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Posted 04.01.06

Science Explored through Series of Films, Discussion

In an ongoing initiative to increase connections between science and film at Wesleyan, a series of programs will be presented in April. This part of the series, arranged by Film Studies and Natural Sciences and Mathematics, is the last in the "Celebrating the Liberal Arts Tradition Through Film" program in which over 18 departments have participated.

This is the fifth semester the Film Studies Department has hosted the series of seminars, lectures, screenings and discussions.
 
“Film was born out of science, and now science is being reborn through film,” says Jeanine Basinger, the Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies, chair of the Film Studies Department and curator of Cinema Archives. “Both film and science are about time and space and require the ability for acute observation. We are thrilled by the opportunity to collaborate with our science colleagues.”
 
The programs are of particular interest to students enrolled in “Science and Film: Defining Human Identity,” taught by Bob Lane, assistant professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, and Scott Higgins, assistant professor of film studies.
 
The upcoming programs include:
 
"A "Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence" program will begin at 5 p.m. April 10 with a screening of “CONTACT” from 1997, starring Jodie Foster and Matthew McConaughey. It will be shown in The Goldsmith Family Cinema at 5 p.m. April 10.
 
Around 8 p.m. there will be a panel discussion led by Bryan Butler, staff scientist at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory and science advisor to the film; Fred Cohan, professor of biology at Wesleyan; and Peter Gottschalk, associate professor of religion at Wesleyan. Butler will comment on the "Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence" program depicted in the film and for which radio wavelength observations have been a major component. He will also discuss his experiences as a science advisor to this film, and share his perspectives about the use of science in Hollywood film-making. 
 
Cohan will comment on the origins of life on this planet, and the prospects of finding life elsewhere in the universe. Gottschalk will discuss how empirical science has historically challenged both anthrocentric and theocentric views in Western cultures and religions, and compare how discovery of life elsewhere in the universe would mirror the Copernicus revolution.
 
Following the short presentations, the audience will be invited to ask questions and share perspectives on these topics. This event is open to the public.
 
The films and lectures are supported by the Edward W. Snowdon Fund; the Fund for Innovation; the Deans of Divisions I, II, and III; the Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Department; the Astronomy Department; the Film Studies Department and the Cinema Archives.

 
By Olivia Bartlett, Wesleyan Connection editor