Why Do So Many Scientists Want to Be Filmmakers?

Kevin Berger | Nautilus

For the past five years, Nautilus has asked scientists what they would be if they weren’t a scientist. I can now report what, above all, they want to be. “Film director,” says physicist David Deutsch. “A filmmaker,” says neuroscientist Antonio Damasio. “I would make movies,” says astronomer Lisa Kaltenegger.

It’s easy to see why. Movies were often the first experiences that sparked scientists’ curiosity about the world. “I was so into cinema when I was younger,” says astrophysicist Daniel Wolf Savin. “I would see 80 to 100 movies a year.” Confronting mysteries in a fantasy world became a romantic quest to solve them in the real one.

We include the question, “What would be you be if you weren’t a scientist,” in our regular “Ingenious” interviews to give readers a glimpse into scientists’ inner lives. Who is this person who spends day after day, year after year, unraveling genes related to breast cancer, the illusory flow of time, the sex lives of gorillas? What do they dream about? The answers have revealed a wonderful range of individual quirks and passions. “What would I be I weren’t a scientist?” asks primatologist Robert Sapolsky with a grin. “Well, obviously, I’d be a gorilla.”

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