Tag Archives: Science + Stories

The top five films about science or scientists

To celebrate the Oscars weekend, Physics World asked me to come up with the top 5 films about science or scientists. They span 51 years and include two Stanley Kubricks, one Ridley Scott, one Steven Spielberg, and one film by the not-so-famous Shane Carruth.

My top 5, in order of the year of release, is as follows. My reasons for choosing them are here.


  • Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
    1964 | Director: Stanley Kubrick
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey
    1968 | Director: Stanley Kubrick
  • Jurassic Park
    1993 | Director: Steven Spielberg
  • Primer
    2004 | Director: Shane Carruth
  • The Martian
    2015 | Director: Ridley Scott

The Martian is also one of the great disco movies…

“Eclipsim”, and other eclipse stories


Image: Cali Soper

An enormous thank you to everyone who took part in our Science + Stories creative-writing competition, organised in partnership with the North Platte Bulletin and A to Z Books.

Throughout history – across all cultures and societies – people have reacted eclipses by creating stories, from hungry cosmic dogs to combative giant birds. We challenged children in west central Nebraska to write their own version of an eclipse myth, and we were completely dazzled by the originality and creativity of the entries we received.

Congratulations to our five winners, who each receive a copy of the National Geographic Space Encyclopedia:

  • Rebecca Kneipp (3rd grade)
  • Mason Kroon (4th grade)
  • Amanda Phillips (5th grade)
  • Cali Soper (13)
  • Joanna Smith (14)

Cali Soper turned her story into a stunning video, which we broadcast during our live coverage of the eclipse on timeanddate.com:


Thank you to George Lauby and the brilliant team at the North Platte Bulletin, plus the wonderful folks at A to Z Books, for making this competition possible.

Deadline approaching for essay contest

The deadline is approaching for our Science + Stories creative-writing competition, being run in partnership with the North Platte Bulletin and A to Z Books.

We’re challenging people of all ages in west central Nebraska to write their own version of an eclipse myth. The winning authors will receive a copy of the National Geographic Space Encyclopedia, and the deadline for entries is Monday July 31st.

(As always, thank you to Neil Pitts for the brilliant dog cartoon!)

Science + Stories: a creative-writing competition for the 2017 US eclipse

For most of human history, solar eclipses have been unexpected and terrifying events. All over the world, across all cultures and societies, people have reacted to these hair-raising experiences in a very human way. They have made up stories to explain why the sun sometimes vanishes in the middle of the day.


Image: Neil Pitts

In China they told the story of a heavenly dog who tries to eat the sun. Many South American tribes believed eclipses were caused by a giant bird attacking the sun. In North America, the Nuxalk people, who live in the area around Bella Coola in Canada, thought eclipses occur when the sun (rather carelessly) drops his torch.

These myths and stories form an important part of human history. They are some of our earliest attempts to explain the mysteries of the universe.

Today we know precisely when eclipses will happen. That’s good news for us, because it means we don’t have to run around being terrified. For storytellers, however, it’s bad news, because we no longer have the chance to invent tales to try and make sense of what’s going on.

Until now…

Science + Stories

Together with the North Platte Bulletin and A to Z Books, we’re running a creative-writing competition called Science + Stories. We’re challenging young people in west central Nebraska to write their own version of an eclipse myth.

Entries can be up to 150 words long, and there are four age groups. The winners will be the stories that show the greatest originality and creativity, and the winning authors will receive a copy of the National Geographic Space Encyclopedia.

The Great American Eclipse

The total solar eclipse of August 21st 2017 will cross the US from coast to coast. The path of totality (the very narrow, dark orange strip in the map below) runs through 14 states: Oregon, Idaho, Montana (a tiny bit), Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa (a tiny bit), Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina.

In the town of North Platte, Nebraska, totality will last for 1 minute 40 seconds, starting at 12:54 pm local time. (Many North Platte residents will be travelling 30 miles north of the town to the ‘central line’ of the eclipse, where totality will last for two-and-a-half minutes.)


Image: timeanddate.com

The whole of North America – together with the upper part of South America, plus a tiny bit of western Europe – will experience a partial solar eclipse.