Star WarsInspired Animation Leads to Scientific Discovery

first_imgStay on target Aquarium Breakthrough Could Save FL’s Endangered CoralWanted: Volunteer to Give Birth in Outer Space When a smuggler and a princess love each other very much…A pair of scientists set out to make a Star Wars parody about human reproduction, in an effort to educate and entertain the public. What they ended up with were new biological discoveries.Don Ingber, founding director of the Wyss Institute, teamed up with staff scientist Charles Reilly to create a short film that would “capture viewers’ imaginations by telling the story of a biological process that was accurate down to the atomic level.”And what better way to capture the imagination than repurposing a famous font, score, and scroll?“In the beginning, in darkness, the struggle for supremacy has already begun. Countless agents have been deployed, and are on their way, each willing to sacrifice its life to complete the mission,” the crawl reads, drumming up excitement the level of a Hollywood summer blockbuster.“This is their destiny. But only one will be victor,” it continues. “Only one will dictate the future for generations to come…”Only one sperm, that is.The scientists cleverly replaced starship cruisers hurtling through space toward the Death Star with millions of sperm racing to fertilize an egg.But in doing so, they also assigned themselves the onerous task of making a multi-scale biological sperm model that realistically and scientifically depicts the little swimmers’ movements.Listen up, cause I’m about to drop some knowledge on you:The core of a sperm’s tail is the axoneme—a long tube of nine pairs of microtubules arranged around a central pair. In the final video (above), you can see in colorful detail the rows of motor proteins (dyneins) along the microtubules.How long until Disney turns this into a virtual-reality ride? (via Wyss Institute at Harvard University)Dyneins exert force, which allows the microtubules to “slide” past each other, which causes the entire axoneme to bend and move.“Not only is our physics-based simulation and animation system as good as other data-based modeling systems, it led to the new scientific insight,” Ingber said.Long story short: They established how dynein moves the microtubules within the axoneme, and how rows of dyneins work in unison, “like rowers pulling together in a boat.”The three-minute film, “The Beginning,” takes you deeper than any high school health class ever has—from discharge to fertilization.And we have fertilization (via Wyss Institute at Harvard University)“Our goal is that presenting science to the public in an entertaining, system-based way, rather than bogging them down with a series of scattered facts, will help more people understand it and feel that they can contribute to the scientific conversation,” according to Reilly, also a molecular biophysicist and professor animator (who previously worked at Peter Jackson’s Park Road Post film studio).“The more people engage with science, the more likely humanity is to solve the world’s big problems,” he added.Like which classic movie series should take on the biological processes of metabolism and homeostasis.center_img Let us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey.last_img