Keeping the science in science fiction
In the world of science fiction comics, Black Panther’s home of Wakanda is a high-tech African nation that gets its power from a mineral called vibranium. Known for its ability to absorb and transmit energy and sound, vibranium is a key cultural and technological element of Wakanda society. So when Marvel Studios began producing the Black Panther movie, they called on sound and acoustics expert Daniel Bodony with the goal of adding some level of scientific plausibility to the fiction. Bodony is the Blue Waters associate professor in the Department of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Illinois.
Marvel reached Bodony by calling 844-NEED-SCI. It’s the phone number of a non-profit program within the National Academy of Sciences called the Science and Entertainment Exchange. According to the Exchange website, it “connects entertainment industry professionals with top scientists and engineers to create a synergy between accurate science and engaging storylines in both film and TV programming.”
Bodony said he was referred to the Science and Entertainment Exchange by a colleague, then the SEE contacted him with the Black Panther request.
About his involvement, Bodony said, “I had one two-hour phone call with one of the film’s executive producers, Nate Moore, and the film’s director and co-writer Ryan Coogle,” Bodony said. The phone call began with Moore and Coogler describing their vision of Wakanda, the importance of technology in Wakandan society, and how sound was an element in their culture and defense. Bodony gave input on how sound could be cinematically visualized. The phone call concluded with a discussion about futuristic sound technologies, including acoustic cloaking and sound-absorbent devices.
Did he get his name in the credits? Bodony said, “Sadly, no,” but if asked to consult on another sci-fi film, he said, “Definitely.”