Hollywood / Rocket Science

The ideas and imagination that drove the great scientists are in short supply. The disciplined nature of research facilities, be they corporate, governmental or academic, discourages the rebellious spirit that inspired so many scientific innovators. In a bizarre and unscientific way of addressing this problem, the Pentagon, concerned about long-term security, is tackling the scarcity of American science graduates by sending its own rocket scientists, nanotechnologists, and geneticists to Hollywood to learn how to write screenplays that show scientists in an appealing light. The belief is that if television and films show scientists in flattering ways, more young people will be encouraged to follow in their footsteps. The core dilemma is that while defense laboratory employees must have American citizenship, the line of eager applicants for science positions is made up mostly of immigrants.

A more effective way of attracting bright young people to the fields of science would be to let the public know that its world is faced with daunting problems, and that it will take heroic dedication to solve them. There is no shortage of risk-takers. Take skateboarders for example; consider how many are willing to break every bone in their bodies to master new moves and win endorsement contracts! How many youngsters ruin their eyesight pursuing the `next level' in video games? When President Kennedy said of the moon mission, "we do this...not because it is easy, but because it is hard" he inspired a generation of wizards. There are countless young people capable of taking up the challenge of finding a better way than the "death by ecology" we seem to have chosen. Their imaginations must be fired. Long-term security will consist of avoiding vulnerability and dependence. It's not rocket science.


David M. Halbfinger, Ultimate Science Project: Screenwriting, The New York Times, Tues. Aug 9, 2005.


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"The Progress Trap - and how to avoid it" Copyright Daniel O'Leary, registered at
the Copyright Office, Consumer and Corporate Affairs, Canada on April 5, 1991 (ref 405917)