ago | (#34692484)

Are there any good sci-fi movies that have a positive view of the future? Most recent things I've seen paint the world / galaxy as some sort of war-torn dystopian nightmare.

Best I've found so far was AstroBoy... I'm even renting out ST:TNG, though it's annoying because I feel socially compelled to filter out some of the softporn situations :-P

Re:Positive views of the future (1)

raddan (519638) | more than 3 years ago | (#34692556)

Hey, man, soft porn is the positive* view of the future.

* for certain values of "positive"

Re:Positive views of the future (1)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 3 years ago | (#34692620)

Are there any good sci-fi movies that have a positive view of he future?

Not any I know of. A positive future doesn't make for intriguing drama (almost all stories are based on conflict) .

Most recent things I've seen paint the world / galaxy as some sort of war-torn dystopian nightmare.

I watched the World News last night also.

I think it's great that movies focus on that kind of thing. Many of us sit discontentedly in our safe little sheltered lives, and movies based on conflict like that allow us to explore what it would be like to live in a terrible situation. Who knows, it might even encourage us to act to ensure we, and others, *don't* live in that kind of situation.

Inception just inspired me to sleep more... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34692506)

...but I am paying attention. Honest.

hopefully... NOT!!!!! (1)

justsomebody (525308) | more than 3 years ago | (#34692508)

otherwise we are doomed on security. every part of password can be verified stand alone in every movie.

but then again, we will have awesome webcams with infinite detail zoom

Obviously yes (1)

k6mfw (1182893) | more than 3 years ago | (#34692522)

Of course the movie has to be good, and a good movie gets children thinking about stuff, and there are TV shows that inspire. A recent post on Nova (PBS) discusses biologist Caryn Babaian inspired by The Professor on "Gilligan's Island" and she said, "He has a lot of authority... he was a chemist, he was a plant-person, he knew about ethnobotany and different cultures. But he was always wearing this shirt and khaki pants and the sneakers. So I thought, 'That's authoritative. That's scientific...' "

Hey, whatever works. There are shows that inspire me though they never said I also had to deal with unreasonable people and unrealistic projects, long boring meetings, gripes, etc.

Wasn't this answered generations ago? (1)

perpenso (1613749) | more than 3 years ago | (#34692560)

Can Movies Inspire Kids To Be Future Scientists?

Comics, TV and movies have been generating interest in science and engineering for generations. Do you think there was a shortage of NASA engineers in the 1960s who had not read sci fi comics or watched sci fi shorts/serials in the theaters when they were kids? Do you think there was a shortage of engineers in the 1980s who were not avid Star Trek viewers?(*) Do you think there is a shortage of engineers today who were not fans of Star Wars, Blade Runner, Aliens, etc when they were kids?

(*) How many Motorola engineers were trying to open the Razor flip phone like a Star Trek communicator during the Razor's development? ;-)

Re:Wasn't this answered generations ago? (1)

bickerdyke (670000) | more than 3 years ago | (#34693240)

Sorry, but SF-Movies did nothing to encourage kids into pursuing a scientific career.

How many movies/series do you know where scientists are the ACTUAL HEROES? You mentioned the notable exception: Star Trek. The only show where engineers are the guys who save the day in the end. (Even if it's with technobabble and reversing the polarity of something, they're the guys who save the asses of those phaser-wieldind or buthlet-swinging jarheads)

The usual image of scientists is more along the lines of "Q" and "R" in the James Bond series.

CSI may be the exception nowadays, even if their science is plain wrong instead of made up.

Star Trek and inspiration (1)

haruchai (17472) | more than 3 years ago | (#34692564)

We're talking about kids here.What grabs there attention and fires their imagination is different than what we see. Even if you don't think Avatar will inspire future scientists, some other film or program might and probably will. Has Slashdot so soon forgotten that why the Milwaukee School of Engineering awarded an honorary doctorate to James Doohan?

No, stop trying. (1)

A beautiful mind (821714) | more than 3 years ago | (#34692592)

Movies may have scientists, but no real science (as in the scientific method). Show kids THAT in a classroom. Show them how powerful it is. Make them experience personal achievements by applying science.

The last time something really influenced kids was getting men on the moon. A movie is just generally background noise and cheap entertainment these days. I certainly wasn't motivated to do something based on a movie I've seen in my childhood, but I was motivated by programming in LOGO and discovering how powerful a C64 really was.

Why become a scientist? (5, Insightful)

Animats (122034) | more than 3 years ago | (#34692606)

Why become a scientist in the US today? You go to school forever, spend years in a dead-end postdoc, and then can't get a tenured position. You're then 35, a decade behind in starting your career, and overqualified for most jobs.

Re:Why become a scientist? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34692748)

You're then 35, a decade behind in starting your career, and overqualified for most jobs.

There are jobs in your city?

Re:Why become a scientist? (2)

rritterson (588983) | more than 3 years ago | (#34692864)

You are conflating "Scientist" and "Professor". Aside from the academic track, as a Ph.D. scientist, you can work in industry, especially if you have a background in organic chemistry, biochemistry, physics or materials science. You could also skip to DC and work in public policy and education. Or you could join a law firm as a patent agent, work a few years, and have a J.D. from a top-tier law school paid by your employer while making top dollars as patent attorney. Or maybe you'd like to work VC as a scientific advisor, as you have knowledge and skills your average MBA graduate does not. Or perhaps you have an idea for a new technology you'd like to bring to market and know you've just spent 6 years working dilligently on one thing to have it succeed, so it's not like you don't have the drive. Or maybe you'd like to...

And the list goes on.

Re:Why become a scientist? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34692868)

same in Europe. why bother to study for nearly a decade at University, mount up huge debt, and then aim for a career that pays you a wage you can't live on? Science is broken at the moment with the current publication culture. Funding is about to collapse globally and those left in the field will devour each other as they scrabble for the remaining scraps. By all means inspire future generations to want to investigate the world around them, but buy them a football or an accountancy course.

Re:Why become a scientist? (2)

ultramk (470198) | more than 3 years ago | (#34692914)

...for the same reason that people have been becoming scientists since well before the concept of "scientist" was codified. I'll give you a hint, and tell you a few things that it's not about:
- fame
- wealth
- job security
- the "cool factor"
- the sexy colleagues
- the easy job
- the power
- the influence ...so what's left? Why, everything that truly matters. :-)

Re:Why become a scientist? (1)

haruchai (17472) | more than 3 years ago | (#34693212)

It's not like that everywhere and it's too bad that's the way North America has gone with recognition. I've heard (anecdotally) that Nobel Prize winners ( except perhaps for Peace) get rock star treatment in most Asian countries.

Re:Why become a scientist? (1)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 3 years ago | (#34693260)

the sexy colleagues

Actually, in the biomedical realm, this is a factor. Seriously. Walk around a med school campus some time and you'll see what I mean.

Re:Why become a scientist? (1)

swanzilla (1458281) | more than 3 years ago | (#34692926)

There are quite a few of former math / physics guys developing software at my workplace. I get excited when I get to code the exponential function...pretty depressing.

Re:Why become a scientist? (1)

WrongMonkey (1027334) | more than 3 years ago | (#34693026)

Most reports I've seen show that about 30% of PhDs eventually end up with a tenured position. Which I consider good odds. http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/issuebrf/sib97321.htm [nsf.gov] Of course, there's more career paths than just being a tenured Professor. Overall, PhDs have a fraction of the unemployment rate of the general public and higher pay. http://www.bls.gov/emp/ep_chart_001.htm [bls.gov] So its unlikely that you'll actually be worse off by making the attempt.

Re:Why become a scientist? (3, Insightful)

joe_frisch (1366229) | more than 3 years ago | (#34693164)

The main reason to become a scientist is because it is fun. Science includes a wide range of types of work, from purely theoretical to grungy hands-on work with real hardware (my favorite). Not everyone in science needs to go the academic path, some take staff positions after grad school, some work in science related fields after just an undergrad degree.

I think it does help when even vaguely science-related materials appear in the media, but at the same time the almost universal mis-representation of what science is like may cause a lot of people to either not choose it as a career, or to be unhappy after they do.

It takes a certain type of personality to find science fun, but some people have it. Seeing the fuzzy egg-crate pattern on a screen and realizing it is individual atoms. Seeing a faint smudge and realizing that it is a jet of gas millions of light-years long, or a spot on a screen that is a gigawatt X-ray beam, or realizing that a slight offset between the calculated center of mass from gravitational lensing relative to luminous mass means that you may have just spotted the missing 90% of the matter in the universe.

All of the above are very exciting (to the right person), but unfortunately none make good movies.

I've been a working scientist for 20 years, and its a great job. I briefly went to work for industry, but got so tired of the easy work and high pay, that I gave it up.

--- Joe Frisch

Inspire them with science. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34692608)

How about we inspire them with actual science rather than wasting their potential trying to condition them to be passive consumers. The latter is the ultimate goal of popular entertainment. This just sounds like an attempt to use science as a fig leaf.

Foxtrot (1)

MrQuacker (1938262) | more than 3 years ago | (#34692618)

Because this is what happens: http://www.iontrap.wabash.edu/teaching/FoxTrotPhysicsLab.jpg [wabash.edu]

Kids get an expectation of "COOL, lets do Science!" and end up with boring, complicated, and badly taught stuff that turns them away instead of getting them interested.

Tron and dot com boom (2)

TreeInMyCube (1789238) | more than 3 years ago | (#34692628)

How many folks (of a certain age) were so blown away by Tron, that they wanted to do something with computers? Having the PC revolution right around the same time really helped, but there was a huge influx of geeks thru the 80s and early 90s that helped fuel Silicon Valley.

Re:Tron and dot com boom = money dumbfuck (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34692880)

Venture capitol also had something to do with it. Not to mention Berkeley and Stanford. The VC investments in SV is more than 60% of all VC money spent on new business. Higher for tech business.

Fuck Slashdot.

What works better... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34692656)

...is putting a man on the moon. Show them every cool science demo you can get your hands on. Get them involved, even if it is a little bit dangerous.

"Star Trek" produced a generation of engineers. (2)

reporter (666905) | more than 3 years ago | (#34692658)

Watching the original "Star Trek" (ST) probably inspired more kids to become engineers than visiting the local science museum. A museum tells you what has been done by humankind, but a film like ST tells you all the possibilities that remain to be achieved. They include warp drive, natural-language computers, time travel, etc. Those possibilities capture the imagination of children, who tend to have active imaginations. Just look at all the kids who contribute to Slashdot!

Many Slashdotters have admitted, in various articles over the years, that Mr. Scot (the chief engineer of the "Enterprise") motivated them to become engineers. He out-engineered all the adversaries (of the Federation) by making the "Enterprise" nearly invincible.

Indeed, some of the engineers who were inspired by Mr. Scot participated in the construction of the first, non-functional, prototype of the space shuttle and gave it the insightful name: "Enterprise". This prototype was used to test the ability of the spacecraft to glide back to earth.

Re:"Star Trek" produced a generation of engineers. (1)

bickerdyke (670000) | more than 3 years ago | (#34693278)

Many Slashdotters have admitted, in various articles over the years, that Mr. Scot (the chief engineer of the "Enterprise") motivated them to become engineers. He out-engineered all the adversaries (of the Federation) by making the "Enterprise" nearly invincible.

And probably everyone else IN the Federation....

I hope not (2)

deodiaus2 (980169) | more than 3 years ago | (#34692678)

Kids that choose science as a future are doomed. Why would you want to be scientist anyway? Besides, the portrayal in movies is absolute nonsense. Another lesson these brats need to learn is Hollywood is fake! Its like deciding to become a lawyer based on watching Perry Mason episodes!
The work is not always as great as you first imagine, the reception is unappreciated no matter what you do and the pay is poor.
Let kids become doctors, lawyers, and business people. They will be smart and have lots of money! America gives a rat's ass about science. If you discover something, it will be stolen and misused. Look at the Wright brothers. Wright had to sell out to Curtis because the gov't broke their patents.
Someone else will make a fortune based on your discovery. Howard Hughes made a fortune based on the oil drill bit, and had very little to do with its actual design and funding. He bought it from someone else.

Beats being a *past* scientist (1)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | more than 3 years ago | (#34692688)

My high school science teachers taught us how to be past, not future, scientists. We badly repeated experiments with known outcomes to confirm models about which we didn't care. I would not say it was very inspirational.

There just might be something to this future scienist idea.

Myth Busters (1)

godel_56 (1287256) | more than 3 years ago | (#34692728)

With the possible exception of the "blowing stuff up" aspect, I think Myth Busters is one of the best programs for inspiring future engineers and scientists.

Re:Myth Busters (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 3 years ago | (#34692874)

What's wrong with the 'blowing up stuff' part?

Re:Myth Busters (1)

bickerdyke (670000) | more than 3 years ago | (#34693320)

Nothing. It's part of the "if you want to know something, build an experiment to find it out!"-approach that's the core of science too.

'Weird Science' for the win! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34692734)

The movie "Weird Science" inspired gazillions of teenage boys to become scientists.

So, to answer the question, yes.

No, because science != sci-fi/fantasy (3, Insightful)

delibes (303485) | more than 3 years ago | (#34692810)

Avatar, Star Trek, Star Wars, X-Men ... these are not science movies, they're sci-fi and fantasy. They show you awesome special effects, lots of action, and funny looking aliens/mutants. They lack a "Hero" role in these movies where the character uses, say, the laws of thermodynamics or Newton's laws of motion to save the day. In fact "Evil Science Co Inc." is often the bad evil corporation trying to exploit nature to make a profit (Aliens, Avatar ... Frankenstein?).

Good *science* movies are much harder to find. There's some vaguely interesting scientific issues raised in films like 2001 - where did life come from and what would extra-terrastrial intelligent life be like? Solaris perhaps? And film's like Lorenzo's Oil show science in a positive role. I did like Apollo 13 though for showing the engineers doing the almost impossible to save the astronauts. Can anyone help me make a list of others?

Re:No, because science != sci-fi/fantasy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34692896)

I was never really inspired by movies, though they could be fun to watch (and I'm not saying movies don't inspire others).

But what had the biggest impact on me were books. A particular book, in fact—Have Space Suit, Will Travel, by Robert A. Heinlein. Sure, it was “fantasy,” but the first fifth of the story was a compelling read on how knowledge is useful for personal betterment, not just for getting through school.

It was one of his juveniles, but I think it's well worth a read at any age.

Re:No, because science != sci-fi/fantasy (1)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 3 years ago | (#34693040)

I liked Primer [imdb.com] . It's not exactly "science," since it's about time travel, but the portrayal of engineering culture was spot-on, and it demonstrated how smart people live and work and achieve in the real world (rather than some rarefied academic/government fantasy-land where they don't have to worry about anything except how to get the Earth's core spinning again).

And Raiders of the Lost Ark was great for demonstrating how a guy who teaches boring history lectures by day doesn't have to be a boring, do-nothing guy on the weekends.

I think a lot of kids would still be willing to do science even for a lousy salary. What turns off many of them is the prospect of doing mind-numbing rote work in an atmosphere of utter bureaucratic tedium, where their peers from school make far more money than they do, get far more respect from others (even though they're doing work that is arguably less important), and don't have to wrestle with a lifetime of maintaining their own self-esteem in spite of it all.

I was never much inspired to be a scientist by anything I saw in the movies; not really. Science did seem like interesting, worthwhile work, though. Then I found out how different being a real scientist was from being a movie scientist, and I wondered why I ever even considered it.

Re:No, because science != sci-fi/fantasy (1)

triazotan (1895064) | more than 3 years ago | (#34693232)

Solaris perhaps?

Good example. Aside from being inferior to original novel by Lem, in both "plot" and "scientific content" categories. And being marketed mostly with G. Clooneys buttocks, AFAIR... and THAT is one of the best examples Holywood could come up with as "good science fiction". Point taken, movie industry FTW!

Re:No, because science != sci-fi/fantasy (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34693266)

You skipped over Spider-man. It's got a decidedly anti-science theme to it. Try counting all of the villains who came about from the misuse of science! Doc Oc, Green Goblin, Hobgoblin, Sandman, Jackal, Lizard, Morbius, Tinkerer, just to name a few.

Re:No, because science != sci-fi/fantasy (2)

Aim Here (765712) | more than 3 years ago | (#34693454)

The Andromeda Strain [imdb.com] is the only movie I can think of which depicts actual bona-fide scientists performing something close to actual bona-fide science - there are a number of experiments (including some not overly humane animal experiments) performed by the main cast in order to ascertain the nature of some deadly space plague. What's more, you can actually tell, more or less, how the experiments work and what they're intended to achieve, unlike most science in 'science fiction' films, which generally involve some mad scientist pulling inscrutable levers or pouring green foaming liquid from one test tube into the purple bubbling liquid in the beaker.

Not that I think it would be an easy movie to use to sell science to today's sugar-addicted attention-impaired youth. The film is fairly slow and talky by today's standards, the main characters are mostly rather dowdy and middle-aged, there's more or less no sex or violence, and it's from 1971 and most definitely looks it. The only thing that would make you think otherwise is that, refreshingly, it's not about some lone individual rebel fighting back against/escaping from an oppressive totalitarian government like almost every single mindfucking sci-fi flick made in the English-speaking world between 1965 and 1975. Count the other exceptions, if you like, I'll be surprised if you can think of more than 4 without referring to Halliwell's or the imdb.

Anyways, if you want to see science done almost right in a movie, you can do far worse than the Andromeda Strain.

worked for me (1)

rritterson (588983) | more than 3 years ago | (#34692832)

Well, I'm a scientist now and am so for two reasons:

1. Bill Nye. Because, honestly, who wouldn't want to have your own theme song that repeats your name 'BILL BILL Bill bill bill!' (And, really, the guy was legitimately cool)

2. Weird Science. It was always going to be way easier for me to synthesize the girl of my dreams than win her.

I don't think movies are too good for this. (1)

spads (1095039) | more than 3 years ago | (#34692866)

Documentaries, yeah.

Two things go into making a scientist. The first is surviving a rigorous academic program. The second is developing a natural wonder.

In the case of these types of movies (which are quite entertaining, btw), the emotional component is so strong that it really supplants any kind of genuine wonder. Perhaps the seeds of that kind of wonder are really innate in (some of?) us. In any case, the wonder really needs to be put aside a good way through much of the (initially mundane) academic program, which is about 5% wonder (gets better as you go), and 95% business/industry. (Heck, perhaps the damn work ethic too is largely innate, or else inscrutably "nurture".)

So, to summarize, maybe we enjoy a little wonder in the beginning, then it all gets SHELVED as e dig into our programs, and we just hope there are some shreds remaining when we get out*. And these syrupy types of emotion might encourage someone to fill out an app, but it won't carry them past the first 3 pages of a dry text book.

These people who think feature films are going to generate scientists have been smoking their own underwear. Probably not bad for the box office, though!

*And, the other major problem is that most of those who DO make it through have had the wonder beaten out of them by the modern scientific apparatus, becoming, themselves, wonks. Still, for those who cultivate some wonder, learning science is its own reward.

Maybe... (1)

bosef1 (208943) | more than 3 years ago | (#34692882)

I'm not sure if I was "inspired" to be a scientist by film, but I would say that the movies "Ghostbusters" and "Back To The Future" certainly provided me with a lot of motivation for "Science!" (with the exclaimation point). I'm not sure, though, if those movies actually helped shape my interests, or whether they just resonated strongly with my existing interests and proclivities. And those were two of the most popular films of the 1980's, so it might be more correct to say "Awesome movies inspire people", which is one of the general reasons for pursing cinematography as an occupation (I'm sure GB and BTTF also inspired a lot of comedians and film students, too).

And it's not like Ghostbusters or BTTF are particularly accurate protrayals of the scientific or engineering process, either. I'm not sure I'd want to see an "accurate" film about the scientific process, though: wouldn't it be just a long montage sequence of all the reagents that didn't work; with a gripping B-plot on writing a grant proposal. That said, most films about a particular field or occupation are heavily dramatized. Haven't several people commented that shows like CSI use incredibly compressed evidence gathering cycles; and that in the real world it takes a month or so to process DNA evidence, and most crime scenes are either inconclusive, or heavily contamiated by the victim's dog before the cops ever get there.

As a very broad, crude generalization, introducing the reality of occupations, like science or business or the technical fields or agriculture, into movies is probably desirable, more as anti-inspirational "warning" than anything else. Most of these jobs are boring most of the time, so stay away. But if we present the jobs honestly and with reasonable fidelity, then the one-in-a-thousand that isn't turned off by it might actually be a good fit for that job. The film doesn't have to "inspire" people, just broaden their horizons so they are at least aware of the opportunities available.

Anyway, this is what happens when I ramble on caffeine.

Re:Maybe... (1)

screwzloos (1942336) | more than 3 years ago | (#34693262)

If you take the term 'scientist' a little more loosely, there's one movie that did an accurate job of showing what computer science is really like in the workplace. Having seen Office Space while I was in high school, sadly, I am now sitting in a cubicle, staring blankly at ancient code, with one of several bosses occasionally looking over my shoulder. How are those TPS reports coming along?

I'm not sure one could say the movie 'inspired' me either, though.

Short answer: No (3, Insightful)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 3 years ago | (#34692900)

If movies gave a true depiction of being a scientist, they would be full of people writing submissions for funding, trying to get some budget for new equipment and emailing off papers for publication. There has not, ever, been a real-to-life scientist characterised in any movie - ever. If people see "scientists" in movies and are then inspired to become like those characters they are in for a massive let down if they try to pursue that mythical career. It simply doesn't exist.

What's nearly as bad is the science career advice children receive at school. Almost no teachers anywhere have ever met a professional scientist. Even the few who might be married to one have no real idea what their partner does on a daily basis and they are in no position to advise on either the suitability of a child to try to become a professional scientist, nor on what that child could expect from a career in a scientific job.

The single biggest failing of science is that it does nothing to prepare the next generation for work in the field. Meaning that those children who leave school to attend a university science course, assuming it will be like the science they did in school, have one hell of a big surprise when it turns out to be completely different from what they expected. The surprise is nearly as big as the one science graduates get when they discover, in turn, that working as a professional scientist is again, nothing like what they thought it was when they were students.

Re:Short answer: No (1)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 3 years ago | (#34693356)

If movies gave a true depiction of being a scientist, they would be full of people writing submissions for funding, trying to get some budget for new equipment and emailing off papers for publication. There has not, ever, been a real-to-life scientist characterised in any movie - ever. If people see "scientists" in movies and are then inspired to become like those characters they are in for a massive let down if they try to pursue that mythical career. It simply doesn't exist.

That's true of just about every job portrayed in movies, though. FBI agents don't spend most of their time chasing down brilliant serial killers, physicians don't spend most of their time making life-saving diagnoses of mysterious illnesses, etc. The real problem is that movies and TV have given us an unrealistic expectation of everything, and they seem to be about the most pervasive single influence on how we perceive the world. (And no, geeks are not immune to this -- look how often Gattaca and Jurassic Park come up whenever /. runs a story having anything to do with genetics.) Hell, talk to anyone who works in Hollywood about how absurd movies that portray the movie business are!

Truth is, if you gave kids a realistic picture of what their adult working lives would be like, in any job, most of them would probably give up on having any kind of future at all. ;) It takes adult judgement to understand that a good job has real rewards (beyond a paycheck, I mean) that make putting up with all the drudgery worthwhile.

I certainly took an interest in science (1)

lingh0e (964762) | more than 3 years ago | (#34693008)

I saw The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai at the tender age of 6 and immediately set out to build my own oscillation over-thruster. Didn't get very far... but the seeds were definitely sown.

Fighting popular culture (3, Insightful)

cdrguru (88047) | more than 3 years ago | (#34693034)

You can't win by fighting popular culture. Today science and technology are very, very low on the pop culture totem pole. Drug dealers aren't that great, but they score better than scientists. Hip-hop rappers are way, way up. Rock stars are out. Supermodels aren't cool, but pseudo-idol teens are in.

And none of them are getting A's in school.

Avatar is a horrible examine of a pro-science movie. The scientists for the most part got kicked off the planet in the end. The chief scientist for the Navi cause died. No, I don't think it is inspirational to present the idea of dying on a far off planet in a feud with a paramilitary force.

Face it, in the US today isn't respected to be a scientist. It is respected to be a drug-addicted rap singer that can't use the word "woman" but instead says bitch constantly. It hasn't been respected to get good grades in high school and to spend time studying. There are popular songs with phrases like "Should I be a straight A student? If you are then you think too much." This is the culture we have created and what we are going to have to live with for the next 20 or 30 years.

Look at Asian families where if the kid brings home a B they are beaten. The kid knows it, studys and doesn't get the beating so there is no awful social stigma. In the 1950s white middle class families did the same thing which is why we have science and technology companies in the US today. As a society we have lost that motivation and it is going to hurt.

TRON anyone? (1)

uncholowapo (1666661) | more than 3 years ago | (#34693036)

After seeing Tron: Legacy I wouldn't doubt seeing a surge of students changing their majors to computer science or at least visual effects. That movie is damn inspiring.

works for me (1)

dotmax (642602) | more than 3 years ago | (#34693046)

Forbidden Planet --> Voyage to See What's at the Bottom --> Star Trek --> 2001 --> submarine nuke --> Fermilab main control room crew chief. ymmv.

Only with opportunity and nourishment (1)

dirkdodgers (1642627) | more than 3 years ago | (#34693148)

I remember after seeing the first Indiana Jones I was interested in archaeology and medieval history. All I could find in my school library about archaeology was a 30 year old book in a discard bin. All my teachers could tell me was something I could study after finishing a college degree. Sure, there was history: timelines and name lists from 1492 onward.

I'll always be left to wonder how my life would have turned out differently if I had someone in my life at that time to help me explore the interests provoked by that movie all those years ago. Probably poorer. Maybe happier.

Public education in the USA is an employee factory. That's its history. That's why it was created. That's what it's for.

We will never succeed in making education not an employee factory until we succeed in bringing about a society that does not depend upon a majority of the working age population being employees. We have the technology to satisfy our basic needs with less per capita investment of time than at any point in recorded history.

Been going on for years (1)

AHuxley (892839) | more than 3 years ago | (#34693172)

"How the White House secretly hooked network TV on its anti-drug message: A Salon special report."
http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2000/01/13/drugs [salon.com]
"President Clinton's drug czar, Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey, some of America's most popular shows -- including "ER," "Beverly Hills 90210," "Chicago Hope," "The Drew Carey Show" and "7th Heaven" -- have filled their episodes with anti-drug pitches to cash in on a complex government advertising subsidy."
http://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/04/movies/04flyb.html?_r=1 [nytimes.com]
Pentagon's New Goal: Put Science Into Scripts
From drugs to science to a positive view of military life, its all been emotional blended in for generations.
If your movie gets too "historical", funding and support can stop.
... kid to read up on science and scientific issues .. and drugs and soda ... and wars ... and diet and .. [you got funding?]

Let the movies entertain them... (1)

brendank310 (915634) | more than 3 years ago | (#34693234)

it's our job to inspire them. I've always been peeved by the assumption that 'oh, they are too young to teach that.' Expose them to the ideas, and let them decide. The other problem I see is we have a lot of educators (in the US anyway) who went to school to learn education. These people have been exposed to very little levels of math and science, and as such dismiss it often as difficult. When you hear something is difficult for the first 16 years of your life, why would you want to go into it?

Why Not? (1)

Gryle (933382) | more than 3 years ago | (#34693264)

Heck, Spiderman comics first got me interested in chemistry (I stumble across some old issues where Parker was actually a scientist). Show kids that their favorite hero likes science too and who know where it could lead.

To each his own (1)

dx40sh (1773338) | more than 3 years ago | (#34693276)

I was inspired by The Core [imdb.com] . :)

Scientists? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34693354)

Just getting them to spell "lose" and "loose" correctly would be enough..

It inspired me. (1)

J. T. MacLeod (111094) | more than 3 years ago | (#34693360)

Most kids who watched "Back to the Future" identified with Marty McFly. I did, to, but I also aspired to be Doc Brown. It was a major inspiration in my pursuit of science.

However, it ALSO gave me aspirations of pursuing science even if it's outside of the traditional routes. Thusly I didn't care to put up with academia and only do "garage science", exploring pet crackpot hypotheses in my spare time. So maybe we should take things like that into account.

why encourage kids to become scientists? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34693398)

a recent article:

  'Business leaders have cried "scientist shortage," but scores of thousands of young Ph.D.s are laboring in U.S. university labs as low-paid, temporary workers, ostensibly training for permanent faculty positions that will never exist.'

  http://www.miller-mccune.com/science/the-real-science-gap-16191/ [miller-mccune.com]

The article shows there is no scientist shortage in the US, but a shortage of jobs for scientists, and so "If the nation truly wants its ablest students to become scientists, Salzman says, it must undertake reforms — but not of the schools. Instead, it must reconstruct a career structure that will once again provide young Americans the reasonable hope that spending their youth preparing to do science will provide a satisfactory career."

Let s see (1)

chronoss2010 (1825454) | more than 3 years ago | (#34693404)

make movie , sue anyone that downloads it for added profit and you want kids to be scientists for that reason? NOT gonna happen. Don't bother.
Science is dead and dying cause of the movie industry. People hear movies they go its all crap now.
Watching older stuff might make em scientists for the sci fi and special affects but nothing new is inspiring.
It costs too much now ot get movies and music that can inspire legitely....and if your pirating they gonna sue ...arrest or kick ya off the net.

AND WTF is up WITH GAY PLUGINS at websites lately....
Pretty sad when i have to add line breaks ina text editor cause your edit box won't let me...

not sure about being a scientist (1)

Nyder (754090) | more than 3 years ago | (#34693426)

but Wargames made me want to be a hacker.

So did Tron.

Is movie inspiration a nerd thing? (1)

pokerdad (1124121) | more than 3 years ago | (#34693442)

I have heard many times, for many different nerdy professions stories or surveys that show countless nerds were inspired to their professions by some work of fiction. Yet, I rarely hear that about non-nerdy professions. I have never heard a police officer point to a cop movie as a source of inspiration, nor a fireman, nor a teacher, nor an athelete, nor a soldier... OK, I can think of one exception to this, I have heard some pilots point to movies, but other than that it always seems to be nerds. What gives?
Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?