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Robotics Expert Lends a Hand in 'Caprica'

Engineering professor works as script consultant for new Syfy show

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January 21, 2010 | by Megan Fellman
Malcolm MacIver of the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science is a technical script consultant for the new show “Caprica” on Syfy. Here he holds the innards of a robotic fish that swims like the Amazon’s black ghost knifefish. (photo by Andrew Campbell)
EVANSTON, Ill. --- Northwestern University professor Malcolm MacIver has taken his robotics expertise to Hollywood. He is a technical script consultant for the new show "Caprica," which premieres Friday, Jan. 22, on the Syfy channel.

"They were looking for somebody who could be a good tech consultant in areas like artificial intelligence, robotics and neuroscience," said MacIver, assistant professor of biomedical and mechanical engineering in the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science.

Those areas are right up his alley. Since July, the show's producers have sent MacIver each episode's script to review. His input has included brainstorming with writers, tweaking dialogue and checking for accuracy.

For MacIver, the gig offers another way to bring scientific concepts and ideas to the public. "This has the potential to improve science literacy in an indirect but powerful way," MacIver said. "A lot of people shut down when they see a scientist lecturing. Rather than fight that, we want to improve the quality of science in movies and TV, and I'm really excited to have a hand in that."

"Caprica" isn't his first experience with Hollywood. Last year MacIver was a consultant on a script for the upcoming science fiction film "Tron Legacy," a sequel to the 1980s cult classic Tron.

A more detailed story with images is available on McCormick's Web site.