When it comes time for filmmakers to add a little science to their story, there are all too many instances of them making it up and getting it wrong. But in the new film Ghostbusters, much of the sets from Dr. Erin Gilbert’s lecture equations to Dr. Jillian Holtzmann’s lab equipment were the real deal, courtesy of science consultants like MIT Assistant Professor of Physics Lindley Winslow.
Winslow wasn’t planning to pursue science until a physics class in high school sparked her interest. She went on to earn a BA in physics and astronomy and a PhD in physics from the University of California at Berkeley. She has worked as an assistant professor at the University of California at Los Angeles before joining the faculty at MIT in 2015.
She was at MIT when the production team called up to ask for help creating a more authentic environment for the Ghostbusters to work in. The assistant propmaster told Wired that director Paul Feig wanted the props to be “based on real science,” and one of Winslow’s colleagues recommended the set designers visit her lab. Feig was inspired by the tour, and declared it was exactly what he was looking for, down to even the smallest details. While it isn’t normally used for catching ghosts, some of the set dressing was actually discarded equipment from Winslow’s lab.
When not consulting with Hollywood, Winslow’s research focuses on neutrinos, also known as “the ghost particle,” and more specifically neutrinoless double beta decay. As part of that research she is working with several international projects that are searching for double-beta decay, including the Double Chooz experiment and the Cryogenic Underground Observatory for Rare Events. If these experiments are successful, it would show that neutrinos are their own antiparticles, and could explain why there is more matter than anti-matter in the universe.
Winslow believes in the power of representation when it comes to women scientists in pop culture, telling Science Friday “I just don’t think you can stress enough the importance of role models to show young girls what is possible, and then give them permission to try things.”
Written by Mary Ratliff