See the science in cinema this summer

The Coolidge offers three free Science on Screen events on the Rose Kennedy Greenway in June, July, and August.

"The Birds"

Back in 2005, the folks at the Coolidge Corner Theatre proposed the idea that science can be fun, especially when the topic is tied into how it’s presented in movies. The resulting Science on Screen series was a success from the start.

Coolidge programmers picked films that had some kind of science theme, then invited a guest speaker from the scientific community to give a pre-screening lecture explaining how the science in the film worked.

Features that first year included “The Elephant Man,” with a discussion on genetic mutations in progressive disease; “A Brief History of Time,” and a talk about particle physics and the history of the universe; and “Jaws,” featuring some revelations of why we fear great white sharks.


Usually on hiatus during the summer months, Science on Screen is trying something new this time around. The Coolidge, partnering with the Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy, is bringing it outdoors, with three free films and lectures taking place on the Greenway at sunset on three summer Wednesdays.

The schedule is as follows.

June 15: “The Birds” (1963). Alfred Hitchcock’s horror film, based on the Daphne Du Maurier short story, tells the tale of our feathered friends becoming deadly enemies in a small California town. The introduction, by Harvard evolutionary biologist and ornithologist Dr. Scott V. Edwards, will focus on the molecular evolution of birds. Note: There is no music in the film.

July 13: “Tremors” (1990). Ron Underwood’s blend of horror and comedy looks at what happens to the population (14 people) of a desert town when giant, sharp-toothed worms rise out of the ground and prove to be hungry for humans. Boston College paleobotanist Dr. Paul Strother will talk about real-life organisms (smaller and a lot less toothy) similar to those in the film. Note: The creatures are referred to as Graboids.

August 10: “Fast Five” (2011). Justin Lin’s third time in the director’s seat as part of the “Fast & Furious” franchise has the Toretto gang being chased down by the FBI in Rio de Janeiro as a $100 million bank heist is being planned. No speaker has been announced yet, but the topic could easily be about the physics that would be involved in two cars dragging a 9,000-pound steel vault at high speeds through city streets. Note: The film was mostly shot in Puerto Rico, not Brazil.


The free screenings are on the Rose Kennedy Greenway between India Street and Milk Street in Boston, and begin at sunset. In case of rain, they’ll happen the following day.

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