After Top Gun, the number of fighter pilot recruits exploded. After CSI took over the country, more people went into forensic science. The lesson? Media definitely makes a difference in the level of interest of a topic - An Inconvenient Truth, anyone? - so perhaps getting authentic, real-life science out in front of viewers could inspire a whole new flock of scientists and engineers to fill the growing deficit in our workforce.

Enter the Department of Defense. The DoD backed a program called the Catalyst Workshop, which aims to "provide a means for scientists and engineers to become more knowledgeable about the initiation of motion picture, television and digital media projects." In order to accomplish the goal of producing scripts with better science stories, in other words, an increase in the number of science-literate writers is necessary, so the workshop was born.

This crazy-sounding experiment has actually produced results. One success story is Bogdan Marcu, who published his debut novel Hard Thrust this year (under the pen name Mark Valah). Another success story is poised to make an even bigger splash - on the big screen.

A biophysicist named Valerie Weiss wrote and directed a movie called Losing Control, due out in 2010. The movie is about a "Bridget Jones-like" female biochemist who wants scientific proof that her boyfriend is the one, and goes in search of "data points" to confirm the hypothesis. Most of the stars are bit players and character actors, although a few may be recognizable - Clare from 90210, Skipper from Sex&The City, comedian Michael Yo, and some guy from Lost (which I've never seen so I can't comment on his level of fame). Weiss has a production company, PhDProductions, which also created a sci-fi short film called Transgressions.

Portrayals of scientists have ranged from nerdtastic frumpsters like Rick Moranis in "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids" to whack jobs like Gene Wilder in "Young Frankenstein" to impeccably dressed and coiffed models like the chicks in "Bones." So, maybe using "real" people who like folks you might see on the street will make a difference - you can relate to Clark Kent better than you can to Superman.

Even better, Weiss is recruiting videos of real scientists giving her main character advice on how to find "the one," according to NPR, and invites those interested to e-mail her production company at Selected scientists may have a chance of appearing in the film.1

1 Since Chemistry of Love is such a perennial favorite, Hank should submit a video. Great marketing for Scientific Blogging!