Scientists Help Movie Writers Make Films ‘Plausible-ish’

Organization links scientists with writers who want a dose of scientific accuracy; black holes, superstrength serum.

LOS ANGELES—Will Matthews and Jeffrey Addiss needed to end the world.

They found an accomplice at a loft party here last fall. The two screenwriters approached a theoretical physicist, Clifford Johnson, explaining that for a screenplay they wanted ideas for offing Earth in Hollywood fashion—“in a popcorn way,” Mr. Matthews told him.

A black hole, the physicist replied, would do nicely.

That phenomenon was “much more interesting” than anything in most movies and could be explained scientifically, offered Dr. Johnson, a University of Southern California specialist in quantum fields and gravity.

It was just the kind of matchmaking that is the aim of the loft party’s host, a behind-the-scenes organization that links scientists with writers who want a dose of scientific accuracy in their movies, television shows and books.

Mr. Addiss says Dr. Johnson’s black hole is now the script’s likely scenario. Regarding Earth, “he showed us how we can really mess it up.”

Parties like this spotlight a plot twist in Hollywood: As mutants, superheroes and intergalactic warfare fill multiplexes in an age of intense audience scrutiny, filmmakers need good science more than ever.

There’s a hotline for that: 844-NEED-SCI.

It connects to the Science and Entertainment Exchange, the loft party’s host. Funded by the nonprofit National Academy of Sciences, it has more than 2,700 scientists on call.

If something is “wrong” with a script, says Rick Loverd, the Exchange’s program director, it is often because the screenwriter has underestimated how science has evolved. “They’re writing something that they think is futuristic, but it’s not.”

David S. Goyer, co-writer of the coming “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” tapped the Exchange while developing “Krypton,” a TV show about Superman’s home planet. At an Exchange event, he met planetary scientist Kevin Hand, who helped design Krypton’s solar system down to atmospheric density.

“That ripples down through the costumes, the way the characters talk,” says Mr. Goyer. “Science informs the story.”…

Read the rest of this article from The Wall Street Journal.