Real Genius (1985)
Mitch Taylor (Gabriel Jarret) is one of the youngest students ever accepted to Pacific Tech, a university known for its genius student body. He partners up with his roommate, science club legend Chris Knight (Val Kilmer), on a project to develop a high-powered laser. Together with their hyperkinetic friends, they employ their intellects in the pursuit of bigger blasts, practical jokes, and a deeper understanding of what real genius means. But when they find out that their professor (William Atherton) intends to turn their work over to the military for use as a weapon, they decide to get even.
Director Martha Coolidge, fresh off of Valley Girl, spent months researching cutting-edge laser and power-generation technology, interviewing dozens of Caltech students, and discussing policy with advisers from the CIA. The result is a breezy, funny movie about smartypants teenagers figuring out what responsibility their intelligence brings with it while coming of age, but also a pretty clear-eyed look at theoretical laser technology.
After the film, St. Petersburg College chemistry professor Mike Davis will present It’s Like Lasing A Stick Of Dynamite, a short demonstration and audience Q&A on the use of optics and lasers, as well as the social lives of scientists in Real Genius.
“Ever since I saw Real Genius, I wanted to be as cool as Chris Knight,” Davis says. “On a good day, I might be as cool as Mitch. The description of the laser and how it would work uses accurate science. The depiction of stress, collegiality, research, and imposter syndrome are also in-line with what college students go through and feel as they do their most important work.”
Mike Davis is a Chemistry Professor and Chair of the Natural Science Department at St. Petersburg College in Tarpon Springs, and he is on personal mission to share the wonders of science with as many people as possible. In addition to being a professor, Mike has been deeply involved in community outreach. He regularly performs science demonstrations in a lively show featuring things that blow up, glow in the dark, bubble, and foam: He has performed over a thousand shows for more than 100,000 families. In 2006 he made the World’s Largest Periodic Table of the Elements in downtown Chicago, which kicked off the first ever city-wide celebration of science. From 2014-2016 he led a group of student researchers to do experiments 20 miles above the earth using High Altitude Balloons. He currently teaches elementary and middle school students how to use coding to build scientific instruments.