Tag Archives: documentaries

Episode 86 — Idiot Box

idiotboxBrian, Carmen, and Jeff discuss movies and TV shows they find inspiring or entertaining (or maybe just awful) from an engineer’s perspective in this episode of The Engineering Commons podcast!

  • Carmen recently “unplugged” his cable service, and will soon be using a Tablo device to record over-the-air TV programs.
  • The Martian is a soon-to-be-released movie (October 2015) that features a mechanical engineer as its protagonist. Carmen highly recommends the original sci-fi novel, and is hoping the movie lives up to his lofty expectations.
  • Even xkcd has expectations for “The Martian.”
  • Brian is a fan of Real Genius, a 1985 movie starring Val Kilmer. The movie is set on a fictional college campus that is eerily reminiscent of Caltech, and depicts the operation of one honkin’ big (5 megawatt) laser!
  • As a kid, Jeff was fascinated by the scientific advances predicted on The 21st Century, a news show hosted by Walter Cronkite. Just look at what we thought the year 2000 would look like back in 1967!
  • Michio Kaku is a theoretical physicist known for making predictions about future technology.
  • Modern Marvels is a television series that investigates technology and its use in today’s society.
  • Brian enjoyed the “cartoonish” 1995 movie Hackers, in which high school students hack computer systems by playing a video game.
  • Sneakers was a 1992 movie that also entertained Brian, as he found the dialogue about electronics, computers, and cryptography to be realistic.
  • Jeff was disappointed by the Dilbert animated television series, as he found the writing and voices incongruent with the Dilbert comic he enjoyed reading in the daily newspaper. Nonetheless, Jeff still likes the clip about Dilbert having an engineering “knack.”
  • Manufacturing processes are highlighted in the TV series How It’s Made. For example, a recent episode discussed pencil fabrication.
  • An HBO series about a startup company attempting to create a better data compression algorithm, Silicon Valley, has garnered Brian’s attention. An article about the show’s creator recently appeared in Wired Magazine.
  • Jeff remembers enjoying the old television series BattleBots, which after a 13 year hiatus is being resurrected in 2015 with new episodes.
  • Futurama is an animated sci-fi show that shares the trials and tribulations of one Philip J. Fry, who wakes up in the 31st century after being cryogenically frozen for a thousand years. The plot line of a Season 6 episode relies on a new math theorem.
  • Brian recommends a documentary about the promise of nuclear power, titled Pandora’s Promise.
  • Particle Fever is a 2013 documentary about experiments carried out at the Large Hadron Collider near Geneva, Switzerland.
  • Carmen recommends a set of three documentaries (each produced by Gary Hustwit): Helvetica, Objectified, and Urbanized.
  • An AMC television series about the 1980’s personal computer business premiered last year, titled Halt and Catch Fire. Brian enjoys the show’s ability to interweave drama with hard-core engineering.
  • Apollo 13 is a popular film that has been called “the world’s greatest engineering movie.”
  • The Pentagon Wars is a 1998 HBO movie that depicts the making of the M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicle. The movie’s lessons about feature creep might be instructive to all engineers, says Brian.
  • Carmen enjoyed learning about the inner workings of a popular children’s toy in the documentary Inside Lego.
  • Swordfish is 2001 crime drama that Brian found “awful,” at least from a technical point of view.
  • Takedown is a 2009 movie about the U.S. government’s search for hacker Kevin Mitnick.

Thanks to Ángela Burón for use of the image titled “Incultura general.” Podcast theme music by Paul Stevenson.