(Video link) Before signing off tonight, I strongly urge you to set aside whatever bad news you may have seen today and watch this adorable video of a three-year-old boy named Kieran asking Santa Claus for Spider-Man and then having his Christmas wish immediately granted. The video was created by Sean Ward, a long-time friend of Kieran's family and the filmmaker behind the extremely popular (and hilarious) series of Toronto Batman videos. Way to end a great year on a heartwarming note! (Thanks, Sean!)
Scientific advising for science-fiction films is a really fascinating topic for me. It's a weird, weird world, where the goal is not necessarily extreme accuracy, but extreme believability. That can be a stress point for science, a field that is, generally, all about striving for accuracy. The scientists that help directors create believable worlds have to balance the goal of educating the public with the goal of entertaining same. That can be tough, and it leads some creative solutions—and little educational Easter Eggs buried in the background of blockbusters.
Take the work University of Minnesota physicist Jim Kakalios recently did for the new Spider-Man reboot. The film's creators asked him to invent a complicated-looking equation that, in the context of the story, would relate to cell regeneration and human mortality.
How do you invent a fictional equation? Start with a real one.
In this video, Kakalios explains where his imaginary equation came from, starting with the Gompertz Equation, a very real function that describes mortality rates and can be used to model tumor growth.