Hollywood's Vision Of 2000

Many great scientific advances of this century began as fantasy and became reality. And, some of the fantasy began in Hollywood.

As we approach a new century, CBS News Correspondent Bill Whitaker checks Hollywood's forecasting track record.
In the beginning of this century long before people actually went to the moon, the movies took us there.

First in the 1902 film Journey to the Moon, moviegoers saw ground crew members who were not NASA types and a propulsion system that was primitive. But they hit their target and dazzled the audience. Ever since the future has been fodder for Hollywood.

If the movies were right, by now we'd be living in sleek, subterranean cities, flying to work and conquering planets in a future world of wondrous robots such as Rosie from the Jetsons.

By 2001, according to that classic movie, we'll have city-size space stations to explore the heavens and soon after that, colonies on other planets.

Ed Krupp works in the shadow of Hollywood, but as director of the Griffith Observatory, he has his feet firmly planted in science.

When asked what Hollywood got wrong, Krupp says, "Flash Gordon films, where the rocket is blasting out behind the flames, and they put the rocket in reverse. This is not merely wrong, but it contradicts the laws of physics."

When it comes to foreseeing the future, Hollywood often misses the mark but that, says Krupp, misses the point. "Hollywood's track record of predicting accurately the future is not so hot, but its record of inspiring people to look toward the future is actually pretty terrific," he says.

Just ask June Lockhart, who starred in TV's Lost in Space in the mid-'60s. Thirty years later fans still line up for her autograph.

"When I meet astronauts down at the Houston Space Center, they all tell me that watching Lost in Space made them know what they wanted to do when they grew up," Lockhart says.

Perhaps that's why the Lost in Space chariot resembles the Mars Sojourner. Hollywood, in fact, got some things just about right. Remember that reattached hand in Star Wars? Recently doctors performed a similar miracle.

Hollywood clones Jurassic Park dinosaurs, and we have real clones of Dolly, the sheep. Star Trek's communicator is today's flip phone. From a '30s vision of today's stealth bomber to landing on other planets, the movies blazed the trail.

"Hollywood helps us believe we can see the future," Krupp says.

So far, nobody's been able to do the feats seen in some movies such as the Martian queen in Flash Gordon who snaps her fingers and disappears, or those on Star Tek who said, "Beam me up, Scotty" and found themselves rematerializing on the starship Enterprise.

But believe it or not, scientists think some kind of teleporting, as on Star Trek, might one day be possible. For now, though, the only way you can experience it is with a little movie magic.

©1999, CBS Worldwide Inc., All Rights Reserved
  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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