Big-screen boffins 'in time warp'

It's science Jim, but not as we should know it. Real science may have moved on, but a survey of 222 science films made over the past 80 years shows that the image of the scientist is stuck in a time warp with Frankenstein.

It's science Jim, but not as we should know it. Real science may have moved on, but a survey of 222 science films made over the past 80 years shows that the image of the scientist is stuck in a time warp with Frankenstein.

On screen, boffins are usually nutty, naive or bad, performing evil science in the basement or attic. At best, they beat back invading viruses or aliens. Top of the rotters' league are medical researchers - who do secret experiments on humans - followed bychemists and physicists. The good guys are zoologists, archaeologists, anthropologists, geologistsor astronomers.

The survey found only 18 per cent of screen scientists were women - usually playing second fiddle to a male genius. The typical movie scientist was white, American and middle-aged. One in five was mad.

Professor Peter Weingart, of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Science, who led the study, said: "Inventions are dangerous in more than 60 per cent of the stories, and in more than a third the discovery gets out of control."

A third of the films dealt with cloning, immortality, and artificial or supernatural life. And in 14 per cent, the science was totally fictitious.

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