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.
Tagged with “science” (518)
This week Guardian science editor Ian Sample meets particle physicist Professor Jonathan Butterworth from University College London to talk about his new book Smashing Physics. It’s an insider’s account of one of the most momentous scientific breakthroughs of our times: the discovery of the Higgs boson announced in July 2012.
Jon discusses what it’s like to work on the largest science experiment in history and why such ambitious – and costly – endeavours benefit us all.
Next up, British Association media fellow Nishad Karim reports from the UCL Symposium on the Origins of Life. Be it life on Earth or life elsewhere in the universe, this symposium covered it all with a range of experts from cosmology and biology to meteorology, discussing some very big questions. Where did we come from? Did life begin on Earth or elsewhere? Are we alone?
Nishad spoke to several of the presenters including Dr Zita Matins, an astrobiologist from Imperial College London, and Dr Dominic Papineau, a geochemist from UCL. Dr Martins is a specialist in finding organic material essential for life in meteorites, and Dr Papineau looks for old organic life a little closer to home, analysing Earth rocks.
Other speakers included Dr Francisco Diego, a UCL cosmologist, who discussed the life of the universe itself from beginning to now, 13.8bn years later.
And finally, Ian asks Guardian environment writer Karl Mathiesen whether 2014 will be the hottest year on record.
Award winning science/comedy chat with Brian Cox, Robin Ince and guests. Witty, irreverent look at the world according to science with physicist Brian Cox and comedian Robin Ince. New Series starting on BBC Radio 4, Monday July 7th at 4.30pm (repeated on Tuesday evenings at 11pm) for 6 weeks.
Brian Cox, Robin Ince and guests, Katy Brand, Dr Kevin Fong and Philip Ball ask whether science needs war to drive it?
Samuel R. Delany is a grand master of science fiction. Literally. The Science Fiction Writers of America association named him a Grand Master for lifetime achievement. He’s a gay, African American author who writes fearlessly about sex and race… and the future.
Is it still possible to have a hopeful future vision? Ed Finn directs the Center for Science and the Imagination in Arizona. He says it’s time to change the stories we tell about science. The Center’s Heiroglyph Project pairs sci fi writers with scientists to dream up the next big science project.
Kim Stanley Robinson, author of the "Mars" trilogy, "2312," and "Shaman," has been called our greatest living science fiction writer AND one of the greatest political novelists. He writes post-capitalist page-turners set in the far future and the distant past. We talk with him about the politics of science and the imagination.
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!
It’s easy to look back at old science fiction and see it as silly. But there are important ideas embedded in those stories that influenced scientists and the way technology developed. Take the first science fiction film, Le Voyage dans La Lune or A Trip to the Moon, based on a story by Jules Verne. This 1902 silent movie blasts scientists to the moon in a giant cannon. Claire Evans, editor of the recently rebooted Omni magazine, says Verne was on to something. “He just extrapolated from the technology around him,” she says. “A massive shotgun barrel shoots people into space. That’s not what happened in the real world” of rocketry, but “that essential gesture is correct.”
“A successful science fiction story — or novel, or film — allows its readers to become comfortable with the future, with radical new technologies and ideas before they become commonplace,” she says. “It softens the edge of change.”
Science fiction continued to inspire, even predict, real-world developments. H.G. Wells, author of The Time Machine, imagined the first atomic bomb in a 1913 short story titled “The World Set Free.” Arthur C. Clarke, author of 2001: A Space Odyssey, was also a mathematician who proposed the first geostationary satellite in a 1945 scientific technical paper. Astrophysicist and science fiction author David Brin remembers, “There was a period during the space race when suddenly science fiction authors were very much in vogue — when they were on the platforms next to Walter Cronkite and talking about the future of civilization and where we were going to go next.”
But as society became more cynical, so did science fiction. In the 1980s, writers imagined addictive digital fantasy worlds long before the web existed. “Cyber-punk was the first science fiction movement to really understand that science and technology weren’t separate from us,” Evans explains. Or as the science fiction writer Frederik Pohl once said, “A good science fiction story should be able to predict not the automobile, but the traffic jam.”
What does today’s sci-fi mean for our real-life future? Cyberpunk author Neal Stephenson argues that it’s time to get over our love of dystopia. A class at MIT searches sci-fi classics for technologies they can invent right now, although maybe they shouldn’t. Geoengineers take a tip from Carl Sagan – who saw a green future for Mars – to see if we can save Earth. And we meet some scientists who think that if we ever want to see the stars, we’d better start building the starship.
For a couple of generations, it’s been a truism that good science fiction is grim science fiction. Technology is out of control, democracy is failing, the environment ruined. Think Hunger Games, Minority Report, The Matrix, and Blade Runner, all the way back to 1984. But science fiction writer and astrophysicist David Brin believes we’ve gotten too fond of these bummers. “It’s so easy to make money with a tale that says: ‘Civilization is garbage. Our institutions never will be helpful. Your neighbors are all useless sheep,’” he laments. “’Now enjoy a couple of characters running around shooting things and having adventures in the middle of a dystopia.’”
Dystopias are bad? That’s heresy for science fiction. But a few people are starting to agree with him, like Neal Stephenson, the author of Cryptonomicon and Snow Crash. A few years ago, Stephenson was on a panel discussion with Arizona State University President Michael Crow, and Stephenson started complaining that there were no big scientific projects to inspire people these days. Crow shot back, “You’re the ones slacking off!” In Crow’s view, it was the writers who weren’t pulling their weight, supplying the motivating visions for science and technology.
From that discussion, Crow and Stephenson have collaborated on The Center for Science and the Imagination at ASU. And Stephenson founded a group called Project Hieroglyph, which recruits science fiction authors to write more optimistically about the future. “I guess I had never given science fiction writers enough credit of being leaders of innovation,” Stephenson says. The writers who contribute to Project Hieroglyph don’t have to consult with scientists or engineers, but doing so “shows they’re on the right track.” Stephenson says. Only three rules: no hyperspace, no holocausts and no hackers. Coming from Stephenson, the bard of hackers, that’s quite a challenge.
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