Though it’s easy to get excited about San Diego Comic-Con’s massive Hall H panels and big studio announcements, there are plenty of other amazing offerings too. In the last decade, more and more “science of” and other educational panels crept into the pop culture convention scene. Here are the 10 San Diego Comic-Con panels I’m most excited about from a science perspective.
Bonus Science Event: No Comic Con Badge Required
There’s a science-oriented event at the Comic-Con Museum that is open to the public! You don’t need a San Diego Comic-Con badge to attend the STEAM Fair at San Diego Comic-Con Museum. From 10 am until 2 pm Thursday through Sunday, female scientists from the IF/THEN ambassador program will host mini panels and science activities. Video game designer and scientist Dr. Beata Mierzwa will also show off her game Microscopya.
San Diego Comic-Con Science Panels
The IF/THEN ambassadors are also part of multiple panels at Comic-Con. In this one, six women scientists will “discuss the merger of popular arts and real STEM to see what has already made the leap from imagination to reality and what waits just over the horizon.” Their expertise covers everything from cell biology to rocket science. And we know these kickass women will bring their enthusiasm to share science with everyone to every answer.
Bill Nye has the nostalgia factor for those of us lucky enough to spend our childhood afternoons watching Bill Nye the Science Guy. But he’s also got a new show coming up and is there to chat about the Peacock series The End is Nye. It’s billed as a science disaster show. The show’s description shares, “Sprinkled with Seth MacFarlane’s signature humor, this timely series explores end-of-the-world scenarios with Bill Nye at the center of it all.” I can’t wait!
San Diego’s local science museum, the Fleet Science Center, has a rocket scientist, astrophysicist, and a human rights statistician to chat about the dystopian space saga. The Expanse struck me as one of the more realistic versions of our future, what with “murder, society at the brink of war/civil unrest, a conspiracy and dangerous alien technology that could wipe out everyone.” The Fleet is also hosting “ The Science of Spider-Man and the Multiverse” and “ The Science Behind Board Games.”
What could be better than paleontologists, geneticists, and a conservation biologist entertainingly debunking the mantra “life finds a way?” It promises “scientists who are fans of the franchise explore the real-world science of bringing dinosaurs back to life and letting them loose.” It also includes some behind-the-scenes insight from Stuart Sumida, a technical consultant for Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom and Camp Cretaceous.
This panel features scientists as well as writers and science advisors for some excellent shows like Eureka and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. It reverses things a bit, focusing “on the need for narrative when sharing science. Rather than exploring science in Hollywood, they’ll explore putting some Hollywood into science.” I’m particularly excited to hear from Dr. Erin Macdonald, who consults on all the current Star Trek shows! She’s doing a few panels over the course of the con based on her astrophysics expertise, including “ Science of Godzilla Singular Point.”
NASA San Diego Comic-Con Panels
NASA has had a presence at SDCC for years, with a booth, photo ops, and increasingly more panels. One I’m particularly excited about this year is “ Artemis: Dawn of a New Space Age.” NASA astronauts and its first female flight director talk about the new Moon landing program. I’m so excited to see one in my lifetime, much less in the next few years! If deep space is your jam, there’s also “ NASA and the Wonders of the Webb Telescope.” NASA astrophysicists and astronomers will provide more background on the stunning first images we recently saw. And how the telescope will “help humanity better understand the universe and distant exoplanetary worlds.”
Rather than focusing on just one franchise, this one delves into hologram technology across pop culture properties like the MCU and Star Wars. And in real life, of course, like video conferencing and that Tupac concert. Find out whether science influenced science fiction or vice versa with expertise from both academia and industry.
The team behind one of my favorite podcasts, Hi Everybody!, is a Comic-Con staple. Medical doctors rate the accuracy of on-screen medical jargon and situations. It’s usually full of glaring mistakes, but there are always a few unexpected successes mixed in. Since apparently the movie The Human Centipede billed itself as 100% accurate, they use that as a scale. Spoiler alert: it’s not.
One of the multiple panels dealing with lesson plans that involve graphic novels, this one covers San Diego State University’s curriculum. As part of their art and library collections, this local college has a huge number of comics. But their Comics @ SDSU program also pursues social justice causes using examples from comics. Educators are working on courses including “ChicanX comics, Native Americans in comics, African Americans in comics, the visual rhetoric of comics, comics for teachers, and more.”
What do a viral ecologist, extremophile expert, and a marine biologist have in common? Their excitement to tell you about their science projects! And, of course, about the pop culture that they love and how it’s all connected. It’s a fun and diverse group of geeks, some from the local Scripps Institution of Oceanography, talking kid-friendly science and engineering topics.
Science at SDCC
The full panel descriptions and time/location information are available in each link. Even though the online programming schedule’s interface is a bit difficult to navigate, if you’re looking for more panels like this, I recommend searching terms like “STEM,” “science,” or “NASA.” You can also filter it to the “Education” or “Technology – Science – STEM” tags.
And if you want to see me at Comic-Con, I’ll be moderating two panels. “The Mandalorian: Under the Helmet” includes panelists who are experts in the many aspects that make Mando who he is, including a real-life bounty hunter, blacksmith, and pilot. I’m also taking over for Amy Ratcliffe as moderator of the “ Costumes of Obi-Wan Kenobi.” Come say hi!
Melissa is Nerdist’s science & technology staff writer. She also moderates “science of” panels at conventions and co-hosts Star Warsologies, a podcast about science and Star Wars. Follow her on Twitter @melissatruth.