SIDNEY PERKOWITZ, a serious-minded professor of physics at Emory University, has done some serious counting up: Since 1902, he reckons, the movie industry has produced about 1,400 science-fiction films ("more than one a month"). In "Hollywood Science: Movies, Science, and the End of the World" (Columbia University Press: 256 pp., $24.95), he surveys this prodigious output.
Perkowitz grew up in the 1950s, the "golden era" of science fiction. In the new Atomic Age, nothing was too outlandish to contemplate and anything seemed possible -- invaders from Mars, rogue planets whizzing toward Earth, giant ants, rampaging carrots. He denies that all this cinematic fulminating is what drew him into physics, but it did turn him into a film buff.