Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Real Science Behind the X-Files

The Real Science Behind the X-Files: Microbes, Meteorites, and Mutants  by Anne Simon, Ph.D.
Simon & Schuster, 1999
Hardcover, 318 pages
ISBN-13: 9780684856179 
Could an alien organism really survive a centuries-long trip on a meteor and remain virulent enough to attack a human being? How would a scientist know she was peering at a microbe from another planet? What's the possibility of a genetically mutated monster actually developing?
In a gripping exploration of the facts behind the science fiction that has enthralled millions of X-philes, Anne Simon — the respected virologist who comes up with the science for many intriguing episodes — discusses telomeres, cloning, the Hayflick limit, nanotechnology, endosymbionts, lentiviruses, and other strange phenomena that have challenged the intellect and threatened the lives and sanity of America's favorite FBI agents. With Simon's extraordinary gift for explaining complicated, cutting-edge science in a light, accessible style, and her behind-the-scenes commentary on the development of various plot lines, The Real Science Behind the X-Files will appeal to science buffs and X-Files aficionados alike.

My Thoughts:

Chris Carter, creator of the X-Files, hired Dr. Anne Simon as the show's science advisor. The Real Science Behind the X-Files: Microbes, Meteorites, and Mutants is a result of Anne Simon's work on the show. As she writes, "The goal of this book is to explain to nonscientists the real science behind The X-Files. To use the show as a springboard to examine the many science issues that are blended into plots - hot topics like cloning, aging, genetic engineering, and life on other planets (pg. 22)."

This well written informative book explains the scientific foundation for The X-Files and includes an index. Part of the appeal of this book is that it entertains while explaining the very real scientific explanations behind many of the shows episodes. Although some episodes can't be explained through science, many can. Additionally, as Simon points out, many scientists watched The X-Files and looked for mistakes so part of her job was to keep it as close to real science as possible. 

Certainly fans of The X-Files will appreciate this book and know the various episodes that Simon references or quotes dialogue from. I found this in the bargain books at the local used book store and it was worth every cent spent. It will be stored with our set of the complete X-Files series. Need I say it is very highly recommended for fans of the series. 


Actually, the truth is, more often than not, the ideas which become the X-Files stories are rooted in hard science, and even when they are not generated as such, they're built on a foundation of scientific convention. The point of view of the series is essentially Agent Scully's, the scientific counterpoint to Agent Mulder's belief in the supernatural. pg. 12

Scully provides realistic scientific interpretations behind the decidedly odd events. Scully is the quintessential scientist. She also keeps partner Fox Mulder from rushing to unsupported conclusions. pg. 20

While many bizarre and completely fictional creatures populate X-Files episodes, the scientific investigations of these creatures are based in reality. The proper experiments are conducted; the correct microscopes are used; evidence is gathered and conclusions are based on that evidence. To achieve such accuracy on the show requires an attention to detail and extra effort from the writers that fans can see and appreciate - and many of these fans are scientists. pg. 21

On The X-Files, differentiation between what is alien and what is merely strange falls within the auspices of Scully and the numerous scientific experts with whom she consults. These researchers use the latest techniques to ferret out the truth of the organisms entrusted to them. It's a dangerous business. Scientists who analyze alien life-forms on The X-Files have much in common with red-shirted security men from the original Star Trek series -- they rarely survive the episode. You would think that after six seasons and so many deaths, scientists would run screaming from the room at first sight of either Mulder or Scully. Yet without these brave and dedicated individuals, the truth would remain hidden. pg. 75

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