Best Movies for Engineering
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Episode Show Notes
What are the best movies and TV shows in entertainment for inspiring your thinking in engineering? Rachel, Sadhan, and Pius talk about their top suggestions, and they discuss how they affect perceptions of engineering.
Our closing music is from "Late for School" by Bleeptor, used under a Creative Commons Attribution License.
Check out the book and ebook Engineer’s Guide to Improv and Art Games by Pius Wong, on Amazon, Kindle, Apple iBooks, Barnes & Noble Nook, and other retailers.
Subscribe and find more podcast information at k12engineering.net. Support Pios Labs with regular donations on Patreon, or send one-time contributions by buying us coffee. Thanks to our donors and listeners for making the show possible. The K12 Engineering Education Podcast is a production of Pios Labs.
Pius Wong 0:00
Huge thanks to my supporters on Patreon who funded this podcast and a second podcast experiment of mine called Engineering Word Of The Day. Check it out on iTunes. More on that at the end of the show. If you like what I'm doing, please help me out by donating on Patreon.com/pioslabs, that's P-I-O-S-L-A-B-S. It's May 22, 2017, and this is the K12 Engineering Education Podcast.
Are you looking for some movie or TV suggestions to inspire yourself or others in engineering? Listen to today's podcast. The three of us got back together to discuss our top picks.
I'm Pius Wong.
Sadhan Sathyaseelan 0:50
I'm Sadhan Sathyaseelan.
Rachel Fahrig 0:51
And I'm Rachel Fahrig.
Pius Wong 0:53
We are here for the K12 Engineering Education Podcast once again, and we are in a local cafe here in Austin. So please pardon our noise for a little bit. We're going to talk about movies and TV and media that have inspired you in engineering, or if you think they can inspire others in engineering.
Rachel Fahrig 1:14
OK good, because I'm not an engineer.
Sadhan Sathyaseelan 1:15
Only about engineering, or also science?
Pius Wong 1:17
Wait, what was that?
Sadhan Sathyaseelan 1:18
Is it just engineering? Or is it also science?
Pius Wong 1:20
I would say both, but I want to I want to focus on engineering
Sadhan Sathyaseelan 1:23
All right. Sounds good.
Rachel Fahrig 1:25
Sadhan Sathyaseelan 1:25
Let's do it.
Rachel Fahrig 1:26
We can do that.
Pius Wong 1:27
Why did you ask that question?
Sadhan Sathyaseelan 1:30
I mean, I don't know. We have sci-fi. So we just, like, the wider the number of movies that we can talk about versus engineering is kind of narrow. But we can still talk about it. If it's sci-fi, there's a lot...
Rachel Fahrig 1:45
I think in sci-fi, there's a lot of engineering. So I think about, not to be super nerdy, but hello, Star Trek. Isn't that engineering?
Pius Wong 1:53
That's a good point. It's called science fiction.
Rachel Fahrig 1:54
There is way more engineering than science.
Pius Wong 1:55
It should be called STEM fiction.
Rachel Fahrig 1:57
We don't talk about microbiology in Star Trek. It's all engineering. That's why you have a whole section of the ship devoted to what? What?
Pius Wong 2:07
Rachel Fahrig 2:08
Pius Wong 2:08
Wait, no, but in Star Trek Voyager, there's a whole episode about the biomolecular power cells.
Rachel Fahrig 2:15
Wait, I don't... Voyager is like, so... No.
Pius Wong 2:18
All right. So we're getting ahead of ourselves.
Sadhan Sathyaseelan 2:20
A simple example why it's important to differentiate between science and engineering. And I want to give an example for it, too.
Rachel Fahrig 2:31
Sadhan Sathyaseelan 2:32
Okay, the movie Matrix, okay?
Rachel Fahrig 2:34
Sadhan Sathyaseelan 2:35
It's an amazing sci-fi movie.
Rachel Fahrig 2:36
Yes it is.
Sadhan Sathyaseelan 2:37
Okay. But when you take the engineering part of it, they were using humans as batteries. That's the worst thing you can do. That's like the biggest, stupidest, inefficient...
Rachel Fahrig 2:46
I think it's brilliant.
Pius Wong 2:50
No, no, I agree. Well, wait. So I would say it didn't inspire me to do that. But it makes you think about what not to do. I think that's great.
Rachel Fahrig 2:59
Sadhan Sathyaseelan 3:00
OK. I can get behind that.
Pius Wong 3:00
There's so much stuff in movies and TV that I think teach - it teaches you stuff because you know what not to do.
Sadhan Sathyaseelan 3:05
Okay, I can get behind that.
Pius Wong 3:07
All right. So on that vein, I wanted to talk about a few things. There was a movie that we spoke about in a previous episode. It came out like last Christmas called Hidden Figures.
Sadhan Sathyaseelan 3:20
I still haven't watched it.
Pius Wong 3:21
You haven't seen it? Have you seen it?
Rachel Fahrig 3:23
No. Shamefully I have not.
I'm a woman who works in STEM and have a science major. And I haven't seen this movie and I'm ashamed of myself.
Pius Wong 3:33
Well, I'm not shaming you for not watching. I'm just bringing up - we don't have to talk about it for too long.
Sadhan Sathyaseelan 3:37
I have a small premise of it. I mean, I know it's about NASA. There was - they were mistreated. That's pretty much what I know.
Pius Wong 3:47
So the story - the movie is about these three women, black women, African-American women, around the early days of NASA, back when then when there was segregation, and women were not held in very high esteem.
Rachel Fahrig 4:00
I mean plenty of people just weren't getting higher education at the time anyway. And there were so - there are still so many systemic barriers for persons of color, as far as higher education goes, but this was - I mean, these were women who were achieving higher education, multiple advanced degrees.
Pius Wong 4:19
Rachel Fahrig 4:20
Long - like while the civil rights movement or prior to the civil rights movement even was taking place. So they overcame odds that are not even -
Sadhan Sathyaseelan 4:32
This happened during the Civil Rights?
Rachel Fahrig 4:34
Well, they were working during the Civil Rights Movement so they already had their education. So this was pre Brown v. Board. This was pre-national integration. And they had multiple advanced degrees. They were engineers. They were advanced scientists. They were advanced mathematicians. And they had been hired by NASA. But they weren't taken seriously. And they were sitting literally kept hidden in a back room to crunch the numbers.
Pius Wong 5:09
That's the double meaning.
Rachel Fahrig 5:11
Literally hidden figures.
Pius Wong 5:13
Whoever named that movie, they named it right. Yeah. So the spoiler alert is that, yes, they were not taken seriously.
Rachel Fahrig 5:19
Sorry. I hope I didn't ruin it for anybody.
Pius Wong 5:20
No, no, there was segregation in the past. That's a fact. And so they touch on that. For example, the women had their own segregated areas to work in. The black women had their own segregated areas to work in.
Rachel Fahrig 5:34
Separately from the other women.
Pius Wong 5:36
So it was like a very, to me, a strange thing to see because I did not grow up in that type of environment. But it was very eye-opening to witness, and the storytelling, I thought was really moving. And so there's a certain scene in it, if you watch it, where I was like, Oh, my God, that's that's awful. And it makes you...
Sadhan Sathyaseelan 5:37
I think I heard about that scene.
Rachel Fahrig 6:01
Yeah, we're not spoiling it for anyone.
Pius Wong 6:03
No, but I will say that Taraji P. Henson is a good actress. She played the mathematician, which you often see in the trailer, who was basically really, really genius in doing these calculations. She was literally a computer. That was her job. And that's what their job really was back in the day. To do all these like, trigonometric complication.
Rachel Fahrig 6:26
Pius Wong 6:27
Calculations. So in any case, it's a feel-good movie. And I think that it's a good story to be told. And I was so interested in it afterward, that I looked up: what are the real stories here? Turns out that this is based on a true story. So they did take the separate stories of three women and mashed it together. So it is a retelling. It is fiction, but there's definite truth in it. And I think that it really spoke to anyone who has faced some kind of adversity to try and achieve something that you want do, especially if it's in engineering.
Rachel Fahrig 7:02
Well, and I think about some of our past work, where we have specifically had a focus on diversifying and becoming more inclusive for the face of engineering participation. And we know that, particularly for women, and particularly for persons of color, they're far more likely to engage in an activity or continue an educational process when they see people who look like themselves. So when young African American women watch this movie, and they see women who look just like me, had been accomplishing stuff, shall we say, for decades, and I just didn't know about it, they're likely far more inspired to not only explore that realm, but to stick with it, to engage in it, to invest in it, and even to involve their friends and others like them in it. And that's really important.
Pius Wong 8:06
Rachel, that's a great point. There really is research backing all that up, that representation is important. And I will say that, me having watched that movie, I think that - I am not an African American woman, but I do what I like. I like math, I love math. Actually, I love engineering and creating stuff. And I feel like anyone - and this is basically everyone - anyone who has ever felt like they were maybe the underdog - and this is the underdog to the extreme. It's like excruciating actually to watch it. It gives you a new appreciation for that. And it's almost like, okay, if they could get through that, then you know what? I can get through the mediocre stuff that I'm going through.
Sadhan Sathyaseelan 8:48
Okay, this movie reminds me very much of the other movie where - Okay, what's the guy who played - Benedict Cumberbatch.
Pius Wong 8:59
Sadhan Sathyaseelan 8:59
The mathematician Alan Turing.
Pius Wong 9:01
Oh, I didn't see that movie. What movie was that?
Because he was gay
Sadhan Sathyaseelan 9:03
I can't remember. Imitation Game. I think it's Imitation Game. It's so - he was pretty much the same thing. He was like very mistreated.
Because he was gay. Yeah. So The Imitation Game, the premise is: there's a puzzle that happened during the World War, where they're communicating through these machines called Enigma that has a one in a million chance of getting right. And it would reset itself every two or 24 hours, something like that. So he has to crack that. So he builds a machine for that. And he's mistreated because he's gay.
And I think they didn't they did not recognize him for a long time.
He was recognized much later.
But during this, this is a famous test. There was another movie about it. It's called Ex Machina?
Rachel Fahrig 10:02
Sadhan Sathyaseelan 10:03
So it's about it's about a robot and artificial intelligence that this guy built. And in order to pass that test of, you know, the complete artificial intelligence, it needs to pass a test called Turing test where it interacts with the regular human being. And the human being cannot differentiate between, you know -
Rachel Fahrig 10:25
Precisely. It doesn't know that it's artificial intelligence.
Sadhan Sathyaseelan 10:28
Rachel Fahrig 10:28
Sadhan Sathyaseelan 10:29
That's a pretty cool movie, too. If you haven't watched it -
Rachel Fahrig 10:31
I haven't seen it, but I've read about it.
Sadhan Sathyaseelan 10:33
Oh it's an amazing film
Pius Wong 10:34
Does it make you want to code?
Sadhan Sathyaseelan 10:37
It makes me want to build robots.
Pius Wong 10:40
But there are all those movies - Speaking of movies that teach a bad thing, there's so many killer robots in movies. Why are we obsessed with killer robots?
Rachel Fahrig 10:48
There are even video games. So my son who is seven is obsessed right now with -
Pius Wong 10:54
Rachel Fahrig 10:54
Well, he can't have the game because he's only seven. But there's a soundtrack for this game called Five Nights at Freddy's.
Pius Wong 11:02
Rachel Fahrig 11:02
And it's about killer robots.
Who? What? Anyway, that's a sidebar.
Pius Wong 11:08
But it's a cartoony game. I know that game.
Rachel Fahrig 11:10
Well yeah. It's a pop-up cartooney scare-the-poopy out of you game.
Pius Wong 11:13
Yes, it's a horror game.
Rachel Fahrig 11:14
It's absolutely inappropriate for a seven-year-old.
Pius Wong 11:16
Rachel Fahrig 11:16
But I gotta tell you, and this is completely unrelated: The soundtrack? Pretty good. Pretty poppin. I mean, it's funk. It's all right. Check it out. That's a separate podcast.
Pius Wong 11:28
No, that's okay. Yes, I think that...
Rachel Fahrig 11:31
Don't build killer robots.
Pius Wong 11:37
I don't know. Like, I feel like you watch these movies with killer robots, and it doesn't - it never inspired me to make robots.
Rachel Fahrig 11:43
Well think about Terminator, though. It was amazing.
Pius Wong 11:49
Does it make you want to make the liquid one or the original Arnold Schwarzenegger one?
Rachel Fahrig 11:53
No, the Arnold Schwarzennegger one, because he has that bad streak in him, but he ends up understanding because he is built artificial physical intelligence. Somehow he's learned over time that there's a protective thing that has to go on, and you can use your strength and your programming. It's like the dark side going the light side. I don't know.
Pius Wong 12:13
That's if you follow all the movies, because the very first movie he just tried to kill him.
Rachel Fahrig 12:18
Yeah. Aren't you supposed to watch the whole series?
Pius Wong 12:20
I guess so. Yeah,
Sadhan Sathyaseelan 12:21
Don't watch the whole series because after 2 it's bad.
Pius Wong 12:24
Right. I really liked the liquid metal evil Terminator from Terminator 2.
Sadhan Sathyaseelan 12:31
From an engineering perspective I would prefer that.
Rachel Fahrig 12:33
It is really bad.
Pius Wong 12:35
Rachel Fahrig 12:36
It's pretty evil.
Pius Wong 12:37
I guess it's a warning of the future.
Rachel Fahrig 12:38
Pius Wong 12:41
You wanted to say something?
Sadhan Sathyaseelan 12:42
No, I'm saying like, if Arnold could have that ability, then that's the coolest thing you can -
Rachel Fahrig 12:47
So you would want an upgraded yet kind model that -
Pius Wong 12:52
Like in the movie Big Hero Six. Have you seen that?
Sadhan Sathyaseelan 12:56
Rachel Fahrig 12:56
I love Big Hero Six.
Pius Wong 12:57
You have? It's that Disney movie if no one's seen it. A couple years ago, I forget when, but it's -
Rachel Fahrig 13:04
Three or four years old?
Pius Wong 13:05
Yes. Not based on a true story.
Rachel Fahrig 13:07
No, but it could be.
Pius Wong 13:08
But a science fiction, engineering -
Sadhan Sathyaseelan 13:11
It's an animated movie.
Pius Wong 13:12
Animated Pixar movie.
Rachel Fahrig 13:14
Pius Wong 13:14
Yes. San Fran Tokyo. It's a San Francisco Tokyo mashup? Yeah.
Sadhan Sathyaseelan 13:19
Pius Wong 13:20
And there's that kid who -
Rachel Fahrig 13:21
Pius Wong 13:22
Hiro. Yes. In case we didn't know he's the protagonist or not. Hiro who is like half Japanese, that's why his name's hero. He has an older brother, who is in the -
Rachel Fahrig 13:23
Takashi. No, is that -
Pius Wong 13:34
Yeah, Takashi. No, you're right. Okay, without spoiling anything -
Rachel Fahrig 13:38
I may or may not have seen this movie more than one time.
Pius Wong 13:41
It's very cute movie with like smart kids, multiple kids, a diverse cast of kids who do lots of cool stuff in engineering and science.
Sadhan Sathyaseelan 13:50
I never thought about that movie. Yeah, it's a good movie.
Rachel Fahrig 13:52
Pius Wong 13:53
It was sad.
Rachel Fahrig 13:54
Yeah, the sad part is really sad. And if you're a parent, I'm just saying the sad part is really, really sad. But it works out well in the end. And the engineering things that they do in there are super cool. And what's funny is some of them are perfect. They're Pixar.
Pius Wong 14:14
But some of them are realistic.
Rachel Fahrig 14:15
Pius Wong 14:15
They're coming out today like the little nanobots in there.
Sadhan Sathyaseelan 14:18
Yeah, that's what I remember. The magnetic thing that's -
Rachel Fahrig 14:22
And kids those and they want to play with those. They're hitting kids Christmas list, and it's pretty amazing.
Pius Wong 14:29
I would put that on my top list, as well, of things that kids should see, of a certain age.
Rachel Fahrig 14:34
Oh yeah, absolutely.
Sadhan Sathyaseelan 14:35
Like Lego with artificial intelligence.
Pius Wong 14:36
Terminator when you get older. But yes. Speaking of Legos, what did you think of a Lego movies?
Rachel Fahrig 14:43
Everybody loved the Lego movie.
Pius Wong 14:44
I didn't see the latest one.
Sadhan Sathyaseelan 14:46
The first one is good.
Pius Wong 14:47
Yes, it did make me want to be -
Rachel Fahrig 14:49
Everything is awesome. Everything is cool when you're part a part of a team.
Pius Wong 14:50
I'm a branding zombie here. But I do like Legos. And I did want to play with Legos more after watching that.
Rachel Fahrig 14:57
Of course you did.
Pius Wong 14:57
So Sadhan. I heard that one of your favorite movies is called Interstellar.
Sadhan Sathyaseelan 15:08
Indeed. It is.
Pius Wong 15:09
Can you tell me about that?
Sadhan Sathyaseelan 15:10
Of course I can talk about that.
Pius Wong 15:11
And Rachel's laughing.
Rachel Fahrig 15:13
I'm only laughing because anyone who has known Sadhan for more than about eight and a half minutes, knows, without a doubt, that Interstellar is absolutely his number one favorite movie of all time.
Sadhan Sathyaseelan 15:27
Yeah, that's how I filter people off. Like, have you watched Intersteller? No? I'm done with you.
Rachel Fahrig 15:33
Have you ever seen Interstellar? No? Bye.
Sadhan Sathyaseelan 15:35
Yeah, that's how the conversation goes. Yeah, I have watched it. I'm familiar.
Pius Wong 15:38
So, brief summary.
Sadhan Sathyaseelan 15:41
Pius Wong 15:42
Without spoiling too much.
Rachel Fahrig 15:43
Pius Wong 15:43
What is it about?
Sadhan Sathyaseelan 15:43
Oh, okay. So I'm not gonna spoil anything. But if you haven't watched it, it's a must-see film. And it's a film that you should show your kids, too. So this is a movie that's based on hard science, a hard science film. But it also has a lot of the human aspect in the film. It's really, really must-see. I would compare it to movies like Contact in the past, or 2001 Space Odyssey in terms of its visualization, in terms of its thinking and everything. But essentially, from the engineering context of it, I wanted to bring this up, Intersteller, the design of the robots.
Pius Wong 16:29
Speaking robots, yes. So I remember that. That was cool.
Sadhan Sathyaseelan 16:32
Speaking of Legos and robots.
Pius Wong 16:34
Yeah, describe the robot in this sci-fi movie.
Sadhan Sathyaseelan 16:37
Okay, so the unique thing that I felt was, it was very minimalist.
Is this like a, like a giant cube of metal?
Pius Wong 16:45
So like, if Apple or Steve Jobs were to design the future robot? That's what it could have been?
Sadhan Sathyaseelan 16:50
No, I mean, if Apple designed it, it would be more shiny. Yeah.
Pius Wong 16:54
Sadhan Sathyaseelan 16:55
Yeah, so I would say, the closest thing I can come to, to describe the design of this bot, is the engineer, mechanical engineer designing the differential gear. If you do not know how a differential gear works, go online, there's a video that explains how it works. It's the most simplistic idea anybody can ever think of, and it revolutionized automobile industry. So it's that simplistic. Its bare minimum. There's nothing more to it. It's just the bare minimum, and achieves certain things. And I think that's the connection that that I give to Interstellar, the robot in Interstellar. Not the artificial intelligence part, just the modular design of it. And I think it's a genius moment. It's engineering, because it achieves certain tasks. But it doesn't have anything fancy in it. It's not like shiny. It's not like -
Pius Wong 17:49
The interesting thing, though, is, I think, I agree, it is minimalist when it's just sitting there. But it does more than just sit there. When it's mobile, it looks very fancy. So, yes, if nothing else, you can look out for that when watching the movie. And I think the beauty of movies like this, like past sci-fi movies, is, it maybe inspires inventors to create something like it. Like I remember, in Star Trek, they always had those electronic books, and tablets.
Rachel Fahrig 18:21
And now we walk around with tablets and touchscreens.
Pius Wong 18:23
It was made in what, the 90s. And now we literally have that. So maybe we're gonna have this fancy robot in the future from Interstellar.
Rachel Fahrig 18:31
I can't wait. What's that Tom Cruise movie? Minority Report.
Pius Wong 18:35
Rachel Fahrig 18:36
Where he just plucks stuff out of thin air and manipulates it on an imaginary board in front of him. So I work in school improvement. And I'm handling multiple campuses across the state of Texas, which is a huge state. And some of these schools have multiple improvement components going on, all at the same time. They have all these initiatives and activities and quarterly goals and annual goals. I want my Minority Report board so that I can figure out what is going on.
Sadhan Sathyaseelan 19:08
We have a - What is it called? It's like a table. It's not on the wall. But it's a huge table with a touchscreen on it.
Rachel Fahrig 19:14
I want that.
Pius Wong 19:15
You want the one that's in midair.
Rachel Fahrig 19:16
In midair. I just want to move the stuff around.
Pius Wong 19:18
That freaks me out, that movie. I remember that part in that movie. This is a spoiler a little bit, but like, it was like the internet spam age of the 90s was in the future where, like, remember, they were scanning your retina and it would literally go into your consciousness, all these ads.
Rachel Fahrig 19:31
That's fine. I'm actually okay with that.
Pius Wong 19:32
So you're willing to trade that off?
Rachel Fahrig 19:34
Only because of what I'm doing right now at work. Now, if you caught me on it, you know, at a different time at a different job, I might stand up in protest. I have no idea. But right now, I'd be okay with that. Please dump it into my brain. That's fine.
Pius Wong 19:48
Sadhan Sathyaseelan 19:48
Okay, so we spoke about artificial intelligence and how we can turn against - robots can count against us. So another thing to watch out for in Interstellar is how the robots are designed and even how the artificial intelligence is designed. Even though artificial intelligence has this reputation of being, you know, you cannot control it, it can turn against humanity. But there is also another possibility of artificial intelligence being everything that we want it to be. And that's captured amazingly, in this film. And so that's something to look out for.
Pius Wong 20:27
Like it's a good robot, you mean.
Sadhan Sathyaseelan 20:30
Yeah, good. Yes. Artificial Intelligence that is good. And it is for the humanity.
Pius Wong 20:36
Right that it helps humanity survive rather than destroys it.
Rachel Fahrig 20:40
Pius Wong 20:41
So that's cool. I'm glad that we can imagine both futures.
Rachel Fahrig 20:44
Pius Wong 20:50
So there was a movie called The Martian with what's his face? Bourne Identity?
Sadhan Sathyaseelan 20:57
Yeah. Same guy who got lost, right?
Pius Wong 20:58
Yes. The guy who -
Sadhan Sathyaseelan 21:00
Pius Wong 21:01
Clearly I haven't written down all my notes. But like, that came out a little while ago.
Sadhan Sathyaseelan 21:06
It came out after Interstellar.
Pius Wong 21:06
It was based on a book.
Sadhan Sathyaseelan 21:07
And I was pissed that he was stuck in space again, and you had the same movie.
Pius Wong 21:11
But it's not the same movie.
Sadhan Sathyaseelan 21:12
Pius Wong 21:13
And it's also not as dark. Well, I don't know. It's dark, but not as dark. And I feel like the manners in which problems are solved were way more detailed, I guess, than in Interstellar. I kind of appreciated that. For me as an engineer or a scientist, I could be like, Oh, I could actually see him calculating out how much oxygen is left inside his tank, or calculating out how much fertilizer he needs to make.
Rachel Fahrig 21:39
It was more explicit with the processes up front, I think.
Pius Wong 21:42
Yes. It was kind of cool.
Rachel Fahrig 21:44
It was openly exposed.
Sadhan Sathyaseelan 21:45
I think that's why the book was famous. Yeah. The book was famous because of that specific part in my understanding. Yeah.
Rachel Fahrig 21:51
Pius Wong 21:53
The guy had a sense of humor as well. He wasn't like this brooding nerd or something like that. I don't know.
Rachel Fahrig 21:59
I don't know. I think one of the most profound, lasting, simple, accessible, far-reaching examples of engineering as it was brought to America - and people are gonna laugh their butts off when I say this - but I think they'll also agree. MacGyver.
Pius Wong 22:25
Rachel Fahrig 22:26
Sadhan Sathyaseelan 22:26
I have no idea what you're talking about.
Rachel Fahrig 22:27
Oh my gosh. You are so missing out.
Pius Wong 22:30
Rachel, how would you explain -
Rachel Fahrig 22:31
Watch all of them.
Pius Wong 22:32
How do you explain MacGyver to someone like Sadhan who was not here in the 80s?
Rachel Fahrig 22:37
First of all, he's got some big sketchy job with the US government.
Sadhan Sathyaseelan 22:45
It's a film?
Rachel Fahrig 22:46
Sadhan Sathyaseelan 22:46
TV show. Okay.
Rachel Fahrig 22:47
It's a series. It lasted, like, I don't know, five or six years. It was a long time. So there's this guy, MacGyver. He only ever goes by one name, and he has this job with the government. And nobody he knows what the job is. But he travels all over the world, basically saving people's lives, essentially.
Pius Wong 23:06
And defusing bombs.
Rachel Fahrig 23:08
With a bubble gum wrapper and a salt shaker,
Pius Wong 23:11
that's the classic joke. He always used the bubble wrapper, and like a piece of twine.
Rachel Fahrig 23:16
Well, but one time he was getting refugees out of a war-torn area. And there was something wrong with the radio, and he pulls out his Swiss Army knife, and he turns a couple of screws, and it fixes the gain on the radio so it doesn't sound bad. But also, not only can we have great radio signal in, we can transmit out, and you're like, what? That's a radio from like, 1957. Doesn't matter. He's sending signals, and all these refugees are hopping on a train, and they're getting their butts out of this dangerous place. Swiss Army knife and a screw. Plus there was a wedding.
Sadhan Sathyaseelan 23:53
Okay, that's touching sci-fi, too, beyond -
Pius Wong 23:56
Rachel Fahrig 23:58
No, but some of - That's the thing. Most of the experiments that they were running - it was very much like Myth Busters. Because they're doing simple engineering that's real, to solve an in-the-moment problem. They're not solving grand societal problems. They're not solving problems that are going to impact an entire nation, or it's not going to solve a problem across decades. But we need something fixed beyond a light bulb or a broken window or something like that. We have to actually fix an entire thing. Like, for example, we're stuck on a train in the middle of the desert, and we need to get a radio signal out. What can we do?
Pius Wong 24:50
So it's a smaller scale kind of thing.
Rachel Fahrig 24:52
Sure, but they were actual engineering problems. And they had engineers and scientists on staff who were advising the script writers and the directors, saying, no you really can't do this.
Sadhan Sathyaseelan 25:01
Okay, so it's scientifically accurate.
Rachel Fahrig 25:06
There was some license taken.
Pius Wong 25:08
It was still a work of fiction, but yes.
Rachel Fahrig 25:12
Sadhan Sathyaseelan 25:13
So it's not like Myth Busters then.
Rachel Fahrig 25:19
Right. So they're not running an actual experiment, because it's a work of fiction, fictional TV series, during, you know, like, Must See TV or Thursday Primetime or Friday Primetime. I forget.
Pius Wong 25:31
It was on network TV.
Rachel Fahrig 25:32
I think it was NBC. I don't remember.
Pius Wong 25:33
It's pretty iconic. Like most Americans at that time know of it.
Sadhan Sathyaseelan 25:36
So is it like, the show kind of created this idea that you can use technology to solve problems? Or like engineering to solve problems?
Rachel Fahrig 25:46
It was more like ingenuity is accessible, and that normal people can become really brilliant problem-solvers.
Sadhan Sathyaseelan 25:51
I kind of get it. Gotcha. I kind of get what you're saying.
Pius Wong 25:54
I gotta say, as a kid, when I had seen that show, and I used to watch it with my family, it was like, as a kid, I didn't understand it. And it might as well have been magic, actually, for a lot of it. And so I always thought it was cool though, what he had done, and he was portrayed as like a cool guy kind of thing.
Rachel Fahrig 26:11
Yeah just a regular guy.
Sadhan Sathyaseelan 26:12
Han Solo kind of guy.
Pius Wong 26:12
Right, as opposed to another nerd or something.
Rachel Fahrig 26:16
It wasn't a nerd with a pocket protector, sitting isolated doing math, like the typical image that we had for a long -
Sadhan Sathyaseelan 26:23
Hey, Spiderman is a nerd.
Pius Wong 26:24
Well, actually speaking of the Spider Man, I mean, that's a whole other story. We should so do an episode on these other types of movies.
Rachel Fahrig 26:30
You guys are going to have to have like two or three sci-fi episodes. I can see this coming.
Sadhan Sathyaseelan 26:32
I mean, Spiderman, he built the - What do you call it?
Pius Wong 26:35
He's a smart person.
Rachel Fahrig 26:36
Yeah, he built his own webshooter.
Pius Wong 26:38
I actually really liked that movie. And the the beauty of that movie is, at least in - I forget which one, the one with - Well, one of them is more relatable.
Rachel Fahrig 26:47
I've only ever seen the first one.
Sadhan Sathyaseelan 26:49
We're talking about the first one.
Pius Wong 26:51
Is it the first one?
Sadhan Sathyaseelan 26:51
Pius Wong 26:52
Yeah, they make it more of a human - Yeah, Toby Maguire. I'm horrible with actors' names.
Rachel Fahrig 26:58
So I don't know MacGyver was - I was always interested in the sciences as a kid. My mom has a Bachelor's in science. And so I would, I had intimate exposure to it. But MacGyver made doing some really - what seemed to me to be technical things - easier and accessible. And I understood a lot of what he was doing. I was taking physics and chemistry at the time, and he would explain things. You would hear the narrative, as the actor was doing it on screen. You would hear his voice explaining what he was doing. And sure, there were liberties taken, but the science and engineering that they were explaining was, in most cases, at least theoretically real and applicable.
Sadhan Sathyaseelan 27:52
Got it, yeah.
Rachel Fahrig 27:52
And it made it so - it made hard things so simple. It was basically a lot of, kind of like Khan Academy or YouTube lessons, before any of that was available to a kid like me.
Sadhan Sathyaseelan 28:09
Rachel Fahrig 28:09
Sadhan Sathyaseelan 28:10
I kind of get the vibe of it.
Rachel Fahrig 28:11
I mean, we didn't have the internet then.
Sadhan Sathyaseelan 28:12
It does sound cool. I don't have in comparison I can say.
Rachel Fahrig 28:15
You're going to have to go look this up. And they tried to reboot it, and they made MacGyver a woman, I think.
Pius Wong 28:22
Oh, I didn't know that.
Sadhan Sathyaseelan 28:22
They should do one now. That would be -
Rachel Fahrig 28:23
Well they did. It was released last year, or the year before.
Pius Wong 28:26
Really? I haven't heard of it. So it wasn't very big?
Rachel Fahrig 28:28
Yeah. It never gained traction. It wasn't super popular.
Sadhan Sathyaseelan 28:31
Well, I think Bill Nye, Bill Nye the Science Guy, he's coming out with another one.
Rachel Fahrig 28:33
Oh yes he is.
Pius Wong 28:35
I can't believe I forgot about that. Yeah.
Sadhan Sathyaseelan 28:37
But he's coming up with another one.
Rachel Fahrig 28:38
Pius Wong 28:43
I want to add one small moment. I saw the new Beauty and the Beast lately. Did any of you see this?
Rachel Fahrig 28:49
I have not. There's dying.
Pius Wong 28:51
So spoiler alert, again -
Rachel Fahrig 28:53
Well, isn't her father an engineer and an inventor?
Pius Wong 28:56
Her father is an inventor. And they carried that over into Belle, this time, a little bit in the beginning.
Rachel Fahrig 29:01
Pius Wong 29:01
There's a little scene where I was watching, like, oh, what's she building? I'm like, Oh, she's building that. And then it very quickly turns sad. But that's okay. It's a good scene. The movie itself is another episode.
Sadhan Sathyaseelan 29:17
Wait, Beauty and the Beast is another episode? And Interstellar doesn't get another episode?
Pius Wong 29:21
No, more like I didn't like it that much.
Rachel Fahrig 29:22
Pius Wong 29:23
That's what I'll say.
Rachel Fahrig 29:23
But we'll talk about the engineering part of it.
Pius Wong 29:25
Yeah, that's what I could say. Interstellar, we could talk about, as well. And I have lots of thoughts about that.
Sadhan Sathyaseelan 29:29
Okay, so can I share one last thing?
Not about Interstellar.
Pius Wong 29:32
Yes. About Interstellar?
Rachel Fahrig 29:34
Sadhan Sathyaseelan 29:34
But about films.
Pius Wong 29:36
Sadhan Sathyaseelan 29:36
So I was reading about this film, sci-fi films, the worst sci-fi films ever. And they were talking about, there was this one reviewer. He's also like a science - or he has an engineering degree, or he has a master's or something. So he was talking about how there were certain films that happened in the 60s that were absolutely terrible when it comes to the science part.
Pius Wong 30:00
Oh, of course.
Sadhan Sathyaseelan 30:01
But they were still acceptable, because the technology of filmmaking was less, was not that good.
Rachel Fahrig 30:09
Yeah, sure. Yeah. We didn't have the technology to do certain things in a film.
Sadhan Sathyaseelan 30:14
Right. Yes. And compared to now, when you have all the technological advancements in filmmaking itself, that will allow you to capture anything that you want to do in sci-fi arena, as accurately as possible. So it's kind of like a mark that - it's like, if there is any inaccuracies in sci-fi movies, there's nobody to blame other than filmmakers.
Pius Wong 30:42
Yeah. And in a way I don't mind the inaccuracy. I love the inaccuracy sometimes - not even inaccuracy, but imagination. Because it's like, why should they always get it right? Why make - otherwise you're making a documentary, you know? I want to see a vision of the future that's not robots killing me.
Rachel Fahrig 30:59
Pius Wong 30:59
Yeah. You had said a long time ago that engineering is about "what if" for something.
Sadhan Sathyaseelan 31:03
Oh, no, that I'm talking about a fallacy. Something like - What's an example?
Pius Wong 31:11
Like wrong science.
Sadhan Sathyaseelan 31:12
Pius Wong 31:14
No, I get it. I get it. Okay.
Sadhan Sathyaseelan 31:15
Not the creativity part of it, not the fantasy part of it.
Pius Wong 31:18
Sadhan Sathyaseelan 31:18
But you just everything - that part wrong.
Pius Wong 31:22
Okay. Good point. I totally, I get it. Well, thank you, Sadhan. Thank you, Rachel.
Sadhan Sathyaseelan 31:28
Thank you, Pius.
Rachel Fahrig 31:28
Thank you, Pius.
Pius Wong 31:30
Thank you for listening to our casual talk on movies -
Rachel Fahrig 31:34
Pius Wong 31:34
- and TV for engineering, and send us your own comments.
Rachel Fahrig 31:37
Sadhan Sathyaseelan 31:37
Rachel Fahrig 31:38
I can't wait to read these, because I'm sure we left something out.
Pius Wong 31:43
We left a lot out. So Sadhan's gonna have Part Two and Part Three next.
Sadhan Sathyaseelan 31:46
Rachel Fahrig 31:47
All right. Sounds good.
Sadhan Sathyaseelan 31:48
Are we having another season?
Pius Wong 31:48
Yes, take care.
Rachel Fahrig 31:50
Pius Wong 31:53
You can find out more about the films and shows that we mentioned today, if you check out the show notes for this episode. Remember to follow the show on Twitter @K12Engineering, and you can follow me @PiusWong. Follow the show on Facebook, iTunes, SoundCloud and everywhere else on the internet. All the details are at www.k12engineering.net. Our closing music is from Late for School by Bleeptor under a Creative Commons Attribution license. The K12 Engineering Education Podcast is a production of my independent studio, Pios Labs, and you can support me at www.patreon.com/pioslabs.
Hey, post-show note from Pius. I just wanted to let you know that I have put out a second new podcast available on iTunes called Engineering Word Of The Day. And every episode is going to be a short, short episode, much shorter than the episodes in this podcast. It's easier for me to do and hopefully easier for you to listen to. And it's exactly what it sounds like. If you want to brush up on your engineering vocabulary or on your engineering concepts, subscribe. Tune in. Follow Engineering Word Of The Day, not only on iTunes, but on Facebook. And let me know how this goes. This is basically another podcast experiment. And if people like it, I will try to continue doing it. It's very soon going to also be on Stitcher, Google Play, Player FM, TuneIn, your Amazon Alexa, and on Mars and on Jupiter. But you know, we'll cross those bridges when we get there. Thanks for listening.