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Powering up the DeLorean

Mobius uses ‘Back to the Future’ as backdrop for science lesson

Science is all about asking “how?” and “why?”

Science fiction, on the other hand, is more about asking “what if?” and following those scenarios to their logical extremes.

What if, for example, time travel really existed? And what if you went back in time to before you were born, back when your parents were still teenagers? And what if you arrival to the past prevented your mother and father from ever meeting, thus rendering your existence obsolete?

Does that sound at all familiar?

Hopefully you recognized that to be the plot of Robert Zemeckis’ great 1985 sci-fi comedy “Back to the Future.” If you’ve never seen the movie – if that’s even possible – get yourself to the nearest video store (which, come to think of it, might require an actual time machine).

Or, even better, head over to the Bing Crosby Theater on Saturday for a Sci-Fi Spectacular hosted by the Mobius Science Center, which will feature a marathon screening of all three films in the “Back to the Future” series. In case you have a hard time wrapping your brain around the movies’ time-bending theories, some of Mobius’ expert science educators will be on hand for a Q-and-A session after the screenings.

The goal, says Mobius’ director of education Don Riefler, is to “dig the science out from under the fiction.” Prior to the “Back to the Future” event, they screened the 1984 hit “Ghostbusters,” which was followed by a discussion about the proton packs used in the film. Peter Venkman, Bill Murray’s character, refers to them as nuclear accelerators, “so we talked a lot about particle physics,” Riefler said. It’s a thinking-person’s idea of a full cinematic experience.

Another Sci-Fi Spectacular screening of the 1990 live action “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” feature inspired talk of genetics and natural selection. In keeping with the movie’s themes, there was also a demonstration on various ninja weapons and, of course, free pizza.

The science of the “Back to the Future” trilogy should prompt a number of discussion points, and Mobius previously showed the first film back in March. “We discussed special and general relativity, how velocity and gravity create relativistic time dilation,” Riefler said.

But the second and third installments of the series offer even more things to pick apart: Could the hoverboards seen in “Part II,” for instance, ever become a legitimate mode of transportation, or are the locomotives featured in the 1885-set “Part III” historically accurate? (And I still want to know if a flux capacitor could really run on just 1.21 gigawatts of electrical power.)

As well as the three films and the following Q-and-A, there will be an actual DeLorean, the ’80s sports car that was transformed into the time machine in “Back to the Future,” on hand for photo ops. Whether this particular DeLorean has time travel capabilities remains to be seen, but I’d recommend keeping it below 88 mph just to be safe.

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