Here’s Part 2 to our monstrously long conversation with Gavin Rothery. Picking up right where we left off in Part 1, we discuss the emotional power of a great film, shout out tons of book recommendations, and the importance of a good story to any film or game.
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The Simian virus from 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes has wreaked havoc on humans, and let apes advance. Ten years later, low on fuel, humans start to infringe on ape territory.
Katie is a geek, teacher, former film student and lifelong fangirl whose interests include Joss Whedon, Harry Potter, chocolate, and Darren Criss. She also reviews movies on her blog, Silver Screen Queen.
A movie-loving nerd from Canberra, Melissa works a day job in the government while moonlighting as a blogger, podcast host and grad student by night. She’s William Riker’s number one fan girl.
Before we go any further, I need to let people know that there is absolutely zero business content in the show this week. (Thousands of people are thinking now, “when is there ever?”) That‘s because this is a spoiler filled ‘Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes’ cinema special episode with my guests and film buff friends Brendan Dawes and Jeremy Keith.
It’s a wild show. We ask whether there should be a new Oscar category for performance capture and if Andy Serkis should win everything? We talk about the other seven Planet Of The Apes films, starting with the original five and if Tim Burton’s 2001 reimagining is a guilty pleasure. Then we get in deep with the new ‘Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes’ before asking ourselves the important questions; When will apes wear clothes? When and how will humans become mute, and why should you avoid watching an apes film in Rhyl?
Even if you’re not an Apes aficionado, I think you’ll enjoy listening to this episode of Unfinished Business as much as we enjoyed making it, which was a lot.
Gavin Rothery, concept designer and VFX supervisor for the 2009 film Moon joins us this week to share his adventures working in this industry, and his upcoming short film The Last Man. We dive deeply into what the crucial aspects of good filmmaking are, and we explore the strengths and flaws of some of the biggest Hollywood films in recent years.
Our conversation was so epic this week we had to cut it in half, so stay tuned for Part 2 next Monday!
Four friends/fledgling entrepreneurs, knowing that there’s something bigger and more innovative than the different error-checking devices they’ve built, wrestle over their new invention.
Thousands of scientists from around the world have dedicated decades of their lives to a single project: building a machine that may be able to recreate the conditions of the moments following the Big Bang. The Large Hadron Collider is the single biggest, most expensive science experiment conducted, focusing on something very, very small – The Higgs-Boson Particle – and something as big as human understanding.
“Particle Fever” is the acclaimed new documentary from Mark Levinson, a physics PhD himself, who left the science world to become a filmmaker. His dual background makes him well-suited to tell the dramatic stories that personalize what the scientists are doing at the Collider and explaining what it means for all of us.
Brendan Francis Newnam: It’s time for chattering class. This is the part of the show where we get schooled in a dinner party worthy topic. Today our subject is merely the origins of life itself and our expert is physicist turned director Mark Levinson.
His new documentary is called “Particle Fever” and it’s about the search for sub-atomic matter, specifically the Higgs-Boson aka the “God Particle.” This little clue to the origins of the universe was first theorized by Peter Higgs back in 1965, and it lead to the creation of the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva, Switzerland.
You know what Mark, you do such a good job of clarifying complex topics in this documentary. Maybe you can explain what the Collider is and how it works?
Mark Levinson: Okay. So the Large Hadron Collider basically collides particles. It’s a 17 mile underground ring. It’s underneath Switzerland and France. It’s about 300 feet below the surface. In this tunnel, basically they are circulating beams of protons in opposite directions. So you accelerate these beams of proton in opposite directions at the speed of light and then you crash them together at four points. And at those four points are the experiments, the detectors, which is what we call the experiments. That’s where you’re looking at what comes out of these collisions.
Brendan Francis Newnam: And tell me more about the Higgs-Boson and why it’s so important.
Mark Levinson: We understand, at this point, that the universe is basically made up of particles and they have certain interactions. But at the beginning of the universe, the theory is that they didn’t have mass. They would have just been like light. There was no atom, nothing formed, because everything was just flying all over.
What the Higgs Mechanism does is explains how just a fraction of a milli-milli-milli-second after the Big Bang this so-called Higgs Field turned on. And it allowed electrons and certain other things to get mass. And once they had mass then they could be trapped into atoms, and so you could start to get structure. You could get atoms and then of course molecules and then eventually galaxies and everything else.
That theory essentially explains everything we see on earth. But we were missing this one central part of that theory.
Brendan Francis Newnam: And so they built the Large Hadron Collider to figure that out. It took decades to build, involved thousands of scientists from all over the world.
You’re there when it finally opens. So you knew you had a story there. However, theoretical physics is a long game. How did you know you were gonna have an ending? How did you know that you were gonna have a movie? Tell me a little bit about the premise.
Mark Levinson: I was always looking for “How this is gonna be a dramatic story?” As it turns out, I just barely got it organized to get over in time for the first test, the first beam test, the first big milestone in 2008. We didn’t know if it would start up. Luckily it did.
But then as it turns out, there was a huge explosion and there was a big accident just ten days after I started shooting. Of course I had to hang my head with the physicist because it was very depressing for them. But as a filmmaker I was thinking, “Yes!” But then, again, in classic screenwriting fashion, there ended up being other things that happened. False leads, and this and that.
It became more complex. But if I actually scripted what happened, people would have thought I was just really including all sorts of artifice.
Brendan Francis Newnam: So the trials and tribulations of the Hadron Collider are one source of tension in the movie. Another one is meeting these physicists who have spent their whole careers crafting theories which can be proven or disproven by one spin on this Collider. And it’s fascinating to think that one set of data could alter their entire careers.
Mark Levinson: We wanted to focus on people whose lives really had something that was incredibly at risk with the Large Hadron Collider. People like Nima Arkani-Hamed who has been working in the field for 30 years. He has many theories but it depends on seeing something at the Large Hadron Collider that is new. For the experimentalists it’s a little bit different.
Brendan Francis Newnam: Experimentalists are physicists who test theoretical physicists’ theories.
Mark Levinson: They have been working on this but they’ve been very actively building the machine for 20 years or something like that. But the stakes are also tremendous because if you, for instance, you look at a young woman, she was a post-doc at the beginning of this film, Monica Dunford. She spends all of her life building a machine that doesn’t find anything. That’s pretty frustrating.
Brendan Francis Newnam: So you ended the movie with the Stanford physicist Savas Dimopoulos saying, “Why do humans do science? Why do they do art? The things that are least important for survival are the very things that make us human.” Why did you end on that note?
Mark Levinson: For me, I had make the transition myself from physics to art in a certain sense. And people always ask me, “How did you do that? It seems like this completely continuous thing.” But I actually saw similarities in the process. We are all trying to make sense of the world around us. We represent it in some sense and we try to interpret it and, by representing it, try to understand how it works and our place in it.
In Spike Jonze’s new movie Her, a lonely Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) falls hard…for an operating system. This week in “Science Goes to the Movies,” our scientist-film critics weigh in on Her. Is “loveable” A.I. just around the corner? And if so, do we want it?
In the latest episode of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast astronaut Chris Hadfield discusses his love of science fiction.
Astronaut Chris Hadfield is the first Canadian to walk in space, and also the first Canadian to command the International Space Station. A YouTube video of him singing the David Bowie song “Space Oddity” in zero-g has been viewed almost 20 million times. He’s also the author of the bestselling new memoir An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth. But before all that, he was just a kid reading science fiction.
“I read it all kind of voraciously,” Hadfield says in Episode 100 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “Just letting those good writers help my imagination stretch and soar.”
Early pulp adventures taught him that desperate astronauts might achieve vectored thrust by venting their water tanks into space, an idea he kept in the back of his mind on his own missions. And he’s always delighted when film and television portrayals capture the reality of space travel, such as the scene in 2001: A Space Odyssey when an astronaut goes on a space walk.
“In 2001 they guessed right,” says Hadfield. “They did an accurate portrayal of the sense of aloneness, and the sounds, and what it would really be like. And it helped it be slightly more familiar.”
Listen to our complete interview with Chris Hadfield in Episode 100 of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy (above), in which he discusses why Gravity needed more adult diapers, why the dinosaurs should’ve had a space program, and what to do if you ever find a snake in your cockpit. Then stick around after the interview as frequent guest geek Matt London joins hosts John Joseph Adams and David Barr Kirtley to celebrate 100 episodes of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy.
Science, pop culture & comedy collide on StarTalk w/ astrophysicist & Hayden Planetarium director Neil deGrasse Tyson, comic co-hosts, celebrities & scientists.
‘Oma and Bella’: Two Holocaust Survivors that Preserve Memories in their Berlin Kitchen | Public Radio International
‘Oma and Bella’ is a documentary about two Jewish women in their 80s living in Berlin. Reporter Julia Simon talks to the filmmaker, who is the grand daughter of one of the women.
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