Cinematic Imagination that Predicted the Future: Science


Finding a way to control the uncontrollable or uncovering the unknown through science makes a terrific movie plot. The ideas draws the audience in being so far fetched and ethically disturbing. But does fiction stop nonfiction scientific minds? Nope. Here are few movies to prove that in part 2 of Cinematic Imagination that Predicted the Future.

Contact (1997)

Jodi Foster in Contact
(photo: Jodi Foster in Contact)

Set in real time, Ellie Arroway (aka Jodie Foster) listens for radio emissions from space hoping to find evidence of alien life. Spoiler alert: she hears one. A repeating signal sent from Vega 26 light years away. Containing a hidden message leads Arroway to travel through space to meet the aliens… or does she?

In reality, radio emissions or fast radio bursts (FRBs) from space is actually a thing. The first recorded FRB appeared in in 2001. Since then, scientists have observed 33 more FRBs. Most occur only once for a millisecond, so they are easy to miss. However, in November 2012, a FRB was heard and has been on repeat – only FRB on record to do so. It has allowed astronomers to detect its source from 3 billion light years away of either a neutron star near a black hole or embedded in a powerful nebula.

Three more separate FRBs in quick succession were heard last month. One on March 1st, March 9th (the brightest ever recorded), and a final one on March 11th.

Since FRBs sources are unknown, one can’t say for sure it isn’t aliens trying to make contact. Only time will tell even if for a millisecond.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

The drama revolves around the concept of erasing chosen past relationship memories and significant others from our brain. It centers around an estranged couple (Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet) that erase their memories to forget each other. Then they meet and start dating again. There is a moral to the story and well, if you haven’t watched it, I don’t want to spoil it.

So, ask yourself, if you could erase any painful memory, would you? It was assumed if you erase one memory, you would erase them all. Research conducted by Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital and Columbia University Medical Center discovered that different types of memories can be picked out and targeted even though they live together in a section of the brain.. An enzyme called PKM controls our memories. PKM variants can be stimulated with electroconvulsive therapy (as shown in the movie) to erase a category of memories, but not just one.

A category would be a collection of “fear or threat” memories. A study by the University of Toronto were able to pinpoint that “category” and delete them. Working with mice, they discovered the ability to disrupt what keeps those unpleasant memories alive. Their next step – testing it on humans. The main goal for the research is to help those with PTSD that disrupts a person’s life.

Even though it may be an exciting thought, one must stop and think. Is it morally or ethically okay? What happens when bad memories are taken away? If we have no fear, how do we know what we are experiencing is bad? Experiences create empathy, appreciation, and ambition. Bad experiences, as horrible as they can be, make us the person who we become and teach us how to survive. 

Geostorm (2017)

(Satellites used to control the weather in Geostorm)

With record breaking natural disasters in 2017, Geostorm came out right at an ironic time. It gave us a look into a “possible” scenario if we could control the weather. One man, Gerard Butler, invented a way to control the weather with satellites. No more hurricanes, earthquakes, wildfires – just sunny days with a sprinkle when needed. Until someone hacks into the satellites and cause a weather shit storm.

Of course, we as humans thrive on control and the idea behind controlling mother nature is one of them. In 1996, the U.S. Air Force commissioned a report called "Weather as a Force Multiplier, Owning the Weather in 2025," which studied the idea of controlling weather to use it against enemies.

Even if the study had a result it wouldn’t have gone far considering there is an international ban against using the weather as a weapon. The Environmental Modification Convention banned it in 1977 when it was rumored weather was controlled in the Vietnam war.

We do know how to control some elements. We know how to control lightening to come to us with the right equipment. 

We have figure out a way to “make it rain” by a process called cloud seeding. How much can be produced is argued – some say 5 – 15 feet and a pre-existing presence of clouds must be present. It won’t work for drought-stricken areas that haven't seen a cloud in weeks.

China hopes to increase that number... by an extreme amount. Recently announced, China is building a low-cost rain making system to increase rainfall to its Tibetan plateau by up to 10 billion cubic meters or 2,641,720,523,581 gallons annually.

There is no way to control natural disasters. The idea on how to has definitely been discussed, which all boils down to satellites to manipulating weather patterns from using shade panels to laser beams. For now, all we can control is making an effort for a cleaner and healthier planet to prevent further climate change.

Jurassic Park (1993)

Twenty-five years ago, the first Jurassic Park movie was released. On June 22, Jurassic World 2 (aka Jurassica Park 5) will be released and a Jurassic World 3 is already in the works. It all started with an idea of bringing back the dinosaurs through DNA that was found in a mosquito harden in amber millions of years prior.

One example of DNA cloning was in 2000. The last bucardo (wild goat) on earth died bringing extinction to the species due to hunting. However, before she passed, her DNA was extracted and injected into a goat in hopes to bring the species back. In 2003, one egg was brought to full term, but died seven minutes after birth.

Advancement will continue to improve DNA cloning, but for the dinosaurs there aren’t any dinosaur DNA samples to clone. Even if there were, the cells need to be preserved because cells break down over time. The oldest DNA found is from a 700,000-year-old horse found frozen.

In 2016, a 99-million-year-old dinosaur tail that included bones, soft tissue, and feathers, was found casted in amber. But unlike the movie, amber doesn’t prevent DNA breakdown from 65 million years ago.

One character in the movie, Dr. Alan, theorized birds were descendants of dinosaurs. That idea came from world-renowned paleontologist Jack Horner, whom the character was based on. He believes birds are the only the genetic key to dinosaurs. Horner hopes to have a living dinosaur, reverse engineered from birds, within the next 10 years.

I understand the fascination of wanting to see the minds and actions behind a species that once ruled that planet, but a force beyond our control destroyed all life of them. If that is what nature intended, then perhaps it’s best to let them rest in peace.

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