Monday, August 3, 2009

Science Theater? Where?

I’ve always thought there were was something cinematic about science. In my own head, I tend to float concepts across visually. Still not much science appears on the big screen. Drama is a function of human interaction, and science can only be an accessory here. Still, the history of science is replete with stories worth telling, whether it’s the story of the first atomic bomb or the murder of Nikolai Vavilov.

I was taking a walk yesterday, and listening to This American Life on the radio. It was a rerun, but I listened anyway, and when the show was over I was about to change over to another station or an mp3 when the next show came on. It was an LA Theater Works: The Play’s the Thing production. Called Breaking the Code, it’s a play focused on the life of Alan Turing, and mostly focused on his personal interactions and his homosexuality. Some of his work was discussed, including a remarkably clear and concise description of the Enigma machine. All in all, it was a good play, and I prolonged my walk to listen to it. In the interludes and at the end, it was announced that this was produced as part of a 17 play series sponsored by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation back in 2008. All of them are stories of science. Others from the series apparently include the story of John Robert Oppenheimer and a story about a researcher who starts doubting her faith in her own racial superiority. I have been trying to find all of the items in the series somewhere, but so far I’ve been unsuccessful. The LATW website is a pain to navigate and NPR’s page on the matter 410’d or 404’d or something.

I’m always in favor of a good story or anecdote, scientific or not. I’m not a big fan of mixing art and science just for the sake of mixing them, but then, I’m also not a big fan of people acting like they’re oil and water. It seems really interesting and I w0uld like to find more, and it’s a real pity that it’s not easily Googled. The best I could find was here, and I haven’t had a chance to listen to these, but if anyone knows anything about where to track these things down, throw me a bone will ya’?

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