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As any good geek family, we watch a lot of movies, both at home and at the theater. When something extra-ordinary or supernatural happens that we don’t quite follow how it happened, we refer to it as “eh, comic book science” – as in, it doesn’t have to be founded on actual science to be entertaining.
But there is a group in Kansas City that not only watches science fiction movies – they dig into the actual science behind the plot and action and discuss real life examples. Allow me to introduce you to SciFlix.
What is the name of your group?
What is your name and what is your role in the group?
Jack Treml, Director
How would you describe your group?
SciFlix is a community outreach designed to promote science literacy by exploring the hypotheses, the possibilities, and the ethics of popular fiction and to present them in a serious context with open and honest discussion among regional academics and professionals.
Our mission is to capture the imagination of the public with Science Fiction and keep it with Science Fact.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: I also love the group’s tagline: “Like a Date Night with your brain”!]
When was the group founded?
What made you want to found the group?
I formed the group in order to share my enjoyment of science and to make it more available and engaging to the general public.
How big is the group?
We have more than 200 members.
How often, and where do you meet?
We meet on the second Friday of every month at the University of Kansas’ Edwards Campus in Overland Park, KS.
What do you do at meetings?
Meetings consist of an open, unjudged science fair for area students/scientists of all ages to present their work to attendees prior to the opening the doors for the film.
At 6:30pm we welcome the group and introduce the film for the evening. The film is then shown in its entirety and without interruption.
Following the film, we break for snacks and refreshments while we play a game of light trivia using Kahoot.
After break, the panel is introduced and asked for a short reflection on the film and how their field or experience relates to the ideas in the film.
Finally, the floor is opened to guests to ask questions of the panel for ~45 minutes – depending on time – until the evening is brought to a close by 9:30.
What do you love about the group?
My favorite part of SciFlix is the opportunity it gives me to bring in panelists who are experts in a diversity of fields, some I am familiar with, and others that I know little or nothing about. The scientific community has been wonderfully kind and generous with their time. They have been uniformly excited about attending the events and sharing their knowledge. I’m very proud to be a part of this community.
Tell us about a particularly memorable moment in the group.
Once, towards the end of the evening after watching Soylent Green (1973), and discussing food safety and biodefense, a young attendee remarked that she often saw kids in her school picking their noses and eating it. Her question was, ‘wasn’t it unhealthy to eat boogers?’
To make things a little more awkward, an older attendee asked me to repeat the question for the benefit of those who couldn’t hear.
Nevertheless, to my great relief, the panelists did a remarkable job of embracing the question as a teachable moment to discuss the role of mucosal immunity and barrier defenses against infection.
What future plans lay ahead for the group?
I am hoping to bring in a friend of mine who is well-known scientist from outside of the region for a special event in the Fall, and would love to continue to hold such events at least once a year going forward. However, doing so is unavoidably costly and in order to keep SciFlix 100% free, this will rely upon my ability to raise the profile of our group sufficiently to gain a sponsor or write a successful grant.
What’s something you love about Kansas City?
As I said above, the scientific community here has been wonderfully supportive of our group. Yet, it is the members themselves, with their interest and support, who have made this project viable.
Where can someone find more information about your group?
- Website: www.edwardscampus.ku.edu/sciflix
- Meetup: www.meetup.com/SciFlix-at-KU-Edwards-Meetup/
- Facebook: www.facebook.com/KUECSciflix/
- Twitter handle: @KUSciFlix
Anything else you’d like to share?
We’re a free event every second Friday of the month! Come join us and help us grow.
Are there any science fiction movies you’d like to watch and hear an expert panel discuss? Share movie title suggestions in the comments!