Dowling was a consultant to Steven Spielberg's prop department on the
2002 movie remake of the H. G. Wells book, The
Dowling provided all the equations and figures used in the movie, including
those in trailer and on all the chalkboards that appeared in the film. He
carefully wrote down all the equations by hand and faxed them to Spielberg's
Dreamworks studio in Hollywood, where the prop department transcribed them
onto the chalkboards. While there are some transcription errors, these are
all real equations, but not all about time travel.
In the middle you can see a graph, called a Minkowski
diagram, showing the world line of the time machine going outside of
the light cone; a hallmark of time travel into the future.
The appearance of the symbol Hg is not a reference to the element mercury,
but rather a tip of the hat to H. G. Wells, the author of the the original
classic book, The
The triple integrals were taken from Dowling's
1988 PhD thesis, (with some artistic license) so they would become
immortalized on film. For example,
In 2017, one of the original chalkboards, with Dowling's equations
preserved on it, was put on display at the Barbican Art Center in London in
an exhibit titled, "Into
the Unknown —A Journey Through Science Fiction."
While Dowling does not appear in the credits of the film, nor on the
description for this museum prop (called a "relic"), if you get the DVD of
the film and check out the special features, you will hear the prop guys
discuss how a "Scientist at JPL" made all the equations for them. JPL is
where Dowling was working at the time in 2001. The Dreamworks prop guy that
Dowling worked with was Scott
Maginnis, and you can find their email exchange, preserved all these
years, here. When Dowling asked Scott why
Spielberg called on him to do these equations, Maginnis replied, "Stephen
saw an article about your invention of quantum lithography on CNN, and told
us that we needed to get you because you were a NASA physicist and would
produce real equations." That CNN web page is also preserved and
may be found here.
However, with no direct acknowledgment, like all good artists, you can see
Jonathan Dowling's signature in the lower left.
Dowling also consulted for Sony Pictures on another time-travel movie, with
the working title of Frozen, which was never produced. (No, not