Where thinking caps and 3D classes can finally live in harmony.
Photon torpedoes. Gamma ray radiation. Time travel paradoxes. Reigniting the planet’s slowing rotation by detonating a nuke in the Earth’s core to stop apocalyptic weather from killing us all. Science in movies has always been about as believable as Mitt Romney’s populism. And usually if a story can get us from point A to point B without making us think too hard, most of us are fine with that.
As we should be. It’s just art, not rocket science. But real science is awesome, dammit! Surely there is a way to encourage scientific literacy in filmgoers without sacrificing the fun and fantasy. Scientific accuracy generally gets a pass if a film is internally consistent, but is there a truly viable bridge between entertainment and enlightenment?
Now entering its eighth season, Science on Screen has been showing that a fun night at the movies and critical thinking need not be strange bedfellows.
To prove it, they’re pairing David Fincher’s classic mystery-thriller Se7en with a presentation from Harvard’s Dr. Thomas Gutheil on serial killers, psychopathology, and the law.
“[Science on Screen] is a way to engage general audiences in science through entertainment,” says Cheryl White from the Coolidge. “We’ve been doing it since 2005.”
So who is this program for, exactly? Simply put: it’s for everybody.
Maybe you’re a film buff who flunked chemistry. Maybe you were always too busy in the lab to catch the latest blockbuster. Or maybe you’re just interested in the collision and interplay between hard facts and human creativity. The same brain is capable of producing complex theories and fantastic, impossible scenarios, and Science on Screen celebrates both sides of our contradictory nature.
No topic is off-limits, no film genre too fantastic. Not even the least scientifically supported of all sub-genres: the zombie apocalypse.
“Our classic one was a couple of years ago,” says White. “We showed Night of the Living Dead with a Harvard Psychology professor talking about the neurobiology of zombies, how their theoretical brain would drive behavior. It was genuine science, but in a way that was fun and made people listen, not in an eat-your-vegetables approach.”
Past pairings have included: The Birds with avian mobbing behavior; 8 Mile with the neural basis of freestyle rap; Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure with the theoretical physics of time travel; and 12 Monkeys with how modern science is tracking the origins of ancient plagues and diseases. Coming this season: On October 29, Edward Scissorhands with the evolution of the human hand and upright walking; on November 12, 50′s classic It Came from Beneath the Sea with biology and B-movie monsters; and on January 28, Rushmore with the adolescent brain. Stay tuned for more inspired pairings as the season rolls on.
Like any good idea—or any nightmarish zombie outbreak—it’s already starting to spread. Last year, the Coolidge received a $150,000 grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to expand this series to other nonprofit cinemas around the country. Following that success, the Sloan Foundation granted an additional $463,426 to keep the expansion going.
7PM/$9, $7.25 STUDENTS AND MUSEUM OF SCIENCE MEMBERS