ERIN MACDONALD: Star Trek does have a lot of that, where there is a scientific problem the crew is faced with, and they approach it as scientists. And that's something-- a role I play, as well, as a science advisor, is to advise on what information you need and how you approach problems.
D. PETERSCHMIDT: Welcome to Universe of Art, a podcast from Science Friday, and WNYC Studios, about artists who use science to take their creations to the next level. I'm Science Friday producer, D. Peterschmidt.
So I started pretty young on Start Trek, and it's why my favorite science topic is probably space. And one of the secret sauces of Star Trek that I love is that you feel like you're learning about real science concepts amidst these really high-stakes plotlines. And I never did that great in math and science in school, but watching Star Trek and the science at showcased, it really felt like its own education.
So I was super pumped when I found out my coworker, Kathleen Davis, was producing a segment for Science Friday featuring a scientific consultant for a bunch of recent Star Trek shows-- Discovery, Prodigy, Strange New Worlds. And before we get to that, I'm here with Kathleen to talk about how this segment came together.
KATHLEEN DAVIS: Hello.
D. PETERSCHMIDT: So are you a trekkie?
KATHLEEN DAVIS: So I have to admit, I am not a trekkie. But one of my favorite things in science is when science and pop culture intersect, so that's why this story really, really drew itself to me.
D. PETERSCHMIDT: Yeah, I mean, can you tell us more about Erin Macdonald, the subject of today's episode?
KATHLEEN DAVIS: Yeah, I mean, I have to admit, not the most exciting origin story for a segment. But I did get--
D. PETERSCHMIDT: That's fine.
KATHLEEN DAVIS: I did get, you know, a pitch, basically saying, hey, Star Trek has this new, very cool science consultant. Would you like to talk to her? And the more I looked into her, the more I was like, oh, she is really cool. She, you know, has so much background in space, and physics, and she is the science consultant across the Star Trek series.
Which, I didn't know this before going into this story, there are like several Star Trek TV shows going on at any given time. There are like movies, there are, you know, comic books, and video games, I think, too. It's just bananas out there.
D. PETERSCHMIDT: Yeah, I was listening to this segment, and she was like rattling off all the different TV shows and properties that happened. I was like, oh, my god, she's right. There are that many Star Trek shows happening right now. Also talk about dream job, at least for me. I'm a huge trekkie.
KATHLEEN DAVIS: Absolutely.
D. PETERSCHMIDT: What was something broadly you learned about scientific consultants for TV shows that you didn't know before? Or like the effect they have on them?
KATHLEEN DAVIS: I think the biggest thing for me was that, you know, I always have this question of, if you're a scientific consultant for a movie or a TV show, I mean, do you ever have to like acquiesce some real science because it doesn't look good, or it doesn't translate well to the screen? And Erin Macdonald really said, you know, this is a series that does really value the scientific accuracy. And I think a lot of Star Trek fans are very interested in science. And so, at that point, it's almost like if they get something wrong, you know, scientifically wrong on screen, the audience might call them out on it.
And so I just thought that was a really interesting way of doing that. Because I don't think that's the same for other movies or TV shows, necessarily.
D. PETERSCHMIDT: Yeah, totally. Yeah, Star Trek is pretty unique like that. So you're not a trekkie, but if you could be a consultant, an expert consultant, for a TV show, what TV show would that be? Doesn't have to be science fictiony, or anything like that.
KATHLEEN DAVIS: Oh, that is such a good question. It's not a TV show, per se, I love the Alien movies-- like that first Alien movie with Sigourney Weaver-- oh, my god, I love that movie so much. So if I could like sit behind the scenes, and throw in some real science to this extraterrestrial story, that would just be my dream.
D. PETERSCHMIDT: This is the second episode in a row where Alien has come up. And I'm totally OK with that. It's one of my favorites.
KATHLEEN DAVIS: You can't compete with it. It's one of the best out there.
D. PETERSCHMIDT: Totally. All right, well, thanks-- thanks for putting this together, Kathleen.
KATHLEEN DAVIS: Thanks, D.
D. PETERSCHMIDT: And now, here's Science Friday host, Ira Flatow, speaking with star trek scientific consultant, Erin Macdonald.
IRA FLATOW: There are a few pop culture franchises that do science quite like Star Trek.
[MUSIC PLAYING - STAR TREK THEME]
- Space, the final frontier--
IRA FLATOW: Is there a more recognizable opening line on television more iconic than that one? The Star Trek series, released in 1966, starring William Shatner as Captain Kirk, Leonard Nimoy as Spock. And since then, there have been a dozen shows exploring the Star Trek universe.
Some have been live action, some animated. But all explore concepts in astrophysics. And when I watch these shows, you know, I love them, I always think, how accurate is the science in this franchise?
It's an apt question for our next guest, who's going to tell me all about it. Dr. Erin Macdonald, scientific consultant for the Star Trek franchise. She has a PhD in astrophysics, and she joins us from Los Angeles. Welcome to Science Friday.
ERIN MACDONALD: Hi, Ira. I'm really honored to be here. Thanks for having me.
IRA FLATOW: I'm so happy to have you. Tell me a bit about your history as a science consultant for Star Trek. When did that all start? How did you get involved?
ERIN MACDONALD: Yeah, it's been going back till season three of Star Trek Discovery was when I came on, when they jumped forward to the future. My background, as you mentioned, is in astrophysics, particularly in gravitational waves. I've always used science fiction to teach science. And when I left academia, I started giving talks at pop culture conventions, which sort of led me into the entertainment industry.
IRA FLATOW: That's terrific. We want to get our listeners in on this, because I know we're going to melt the phone lines when I give out the phone number. Our number is 844-724-8255, to talk about the science that's in Star Trek. Or tweet us @scifri.
Were you always a big trekker, Star Trek fan?
ERIN MACDONALD: Yeah, I mean, I wasn't really exposed to it until I was in college. I was doing my undergraduate degrees in physics and math. And in the Venn diagram of Star Trek fans and physics majors, there's a big overlap in the middle there. And so at our sort of college parties, we would watch Next Generation, and that was kind of my first exposure to it.
And I fell absolutely in love with it. The big moment for me was when the 2009 Kelvin film came out. That was the night we all graduated. And so we did our big graduation, and then we went to the midnight premiere-- back when those were actually at midnight-- and surrounded by Star Trek fans, I realized, these are my people. This is where it's at.
IRA FLATOW: And how many Star Trek shows are airing at the same time these days?
ERIN MACDONALD: Now, I think, we've had five going. So there's a lot different flavors, as you mentioned, some are live action, some are animated, some are targeted at kids. And what's great is that they all kind of have different flavors of science. They all approach their storytelling differently, as Star Trek always has.
IRA FLATOW: Yeah, so give me an idea of what a day in the life of a science consultant looks like. What kinds of things are you actually doing?
ERIN MACDONALD: Yeah, a lot of it is working directly with the writers and showrunners. And so they'll reach out to me if they have specific questions, and then I sometimes try to sit, about once a week, in the writers' room itself, helping them break ideas if they have questions in the moment, or come up with story concepts. You know, I work as a writer-- I'm a big fan of science fiction anyway, so being able to help with that process.
And then, a big part of my job is literally just editing scripts. Going through them, and at the very minimum, making sure we don't say anything wrong. That's the big job.
IRA FLATOW: What do you mean, say anything wrong? For example?
ERIN MACDONALD: For example, like refer to our solar system, or a star system, as a galaxy. That's a common mistake that happens in science fiction all the time. And getting those things conflated, you know, making sure we talk about planets the right way, making sure we talk about nebulas the right way, and you know, that they're just dust and gas. And all of those little nuances that can sometimes slip by.
IRA FLATOW: You know, one of the central tenets of watching a film, a fiction film, is the willful suspension of your belief, right?
ERIN MACDONALD: Absolutely.
IRA FLATOW: How does that play into what you do, and in Star Trek, in general?
ERIN MACDONALD: Well, I think sometimes, you know, a lot of what I do, when I say I don't want them to say anything wrong, sometimes we'll have great, fun, fantastical storylines that isn't really rooted in science, and the advice is to just not try to explain it.
Because I think that's when that suspension of disbelief-- when you're talking about a giant energy being that's grabbing a hold of the ship, as soon as you start to apply science to it, that's when you're going to start to lose people. When, if you just let it be, you could just ride the story.
IRA FLATOW: Do you have a favorite science plotline you've consulted on?
ERIN MACDONALD: Yeah, I mean, there's been a few. My first one was to do the big story arc for season three, which was called the Burn. And what I was brought on for was to really apply some science to the dilithium, which is a fictional Star Trek element that's been around since the '60s, and plays a role in the technology of these starships. And I was able to kind of add on some canonical explanations to it, that was really exciting and really special.
And then, in that same season, I also consulted on episode five, I believe, where they encounter a coronal mass ejection. And that was the first time that we've had one of those in Star Trek before. So that was fun.
IRA FLATOW: That is-- dilithium crystals, really? Where do they come from? Do we do we have a history on that?
ERIN MACDONALD: Well, yeah, the first thing I had to establish was, is it dilithium? Or is it di-lithium? Because as many Star Trek fans, who are also chemistry majors, will point out that lithium does not allow itself to be combined in such a way. And so we established, nope, it is just called dilithium, and it's its own thing.
I came up with these subatomic particles that tap into subspace, and make the story work that way.
IRA FLATOW: You know, you talked about just having to accept things when something big happens, you don't want to explain it. And I think one of those things that I've always wondered about, and we have gotten calls about in the past, is warp speed. Right? How do you survive going to warp speed? The human body can't really take that kind of acceleration.
ERIN MACDONALD: No, this is true. I mean, the ships do have inertial dampeners, which is kind of--
IRA FLATOW: Oh, forgot about that.
ERIN MACDONALD: --the equivalent of seat belts.
IRA FLATOW: The inertial dampener.
ERIN MACDONALD: Yep, because inertia is the thing that's going to get you, right? But when you do go to warp-- the whole concept of warp drive, mathematically, is really interesting, and it is actually possible. The concept is that you're building a bubble of space time around your ship. So on the ship, itself, you're still traveling-- I mean, at the speeds they are, much faster than we can conceive of now.
But even then, they're not quite at the speed of light. And then, the bubble of space time just carries the ship faster than light. Because in our rules of general relativity, nothing says that space time, itself, can't go faster than the speed of light. It's just stuff on the surface of it.
IRA FLATOW: I love that explanation. Let's go-- I'm going to-- there are a couple of harder ones on the phone, I'm going to get them to ask you.
Marty, in Ellensburg Washington, hi, welcome to Science Friday.
AUDIENCE: Hi, thanks. I'm just wondering, especially since I just got a new knee, are the Borg really possible?
ERIN MACDONALD: Oh, the Borg.
IRA FLATOW: You mean-- yeah, tell us what the Borg are, if you will first.
ERIN MACDONALD: Absolutely. So the Borg is probably something a lot of young Star Trek fans remember, as the first thing that gave them nightmares. But it's essentially a sort of cybernetic species that goes around assimilating different cultures. And they incorporate a lot of technology into their beings.
But the big thing that the Borg have, that was kind of established in Star Trek Voyager in more detail, is these nanoprobes. So these little, itty bitty mechanical devices that swim throughout your bloodstream, and coordinate all of these cybernetic implants that you've got. So I don't think we're quite there, yet-- I don't know if you have to worry about that with your knee, quite yet.
But it's certainly interesting. And I think this idea of integrating-- it's really biotechnology, right? Integrating robotics with our bodies. We are not far away from.
IRA FLATOW: Do you ever go in the opposite direction? Do you ever suggest something that they could incorporate into the script that you're thinking about?
ERIN MACDONALD: Yeah, quite a few times. I mean, I don't want to take too much credit, because these writers, you know, they come up with really, really cool stories. But like the CME, the coronal mass ejection that I mentioned, that was a big one where it was, like let's just have a space disaster. We just want a cool space disaster that's going to interrupt the transporter. What would be a fun one that we could use with that?
And so then, we kind of built the story around it being a coronal mass ejection. Which is, for people who aren't aware, it's like a solar flare plus-- it carries a lot of massive radiation particles in addition to the kind of normal solar flares that we see.
IRA FLATOW: Yeah, a lot of people want to talk to you. Let's go to Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin. Jeff, welcome to Science Friday.
AUDIENCE: Hi, yeah, thanks. I'm reading a series of books now, and they use something called an alcubierre drive, supposedly it's a real theoretical thing. And I was just wondering, is that the same thing as the warp drive?
ERIN MACDONALD: Yeah, absolutely. So the alcubierre drive was kind of the first major warp drive that was mathematically laid out. And so, as I talked about, where warp is about building a bubble of spacetime around your ship, the alcubierre drive takes that concept, and this warp drive, the alcubierre drive, could work. The issue is the amount of energy required to do it. Because mass bends space time-- that's the bowling ball on the trampoline analogy.
If you don't have that mass to build a warp bubble, you need an equivalent amount of energy. Which, you know, is times the speed of light squared. So that's a level of energy we don't know how to harness, yet. So that's the barrier that's keeping us from getting there.
IRA FLATOW: You have to keep up with all these things, don't you?
ERIN MACDONALD: Yeah. And sometimes, the writers get to it before I do, you know. A lot of the writers love science, they're really interested in it. And so I'll pop into a writers' room, and they'll be like, hey, Erin, tell us about this new black hole finding. And I've got to go look it up.
And you know, it's really cool. It's great to have a team that's so invested in science, as well.
IRA FLATOW: Dr. Macdonald, do you ever view this as more than just a science fiction thing, but maybe a teaching experience?
ERIN MACDONALD: Oh, absolutely. I think it's hard to undersell how influential Star Trek has been on science. You know, it's been around for, gosh, 60 plus years at this point. And it has influenced and inspired people to become scientists.
And so there is some responsibility to uphold that legacy of inspiring people and getting the science correct. And particularly, with the new show, Star Trek Prodigy, which is targeted at kids, a lot of that is actually more of a teaching job, and leaning on my teaching background, to try to explain difficult concepts to kids, and hopefully inspire them to become scientists.
IRA FLATOW: Yeah, because it can inspire a lot of people to think about the laws of physics. I mean seriously. Let me go to, for example, my next caller. Let's go to Nicholas in New Bedford, Mass. Hi, Nicholas.
IRA FLATOW: Go ahead.
AUDIENCE: So in the latest season of Star Trek Discovery, we see the ship go past the edge of our galaxy into another galaxy, where the laws of physics seem to differ very greatly. Now, is this somehow something theoretical? Is there actually evidence that suggests that in another galaxy, but still in our same universe, there could be very different laws of physics?
ERIN MACDONALD: Understood, yeah. No, I really appreciate that question. So yeah, in season four of Star Trek Discovery, the crew go past the galactic barrier, which was inspired from all the way back to the original series. And then, they enter what's actually a star system, where species 10C lives. And what the species 10C has done is they create a bubble, that's almost like a Dyson Sphere Plus that surrounds the entire star system and is protecting them from the outside.
So that was more on the science fiction side. It's always a bit of a spectrum. But what's fun about exploring the galactic barrier, because that was more on the legacy of Star Trek, we did actually try to look up if there was any science based on that. And just really quickly, you know, we do have this thing called the heliopause at the edge of our solar system, where radiation particles from the sun kind of get stopped because they don't have enough escape velocity to fully escape our solar system and the gravity well of the star.
And I was thinking like, well, what if there's something similar at the edge of our galaxy? Like galactopause, if you will. And actually, since we kind of were coming up with that idea, I did actually see a paper hit the preprint archive on the idea of a galactopause. And so this idea that there is radiation particles--
Now, it's not so much that the laws of physics in the species 10C star system had changed, but more that they had created an environment in which they could live and be protected from the exterior intergalactic space.
IRA FLATOW: Very well put. That's like a master's thesis right there.
ERIN MACDONALD: Sorry. That was a lot of science in one sitting, I know.
IRA FLATOW: I want to talk about Data, because Data is, I think, one of the unique things about Star Trek. You know, Data, for both of you who've been in a cave for decades, Data is an android, he's a key star in Star Trek, and his desire to become more human all the time is giving him a personality now less science-fiction-like and more science-present, do you think?
ERIN MACDONALD: I do think so. And you know, for people who might not be aware, I could recommend-- it's in my top five episodes of Star Trek to watch is, A Measure of a Man, from an original series, or from the Next Generation, excuse me, that explores the rights of Data. And I think, watching that with a context now that we have with artificial intelligence, and these great strides that are happening faster than we can keep up with, is even more interesting than it even was back in the day, because it really forces you to think about the rights of artificial intelligence.
And I do think this is a conversation that we're going to be having for a long time. And it is going to dominate our culture in the next decade.
IRA FLATOW: Kurt, in Fort Dodge, Iowa, hi, Kurt.
AUDIENCE: Yes, hello.
IRA FLATOW: Hi, there. Go ahead.
AUDIENCE: Well, I was just wondering, through all the different shows, and the exploration that they represent, and everything that they do in the universe, I was just wondering, how come you don't really see a whole lot of exploration or explanation around trying to understand black holes?
IRA FLATOW: Oh, you do, but you can't see it. No, that was a bad joke. I'm sorry.
ERIN MACDONALD: Right. Yeah, I mean, we do-- we do try to incorporate some of that. I mean, thinking about the history of science, I talked about how science is integrated with Star Trek for so long, one of the cool things is that in the original series, back in the '60s, we still hadn't detected a black hole. It hadn't even been coined in the literature. And I think Captain Kirk, at one point, says, that there was like a void of blackness in space.
And within a year, the term, black hole, had been coined in publications. Which is a bit chicken and the egg, we don't really know which came first with that one. But we have tried to integrate some, and even with things that we've discovered through gravitational waves, we're starting to build out our pictures of black holes even just better than we knew 10, 15 years ago.
And so those start to fold into our stories a little bit more. This idea of roaming black holes. And yeah, obviously, you have to have some visual imagery that's going to be fun to go with it. In the recent season, season one of Strange New Worlds, they actually escape an enemy-- I won't spoil it too much-- they escape an enemy by utilizing gravitational time dilation and slingshotting around a black hole.
So it's all about just trying to find the right scientific phenomenon that fits the story.
IRA FLATOW: You're never fearful of going through your wormholes, though, right? Star Trek goes through wormholes a lot.
ERIN MACDONALD: Exactly, in fact, Deep Space Nine was pretty much set at a wormhole.
IRA FLATOW: Jerry in Heber Spring, Arkansas, welcome to Science Friday.
AUDIENCE: Hey, so I got just kind of an off the wall question. It's more in like personality than technology, but for your guest there, has there ever been anything that was presented by a writer or the staff where you just went, yeah, no, that's not going to work?
ERIN MACDONALD: I appreciate that question. [LAUGHS]
IRA FLATOW: Do you have that power?
ERIN MACDONALD: Right, I will say, you know, I do think it's important as a science advisor to be a positive force in the room, and to not squash people's dreams and ideas. And so I try to take a yes/and approach to story ideas that are presented to me. And you know, sometimes it's more important to just say like, that's a really cool idea, let's not explain it. Let's just let that be. And try to adjust, as necessary, to what we do know in science.
IRA FLATOW: Yeah, because Rich, in was it-- Yorba Linda, California, is going to ask about something like that. Go ahead, Rich.
AUDIENCE: Yeah, thanks. My question was how legitimate is the transporter and the replicator? And what kind of science do you justify that whole concept?
ERIN MACDONALD: I love-- I love the transporter. OK, I'll make this really brief. So the transporter, with our physics knowledge we have now, could never work.
Because you break down all of the particles of the body down to almost subatomic particles, and you have to know exactly where they are to put them back together. And Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, which is a physics concept, doesn't allow that. The more you know about where a particle is, the less you know about the speed it's going, and then there's an ultimate Heisenberg limit that you can't reach.
But in Star Trek The Next Generation, they're repairing the transporter at one point, and there's a Heisenberg compensator.
IRA FLATOW: Oh, wow.
ERIN MACDONALD: And that compensates for Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle. And how does the Heisenberg compensator work? It works very well. Thank you.
IRA FLATOW: And we'll be right back after this break.
Have you had moments where you've actually had to change the science because it's not working for the story? You know?
ERIN MACDONALD: Yeah, actually, we did. In Discovery, there was one time where they were trying to escape what we had the dark matter anomaly, and they were writing the gravitational waves out of it. Which is my technical scientific background. And gravitational waves don't exactly work the way we were visualizing it.
The visuals, as they're all standing around the table, you know, in the ready room, trying to plan this, were looking like ocean waves. And gravitational waves really look more like sound waves, like compression waves that are happening in multiple dimensions. And so they tried, to their credit, they tried to image it correctly, like gravitational waves look.
And it immediately pulled people out. Because you hear wave, and you expect to see something. And so, we decided to just leave it looking like an ocean wave, because it wasn't worth the time and explanation it would take to explain to people why it looked that way. They're just trying to say, they're going to ride the waves out.
IRA FLATOW: Yeah, yeah, Jeffrey in Pittsburgh, welcome to Science Friday.
AUDIENCE: Hello, Dr. Macdonald, thank you for the very entertaining and interesting conversation. Mine is a comment, and then a quick question. As an emergency physician, and somebody that's old enough to be a fan of the original Star Trek, a medical tricorder was fascinating to me. And as I see patients today in my practice, it occurred to me that with the micronization of sensors, as well as artificial intelligence, machine learning, we're getting close faster than I think most people realize to an early medical tricorder.
And Dr. Macdonald, with your access to the scientists that you talk to, what are your thoughts on that?
IRA FLATOW: Yeah, good question, thanks doc.
ERIN MACDONALD: Yeah, I mean, you know, what's interesting is I do think necessity drives invention. And in the last couple years, we've been at a place where we've had to have more remote medical diagnostic capabilities. Where you're able to diagnose people from a distance, or without touching them. And then, also, technologies-- I mean, I'm wearing a device on my wrist that's measuring my heart rate, is measuring my pacing, and all of those.
And so, yeah, certainly our technology is getting us there. And I think, even a few years ago-- it's probably close to a decade now-- there was an XPRIZE to try to develop a device that could diagnose, I think-- it was like five vital signs, and diagnose 12 diseases. And someone did win that. It's just, at the time, prohibitively large and expensive.
But the technology does exist. And I do think, you know, as you mentioned, the miniaturization of technology will get us there, as well. As well as machine learning.
IRA FLATOW: You know, I kind of think that-- you touched on this before a little bit about science education-- but I think, speaking and talking about these things actually makes some of them happen. I'm thinking of the first flip phone-- that Motorola flip phone, was based on Star Trek, wasn't it?
ERIN MACDONALD: Yeah, absolutely. Everyone wanted to pop open that phone and call the Enterprise. And it drives that. And also, the one I think of, too, is when we all started getting e-readers-- those were the exact shape and size of the data pads in the Next Generation.
And you can't avoid the fact that people are watching this on Star Trek, or any science fiction, and think, I really want that. And then, they work toward it, and they end up inventing these things.
IRA FLATOW: Cool. Comment from Dan on Twitter, who says, I teach a first year college course called science fiction, science fact. And we watched some episodes of Star Trek the Next Generation to discuss the importance of science fiction in understanding science. Which episodes would you recommend for teaching science?
I love Measure of a Man on Data.
ERIN MACDONALD: Oh, that's a great question. Oh, there's so many good ones. It's like, the science is so embedded in the DNA of Star Trek. You know, my personal favorite episode of Star Trek ever is Voyager's Counterpoint.
And that's where Janeway is trying to discover where a wormhole is going to appear. And it's not so much about educating like what a wormhole is, but I think seeing scientists science, and Star Trek does have a lot of that, where there is a scientific problem the crew is faced with, and they approach it as scientists. And that's something-- a role I play, as well as a science advisor, is to advise on what information you need and how you approach problems.
IRA FLATOW: You know, I see the evolution, so to speak, of Star Trek from the Kirk days, where they would settle things by fighting out in the back lot someplace on a cheap set, right? That's how they settled things. And then, they got more cerebral later, right?
But Picard solved everything with his brain. He outsmarted you. He outthought you. Right?
ERIN MACDONALD: Yeah, absolutely. They all have their own little approaches. And you mentioned the fighting on the planet with fisticuffs, but in that episode, in Arena, Spock and McCoy are up watching this fight going on, and be like, he's not going to figure it out. He's got to do the chemistry. He's got to do the science. He eventually figures it out.
IRA FLATOW: If you could move Star Trek in some generation, some direction, I mean, where would you like to see it go?
ERIN MACDONALD: I've really enjoyed Prodigy, and reframing these classic Star Trek ethos. Like you said, the philosophical, as well as the problem-solving and the scientific, to be targeted at kids. And seeing more of that, having these more hard sci-fi shows that are accessible and available to kids, I think, really can influence an entire generation and how they, you know, decide to pursue their careers.
IRA FLATOW: Is there a teaching material? I mean, do they make teaching materials out of Star Trek episodes that they could use in schools? Maybe they should be doing that.
ERIN MACDONALD: I mean, I've certainly heard a lot of teachers, as the commenter mentioned, who use science fiction. In fact, I did, as well. And for Star Trek Prodigy, we also did a series of webisodes that people can watch that was the science of Star Trek Prodigy, where we did short, five, 10-minute explainers of the science in these episodes. So people can go and find them, where you watch Prodigy, and they're also available streaming online.
Because we do want to find ways to teach through Star Trek. I think it is so effective.
IRA FLATOW: Yeah, it is. And I guess once you get hooked on Star Trek, you're hooked.
ERIN MACDONALD: You're hooked.
IRA FLATOW: You're hooked. So if you get hooked on-- you know, because kids are natural born scientists. They want to know how everything works, they want to take it all apart, they'll make mistakes. And you kind of get that vibe from Star Trek.
ERIN MACDONALD: Absolutely. Yeah, I agree. We're all scientists at heart, you know, starting out. We problem solve.
IRA FLATOW: Dr. Macdonald, good luck. You have an enviable job, I think.
ERIN MACDONALD: Thank you.
IRA FLATOW: Dr. Erin Macdonald, science consultant for the Star Trek franchise, based in Los Angeles. Thank you for taking time and sharing what you know.
ERIN MACDONALD: Thank you. It's a pleasure to be here.
D. PETERSCHMIDT: Universe of Art is hosted and produced by me, D. Pewterschmidt, and I also wrote the music. The original segment you just heard was produced by Kathleen Davis, and our show art is illustrated by Abelle Hayford.
And support for Science Friday's science and arts coverage comes from the Alfred P. Sloan foundation. Also, if you have an idea for a future episode of Universe of Art, send us an email or voice memo to email@example.com. We'll be back in two weeks. See ya.