The real scientist behind the robotics of Caprica's Cylons

Contributed by
Dec 14, 2012, 4:09 PM EST

Syfy's new series Caprica may seem like fanciful alternate-universe sci-fi, but the robotics technology behind its newly minted Cylons is based in part on real science.

The show runs its scripts past Malcolm MacIver, a robotics expert and a professor of biomedical and mechanical engineering at Northwestern University, who vets them for the accuracy of their science. (He was also a consultant on the upcoming Tron Legacy movie.)

From the university's Daily Northwestern newspaper:

While entirely fictional, "Caprica's" plot encompasses a number of complex science subjects such as robotics and artificial intelligence that are easy to get wrong when writing such a show, said Jane Espenson, an executive producer of the series.

"Professor MacIver checked to make sure that we got the science and the terminology as correct as possible when we referred to technical subjects--especially robotics, artificial intelligence and the programming of the virtual world seen on the show," Espenson said in an e-mail. "He has been a fantastic resource for us."

In an effort to make the screenplay more believable to viewers, producers sent MacIver each episode's script before filming for him to tweak dialogue and check for scientific accuracy.

"I try to imagine what a roboticist would say with very much more advanced technology than we currently have," MacIver said. "We can improve on the quality of the text."

Can MacIver say whether this has all happened before? Or whether it will happen again?

Caprica airs Fridays at 9 p.m. ET/PT.

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