As Seen on TV

I Break for Asteroids
Fictional scientific geniuses liked our bumper stickers.
Stuart Goldman
In March 1995 I watched the pilot for a new science-fiction TV show called Sliders on the Fox Network. It was about a bunch of people who "slide" to alternate universes, unable to get home, and hijinks ensue. The scene during the opening credits for the pilot was a slow pan around the teenage lead character's bedroom. I was pleasantly surprised to see that Quinn Mallory had stuck a bumper sticker on his telescope that read, "I Brake for Asteroids." It was our bumper sticker, the one Sky Publishing used to sell more than a decade ago — minus our address in smaller print at the bottom. Five years later, when the pilot aired again on the Sci-Fi Channel, I was able to record the show and take a snapshot. Now, of course, you can get the series on DVD.

When I watch a space-related movie or TV show, I'm always looking in the background to see what props and set dressings are used. Sometimes production companies ask us for permission, sometimes they don't. When the movie Contact was being made, the producers asked for some items that they might use. They even created a fake cover of Sky & Telescope that featured Jodie Foster's Ellie Arroway as an up-and-coming professional astronomer.

DNA crystal
Did you see this interesting sculpture on TV Monday night?
The cover wasn't used in the movie (we have the prop now) but other items were, including a copy of Sky Catalogue 2000.0, which can be seen on the headboard shelf in the bedroom scene. I guess reading a star catalog can help cure insomnia?

More recently, I'm almost positive that I saw Sky Atlas 2000.0 on Battlestar Galactica two weeks ago. Scattered among the papers on a table that encompassed Baltar's notes about how the ragtag fugitive fleet could find Earth were a few pages of what looked like the white-on-black Field Edition of Sky Atlas.

And on Monday I saw another prop on TV that I was familiar with. Although it wasn't astronomical, it had a celestial relation. On the eighth episode of Heroes on NBC, a character entered his late father's office. On the desk was a crystal with a glowing DNA molecule. I recognized the sculpture as the work of Bathsheba Grossman, who has created many fascinating glass and metal artworks. One of her globular star clusters glows two feet away from my head by my desk at work.