QUESTIONS for Science in Hollywood


In this still from the film Interstellar, a spaceship flies by the side of a wormhole. The wormhole acts like a tunnel between distant locations in space. Even though it’s still make-believe, physicist Kip Thorne helped get the physics behind the wormhole right.

Paramount Pictures


Before reading:

1.      Brainstorm a list of recent movies that feature the use of special effects. Could the movies have been made without special effects? Why or why not?

2.      What makes a special effect sometimes look fake?

During reading:

1.      What is mathematician Joseph Teran’s Hollywood connection?

2.      Why is snow so difficult to model?

3.      What contribution did a physicist make to the feature film Thor?

4.      Whom does the Science and Entertainment Exchange bring together and why?

5.      Explain what the audience’s “smell test” is.

6.      How did Kip Thorne contribute to Interstellar?

7.      Describe two features of black holes.

8.      Define “mechanics.”

9.      Which STEM subjects are becoming important to makers of Hollywood movies?

10.  How did Teran become convinced his team’s fake snow looked real?

After reading:

1.      Does science inspire art or does art inspire science? Use examples from the movies to support your argument.

2.      In animation, hair and clothing are some of the hardest things to make appear “real.” Based on your reading of this article, why do you think that is?


1.      “The people will look like real people,” says Joseph Teran of the future of animation. “You won’t be able to tell the difference.” If and when that day comes, will you be more or less likely to trust what you see on screen? How might that change how you watch movies? Sports? The news? Explain the challenges that this super-realism could introduce.