Science – No Longer Just Fiction – at Comic-Con

Knowledge@Wharton technology and media editor Kendall Whitehouse recently returned from San Diego Comic-Con, where he noted the extent to which real-world science was conspicuous at this year’s fan fest.

Comic-Con International: San Diego is overflowing with all things pop culture: comic books, movies, television shows, and video games covering the realms of superheroes, fantasy, and science fiction. At this year’s annual pop culture fest, real-world science was also a prominently featured.

San Diego Comic-Con has long had a multifaceted, ever-morphing array of content, which frequently includes panel discussions on the interplay of science and science fiction, such as this year’s “The Science of Star Wars.” Beyond the fictional trips to a galaxy far, far away, however, Comic-Con also offered a number of panel sessions focusing on science in the real world.

“Science Fiction, Science Future,” hosted by San Diego’s Fleet Science Center brought together science fiction writers, including The Martian‘s Andy Weir, with a NASA research scientist, an aerospace engineer, and a health sciences expert. “No Tow Trucks Beyond Mars” featured three scientists from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “2017: The State of Iron Man Tech,” moderated by Steve Broback of Dent the Future, included Gravity.co founder Richard Browning, who is developing a personal jet suit, and Chris Gerty, an informatics subsystem expert from NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

In addition, new this year at Comic-Con was the 9,000 square foot Futurism and Tech Pavilion in the Grand Ballroom of the Omni San Diego. (Comic-Con long ago outgrew the confines of the San Diego Convention Center and has expanded to a number of hotel ballrooms and performance venues around the city.)

‘The Real Geeks Are Here Now’

As the fans and costumed cosplayers from the previous panel exited the Convention Center’s room 6DE on Sunday this year, the 884-seat venue filled up again for the “Science Fiction, Science Future” panel. “The real geeks are here now,” stated Maryann Fuller as she looked around the room. Fuller, who has a Ph.D. in microbiology and immunology, was attending the panel with her adult daughter. She recalled the period during the early years of the space program when there was a passion for science education. “I went outside to watch Sputnik,” she recalled. Fuller hopes introducing science fact — not “fake [news], like now” — into a conference…

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