Out of This World: The Science of Space Movies

Out of this World

Presented by the Academy’s Science and Technology Council

Hosted by Adam Weiner

Can you travel at warp speed? Survive a wormhole? Hear a scream in space? Rocket to the future?

When do science fiction movies accurately portray basic principles of physics, and when do they allow fundamental laws of physical reality to fall by the wayside? Adam Weiner hosted an evening that examined the “real” physics behind many of your favorite science fiction films.

In this interactive presentation, physics concepts were used to analyze famous scenes from films including “Planet of the Apes” (1968), “Superman” (1978), “Apollo 13” (1995), “Contact” (1997), “Event Horizon” (1997), “October Sky” (1999) and “Star Trek” (2009), exploring how the fictional world of Hollywood movies can often provide an effective springboard into investigating real science.

The evening included conversations with some of the films’ creative teams, who explained how many scenes were created, as well as a discussion with real-life experts on space travel.

Adam Weiner is the author of Don’t Try This at Home! The Physics of Hollywood Movies. He currently teaches physics at The Bishop’s School, a private high school in La Jolla, California.

With Special Guests:

  • Oscar-winning visual effects artist Richard Edlund (“Star Wars”)
  • Writer Philip Eisner (“Event Horizon”)
  • Former NASA flight director Gerry Griffin, who served as a technical advisor on “Apollo 13” and “Contact”
  • Former NASA astronaut Dr. Jeffrey A. Hoffman, who logged more than 21.5 million miles in space and is now a professor in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics at MIT.
  • 2006 Nobel Prize winner and experimental astrophysicist Dr. George F. Smoot III, professor at the University of California at Berkeley
  • Oscar-nominated visual effects artist Matt Sweeney (“Apollo 13”)
  • Visual effects supervisor Hoyt Yeatman (“Mission to Mars”)

Event Information

Thursday, August 5, at 7:30 p.m.
Samuel Goldwyn Theater
8949 Wilshire Blvd.
Beverly Hills, CA 90211
Richard Edlund, Philip Eisner, Matt Sweeney, Adam Weiner and Hoyt Yeatman

Visual effects artist Richard Edlund, writer Philip Eisner (seated), visual effects artist Matt Sweeney, host and author Adam Weiner (seated) and visual effects supervisor Hoyt Yeatman.

Adam Weiner

Host and author Adam Weiner

“Out of This World: The Science of Space Movies” continues with two nights of screenings

Friday, August 6 at the Linwood Dunn Theater


Hosted by Adam Weiner

Woman in the MoonConsidered by many to be one of the most influential science fiction films of its time, this Fritz Lang classic, based on Thea von Harbou’s novel “Frau im Mond,” tells the story of a group of scientists and adventurers who take a rocket trip to the moon. With Klaus Pohl, Willy Fritsch, Fritz Rasp, Gerda Maurus. Directed and produced by Lang, written by von Harbou. Silent with English intertitles. In digital projection. 169 mins.

Event Information

Friday, August 6, at 7 p.m.
Linwood Dunn Theater
1313 Vine Street
Hollywood, CA 90028

Saturday, August 7 at the Silent Movie Theatre

In collaboration with The Cinefamily:


Using fluid camera work and no narration, experimental filmmaker Ed Emshwiller’s “Project Apollo” was made for the United States Information Agency and gives a fascinating portrait of NASA’s Apollo project a full year before the actual moon landing. In digital projection. 30 mins.

Followed by:


This Academy Award-nominated documentary chronicles NASA’s Apollo missions from the 1960s and 70s, featuring original mission footage, and interviews with the astronauts and excerpts from actual mission recordings. Directed by Al Reinert, produced by Reinert and Betsy Broyles Breier. Print courtesy of the Academy Film Archive. 80 mins.

Academy Award nominee: Documentary Feature (Reinert, Breier)

Event Information

Saturday, August 7, at 7 p.m.
The Silent Movie Theatre
611 North Fairfax Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90036
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