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Astronomy in Popular Culture

Astronomy in Popular Culture

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Astronomy in Popular Culture

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  1. Astronomy in Popular Culture • Word of acknowledgement: Andrew Fraknoi • Today: Products/Advertising, TV, Movies

  2. Advertising and Product Names • Connection to actual astronomy often strained at best, but TONS of products have names/themes taken from astronomy

  3. Sirius • Brightest star in night sky • “Dog Star” eye of the hunting dog constellation, Canis Major • Sirius means “scorcher” in ancient Greek • Star heliacal rising during the hot days of late summer: “Dog days” • Also flooding of the Nile • in ancient Egypt; basis for • their calendar

  4. Sirius • Actually a binary system • Visible star is about twice mass of Sun (“type A”) • Companion is a white dwarf at about the Sun’s mass (Sirius B) • The pair are only about 8.6 light years away Hubble image of the pair

  5. Samsung • Korean company, translates to “tristar” • The “three” is for “big, numerous, and powerful” and “star” is for eternity • Old logos had three stars

  6. Automobile Names • Mercury • Initially a line of Ford, later becomes independent, actually named for Roman god • Saturn • Offshoot of GM, for small cars, new engineering practices, employee owned • Actually named for Saturn V rocket (Apollo program), despite planet-theme logo

  7. Astronomy in Product Names • Subaru is actually the Japanese word for the constellation the Pleiades • Mythology “Seven Sisters” • Note Atlas & Pleione are the parents of the seven sisters

  8. Individual Car Names • Sun and its motion through heavens: • Solara (Toyota), Del Sol (Honda), Corona (Toyota), Solstice (Pontiac), Equinox (Chevy), Eclipse (Mitsubishi) • Constellations: • Taurus (Ford), Aries (Dodge) • Stars and remnants: • Capella (Mazda), Pulsar (Nissan), Carina (Toyota - Japan only), Nova (Chevy), Vega (Chevy), Polara (Dodge)

  9. Individual Car Names • Conjunctions • Sunfire, Sunbird (Pontiac); Sunliner (Ford); Aerostar, Freestar, Windstar (Ford) • Others: • Satellite (Plymouth); Celica (Toyota; Spanish for celestial); Aurora (Oldsmobile); Astro (Chevy); Comet, Meteor (Mercury); Galaxie (Ford); Astre (Pontiac - in Canada only); Astra (Saturn)

  10. Other Mobile • Mitsubishi’s four “straight 4” automobile engines are all astro themed! • Astron, Orion, Saturn, and Sirius • Polaris ATVs

  11. Astrophysicists Selling Products? • Sharp TV and solar panel commercials from a few years ago

  12. Yum! Candy Names

  13. Astronomy inProduct Names: Candy • Interestingly, all of those are from the same parent company: Mars Incorporated • Technically, named for Mars family but their products have often gone with astro-theme names • Based in NJ, headquarters in McLean, VA • Recently bought Wrigley - hence the gums! • Galaxy is the UK name for Dove bars; Starbursts are called Opal Fruits across the pond; no truth to the rumor that Nerds were named after astronomers like me

  14. Interlude • Why use astro terms in product names? Why connect products to astrophysicists or scientists?

  15. Astronomy On TV/Movies • “Big Bang Theory” on CBS • Two physicists, an engineer, and an astrophysicist at Caltech • Writers employ an actual UCLA professor (David Saltzberg) to check equations and content! • There’s a blog by Saltzberg that discusses the science in each episode (“The Big Blog Theory”)

  16. My Simpsons Fetish • Several excellent astronomy references in the Simpsons • “Bart’s Comet” (Season 6) • Bart gets caught pulling a prank, Principal Skinner forces him to wake early and assist with astronomy observations

  17. “Bart’s Comet” • Did Skinner ever find a comet? • “Once, but by the time I got to a phone my discovery had already been reported by Principal Kohoutek. But I got back at him… him and that little boy of his.” • Good: coordinates and procedure • Good rival name!

  18. Significance of Principal Kohoutek • 1973 comet, was hailed as “comet of the century” • Discoverer a Czech astronomer • Discoverer’s name attached to comets they find, some prolific comet hunters! • Media hype well beyond comet’s actual performance Comet Kohoutek

  19. “Homer 3D” (Treehouse of Horror VI) • Equations in 3D world • Closed Universe ρ(mo) > 3Ho2/8πG “There’s so much I don’t know about astrophysics. I wish I read that book by that wheelchair guy!” • At right: violation of Fermat’s Theorem, computing theorem, imaginary numbers

  20. Powers of Ten • 1968 educational video showing size scales in increments of ten • Guy on blanket, pan out to universe scales, then into sub-atomic • Simpsons used it as “couch gag” in opening sequence • “The Ziff Who Came to Dinner,” and later for two others

  21. “ ‘Scuse Me While I Miss the Sky” • Chastised for having too many interests, Lisa opts to focus on astronomy • Light pollution drives her to push a petition • Museum music is Jupiter from Holst’sThe Planets Suite • Don MacLean’s Vincent plays as people watch a meteor shower Season 14

  22. Multiple Episodes with Stephen Hawking (that wheelchair guy) • Famed physicist, astrophysics theories of gravitation and black holes • “Your theory of a donut-shaped universe intrigues me, Homer. I may have to steal it.” • Also has been on Big Bang Theory

  23. Family Guy? • Seth MacFarlane is actually very devoted to accurate portrayal of science in TV and film! • Is executive producer for a re-boot of the “Cosmos” series (coming 2013; with Neil deGrasse Tyson… another Big Bang Theoryguest)

  24. Science and Entertainment Exchange • Program set up by National Academy of Sciences in 2008 • Initial launch event had MacFarlane as MC • For accurate portrayal of science in TV and film, and to make real science exciting • Recent AAAS efforts, “webinar” on “Bringing Accurate Science to Television and Film”

  25. Harry Potter and Astro References

  26. Harry Potter: The Black Family Most names are star or constellation names! Including everyone’s favorite dog, Sirius.

  27. Harry Potter: O.W.L.s • Harry took his Astronomy O.W.L.’s at midnight, in June • He uses his telescope to view and draw Orion… which isn’t visible then • He then examines Venus… which also isn’t visible, or shouldn’t be

  28. Venus and Harry Potter Venus is at most about 45 degrees away from the Sun, so it is only seen near Sunrise or Sunset. Ever so slight chance he might have viewed it precisely on the horizon at mid- night.

  29. Movies with Astronomer/Astrophysicist Characters • Natalie Portman in Thor (2011) • New Mexico astrophysicist! • Change from comic book • Thor’s hammer supposedly “forged inside a dying star” • Movie employed astrophysicist to assist with script (Sean Carroll)

  30. Other Movies • Sam Neill in The Dish (2000) • Australian radio astronomers supporting Apollo 11 • Jodi Foster in Contact (1997) • Radio astronomer at VLA doing SETI (based on Sagan book) • Matthew Broderick in Addicted to Love (1997) • Neurotic fellow stalks ex-girlfriend • Charlie Sheen in The Arrival (1996) • Radio astronomer finds hostile alien takeover in progress • Quite possibly the only movie where someone gets excited at building a phased array

  31. Hollywood Astronomers • Dan Aykroyd in My Stepmother is an Alien (1988) • Daryl Hannah in Roxanne (1987) • Astronomer in Washington state, love interest in Cyrano de Bergerac modern adaptation • All good looking people (OK, maybe not Aykroyd), clearly representative of actual astronomers

  32. Observatories in Movies: Arecibo • Arecibo (in Puerto Rico) • Radio telescope, built into mountain valley GoldenEye Species Contact

  33. Observatories in Movies: VLA • Very Large Array (New Mexico) • Array of 27 radio dishes 2010: Odyssey Two Independence Day The Arrival Contact Armageddon Terminator Salvation

  34. More VLA • Rock album covers with VLA dishes • Also a video, for one of the Bon Jovi songs

  35. Conclusion • Astronomy is present or alluded to in a large number of pop culture areas • Why share some of this stuff with you? • Good point of reference! • Public outreach