Netflix is bringing back Bill Nye and “The Magic School Bus” to remind us all that science is important (and fun!)

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Not all heroes wear capes. Some wears lab coats and bow ties. Others wear long, mauve dresses emblazoned with planets, rocket ships, and light bulbs.

If, like me, you grew up in the 1990s, you learned a lot about the world from Bill Nye and Ms. Frizzle. I still remember the episode of Bill Nye the Science Guy about matter, and the cheesy, yet informative, “Solid, Liquid, Gas” song set to the tune of The Brady Bunch. I remember, with bizarre clarity, the episode of The Magic School Bus when Ms. Frizzle’s class travels through Ralphie’s body, which to this day remains the basis for what I know about white blood cells, bacteria, and antibodies.

Now more than 20 years since these shows both debuted, Netflix wants to help a new generation of kids learn about science—and have some fun in the process. At a press event in New York City yesterday, the streaming service released the first trailer for its new science talk show starring Nye, Bill Nye Saves the World, and announced that Saturday Night Live‘s Kate McKinnon will voice Ms. Frizzle in a reboot of The Magic School Bus.

Launched on PBS in 1993, Bill Nye the Science Guy immediately became a staple in American science classrooms. The show, and its host, a mechanical engineer by trade, were beloved for their inventive skits and quirky sense of humor. The animated series The Magic School Bus debuted a year later on the same channel and was nominated for seven Daytime Emmys, winning one for actress Lily Tomlin, who voiced the teacher and driver of the bus, Ms. Frizzle.

Continue onto Quartz to read the complete article.

How They Animated ‘The Lego Batman Movie’

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‘The Lego Batman Movie’ uses an impressive style of animation that replicates the look of real lego bricks. These digital bricks abide by all the rules of real Lego bricks, so they cannot bend or move in an impractical way. Mike Seymour breaks down a few of the most remarkable scenes, where numerous complex techniques were used to create a believable image.

 

Source: WIRED

We Have Liftoff: Lego Set Honoring Women Of NASA Will Land On A Shelf Near You

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It’s been a busy week for Katherine Johnson, the NASA mathematician whose story was the center of the critically acclaimed film “Hidden Figures.”

The pioneer presented an award at the Oscars on Sunday alongside the film’s stars. A day later, Lego announced she would be enshrined forever in glossy plastic.

The toy company announced the winner of its semiannual Lego Ideas competition this week: a set honoring five women of NASA. The women are computer scientist Margaret Hamilton, mathematician Katherine Johnson, astronaut Sally Ride, astronomer and executive Nancy Grace Roman and astronaut Mae Jemison.

The idea was proposed last year by Maia Weinstock, deputy editor of MIT News.

“Women have played critical roles throughout the history of the U.S. space program … yet in many cases, their contributions are unknown or under-appreciated — especially as women have historically struggled to gain acceptance in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM),” Weinstock wrote in her proposal.

Lego announced the news Monday on Twitter. “We are really excited to be able to introduce Maia’s ‘Women of NASA’ set for its fun and educational value, as well as its classic build-and-play experience.”

Continue onto Huffington Post to read the complete article.

Who Put the BANG in The Big Bang Theory?

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By Brady Rhoades

Imagine: You’re watching The Big Bang Theory and Sheldon confuses photons with protons. Or Leonard works in degrees when he should be working in radians. Or Raj gets refraction angles wrong. It doesn’t happen. And you can thank the show’s fact checkers for that. Among them is science consultant David Saltzberg, a master physicist.

He and others on the crew who make sure the science is right are the story behind the story of The Big Bang Theory. In hockey terms, Saltzberg is the goalie for the show. The last line of defense. Which matters. Because millions of people—including scientists—are watching, and they will know—and get highly annoyed—if a mistake worms its way through. Saltzberg, who says the writers are extremely careful when it comes to facts, has prevented his share, nonetheless.

“The most amusing one was when Sheldon and Leonard’s mother were working on a scientific problem called quantum brain dynamics theory,” said Saltzberg, who teaches at UCLA and has worked on Switzerland’s Large Hadron Collider. “This theory is about how quantum mechanics is important for consciousness in the brain. It’s a highly-disputed theory. But I realized there was nothing we could do because it was so built into the script. I mentioned, ‘There’s probably nothing you can do but this is not a well-accepted theory.’ They fixed it by saying that they were working on disproving quantum brain dynamics theory. They were able to solve it with one word.”

If you’ve seen the show, you know many of the characters—Caltech scientists—are constantly working out their scientific equations on whiteboards. That has spawned a flurry of pitches from real scientists who want their work displayed on the whiteboards. Stephen Hawking, the Einstein of our time, had a whiteboard showing his discovery of gravitational waves, which indicated cosmological inflation, appear in an episode. “That was actually vetted by Hawking himself,” Saltzberg said. “The producers didn’t want to put something on his board that he wouldn’t be comfortable with, so they took what I had suggested and sent a
picture to him. He said he liked it.”

bb6Because of the scientists behind the show’s science, there are no hiccups when it comes to the facts and data presented. Fans are convinced of the show’s credibility. We trust that our children can watch it and not only be entertained but educated. Of course, the actors and writers deserve an immense amount of credit for the veracity of the science presented on the program, as well. Dr. Fowler, played by Mayim Bialik, is a scientist; Bialik earned her Ph.D. from UCLA in 2007, her dissertation being an investigation of hypothalamic activity in patients with Prader–Willi syndrome, titled “Hypothalamic regulation in relation to maladaptive, obsessive-compulsive, affiliative, and satiety behaviors in Prader- Willi syndrome.” Try saying that sentence three times. And she’s Saltzberg’s secret weapon when it comes to certain questions. “She has a Ph.D in neuroscience,” Saltzberg said. “So she has my back on the biology.”

And while the other actors are not scientists, they have learned a thing or two about science after a decade immersed in it. “We once got a correction from Sheldon (actor Jim Parsons),” Saltzberg said. “So, Sheldon knows more science than he lets on.”

The Big Bang Theory is a team, and a winning one at that. The program, which debuted in 2007, centers on the lives of lovable, science-obsessed, socially awkward nerds Sheldon, Leonard, Wolowitz, Raj, Amy Fowler and Bernadette. Then there is Penny, who isn’t a scientist but is a character we care about. For the past six years, The Big Bang Theory is the biggest comedy on television by far, now averaging 20 million viewers per episode. Scientists, science lovers, regular folk and, yes, children, don’t dare miss an episode.

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In the advertiser-coveted adults aged 18 to 49 demographic, The Big Bang Theory scored a 5.7 this season, nearly doubling the 3.3 rating from season 1. That marks the fourth-straight year (fifth overall) the show has been top comedy in the demo. Jim Parsons, who has won four Emmys as the inimitably quirky Sheldon Cooper, is the highest paid male actor on television, earning about $1 million per episode (and a bunch more on a flurry of endorsement deals). Johnny Galecki, who plays Leonard, and Kaley Cuoco, who plays Penny, also earn about $1 million per show. The show’s creators, Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady, have struck gold.

The first and second pilots of The Big Bang Theory were directed by James Burrows, who did not continue with the show. The reworked second pilot led to a 13-episode order by CBS on May 14, 2007. Prior to its airing on CBS, the pilot episode was distributed on iTunes free of charge. The show premiered on Sept. 24, 2007 and was picked up for a full 22-episode season on Oct. 19, 2007. The show is filmed in front of a live audience and is produced by Warner Bros. Television and Chuck Lorre Productions.

The author of The Martian is writing a NASA TV pilot for CBS

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Exploring the work and lives of NASA personnel

The Martian was a huge success in both bookstores and movie theaters, and it catapulted author Andy Weir into a rarified atmosphere when it comes to science fiction authors. Now, he’s setting his sights on a new medium: television.

Deadline reported that CBS has given a pilot order for Mission Control, a NASA-themed drama that “revolves around the next generation of NASA astronauts and scientists who juggle their personal and professional lives” during a critical mission.

There’s nothing beyond that, but Weir’s involvement is exciting. The Martian was an intriguing novel because of its studious attention to realism (with some liberties) as astronaut Mark Watney struggled to survive on the surface of Mars. The novel is a love letter to NASA and the work that it does, and Weir is the ideal writer to put together such a project. It’s still very early in the game: the pilot will have to impress the network in order to be greenlit for a series. In the meantime, Weir is hard at work on another hard-science novel, as well as another film with Simon Kinberg and Ridley Scott.

 Continue onto The Verge to read the complete article.

Chevy Brought a Life-Sized Lego Batmobile to the Detroit Auto Show

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Chevrolet brought a lot of cool vehicles to the 2017 North American International Auto Show. The coolest — by far — was their life-sized Lego Batmobile.

Sure, the restyled 2018 Traverse looked sharp. Yes, the Bolt’s 380KM all-electric range is impressive. But the 17-foot-long Speedmobile (which you’ll see in The Lego Batman movie next month) built from a whopping 340,000 Lego bricks stole the show from a geek’s perspective.

17 feet seems a bit longer than life-sized, but it’s par for the course for a Batmobile. Even the comparatively stumpy Tumbler was over 15 feet long. Other cinematic Batmobiles have stretched to 25 or even 33 feet!

Despite Lego Batman’s claim that he only works in black or very, very dark gray, the Speedmobile does have a few colorful accents. There are the red hubs and striping, blue Technic connectors, and the yellow windshield, signals, and Chevrolet badge.

This epic build was assembled by a team of Lego Master Builders at their model shop in Enfield, Connecticut. It took them more than 220 hours to design and over 1800 man hours to actually build it. The finished piece weighs over 1600 pounds, which is supported by a welded aluminum frame.

This isn’t the first Batmobile Chevy has had a hand in building. The one Michael Keaton drove in the 1989 Batman film was built on an Impala chassis, and the one driven by Val Kilmer in Batman Forever was powered by a Chevy V8.

Continue onto GEEK to read the complete article.

Aziz Ansari will be SNL’s first South Asian American host

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Comedian Aziz Ansari will host “Saturday Night Live” on Jan. 21, the NBC show announced Tuesday, and in doing so, he will make history as its first host of South Asian descent.

The gig comes on the heels of a big year for Ansari. The standup comic and television star won his first Emmy (outstanding writing for a comedy series) after earning a total of four nominations for his Netflix series “Master of None.”

His nomination for outstanding lead actor in a comedy series was the first for an Indian American. “I’m very happy but it’s a very specific accomplishment,” he laughingly told USA Today about the historic nod.

More than 90 percent of SNL’s hosts have been white, and only two celebrities of Asian descent — Jackie Chan and Lucy Liu — have hosted the show before, according to IndieWire’s demographic breakdown of all of the show’s hosts (that doesn’t include Fred Armisen and Bruno Mars, who both have some Asian ancestry). Most non-white hosts have been black, IndieWire found.

SNL has faced controversy in recent years over diversity issues. In 2013, the lack of a black female cast member led to executive producer Lorne Michael holding special auditions to hire one. He ended up hiring Sasheer Zamata, as well as Leslie Jones (who was initially brought on as a writer).

Melissa Villaseñor joined SNL this year, becoming the show’s first Latina cast member. Nasim Pedrad, on SNL between 2009 and 2014, was the show’s first female Middle Eastern cast member.

Continue onto the Washington Post to read the complete article.

First female black designer in 103 years of Chelsea Flower Show wins gold

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The first black female garden designer in the 103-year history of the Chelsea Flower Show has won a gold medal.

Juliet Sargeant’s “Modern Slavery” garden — in the “Fresh Garden” category — was designed to raise awareness of the plight of people in Britain being held captive and forced to work. The brightly coloured doors and flowers look like those of a normal British street, but they surround a bleak centre.

An English oak tree honours politician William Wilberforce, who stood under such a tree when he dedicated his life to abolishing slavery in the 1800s.

Before her win, Sargeant criticised the dominance of white, middle-class people “with double-barrelled names” in the upper echelons and media representations of gardening. She called upon the Royal Horticultural Society to do more to promote diversity within the gardening community.

“People in the last few years have been asking why there aren’t more women garden designers and the same with young people, but to date nobody has really asked the question about ethnic minorities and different cultures,” she told The Telegraph.

“The horticultural industry is quite a traditional industry and it does seem to lag behind a bit.”

She said people of diverse cultures and communities enjoy gardening in modern Britain, but television shows and articles don’t represent these people.

Uncovering a Tale of Rocket Science, Race and the ’60s

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Taraji P. Henson hates math, and Octavia Spencer has a paralyzing fear of calculus, but that didn’t stop either actress from playing two of the most important mathematicians the world hasn’t ever known.

Both women are starring in “Hidden Figures,” a forthcoming film that tells the astonishing true story of female African-American mathematicians who were invaluable to NASA’s space program in the Jim Crow South in the early 1960s.

Ms. Henson plays Katherine Johnson, a math savant who calculated rocket trajectories for, among other spaceflights, the Apollo trips to the moon. Ms. Spencer plays her supervisor, Dorothy Vaughan, and the R&B star Janelle Monáe plays Mary Jackson, a trailblazing engineer who worked at the agency, too.

Slated for wide release in January, the film is based on the book of the same title, to be published this fall, by Margot Lee Shetterly. The author grew up knowing Ms. Johnson in Hampton, Va., but only recently learned about her outsize impact on America’s space race.

“I thought, oh my God, what is this we’re hearing here?” Ms. Shetterly said, recalling the moment a few years back when her father, a retired research scientist, casually mentioned Ms. Johnson’s life work. Her next thought: Why haven’t we heard about it before?

“Hidden Figures” comes as Hollywood is under mounting pressure to diversify its offerings after this year’s much criticized largely all-white Oscars race. And, while this picture has been in the works for several years, and the corresponding book for years before that, its filmmakers know it will invariably be lumped into post-#OscarsSoWhite chatter.

“It’s not a reactionary movie,” said Ted Melfi, the film’s director, “but it will be seen as one, which is unfortunate.”

 

Its evolution began two years ago, when the producer Donna Gigliotti, who won an Academy Award for “Shakespeare in Love,” made an offer on the book’s rights a day after reading Ms. Shetterly’s proposal.

For Ms. Gigliotti, the “Hidden Figures” story line had everything and more: the Cold War, the space race, the damages of segregation and racial and gender inequality, all set against the country’s burgeoning civil rights struggles.

Continue onto the New York Times to read more about this movie and the impact it is bound to make on pop culture.

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