SAN FRANCISCO - Sprinkling some science into Hollywood blockbusters can go a long way toward inspiring the next generation of physicists, astronomers and biologists, such scientists agree.

That was one key message from a panel of scientists, filmmakers and media experts at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union this month.

The movie science doesn't even have to be entirely accurate, some of the panelists added when asked to consider the role and impact of science in cinema. As long as it plants a seed of curiosity in viewers, it may spur them to investigate scientific issues on their own - and perhaps consider a career in science down the road.

If the movie is good, that is.

"It's not an educational medium, it's an emotional medium," said Seth Shostak, an astronomer with the SETI Institute (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) in Mountain View, Calif. "Kids get turned on by the emotion."

Shostak has advised Hollywood on a number of feature films, including "Contact."