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September 21, 2007

Science cinema

Short notice, but I have just had an email from Tim Boon from the Science Museum, and thought this was one of the places I could pass it on.

Science films at the National Film Theatre - this monday evening.

The programme includes the whimsical natural history of Percy Smith in World in a Wine Glass; advocacy of technology in The Coming of the Dial (1931); and science as social concern in Enough to Eat? (1936) , against Nazi race theory in Man One Family (1946) and in the service of work efficiency in Britain Can Make It: Motion Study (1946). The programme's culmination is Paul Rotha's eloquent World of Plenty (1943), which argues for the scientific planning of world food supplies to bring an end to world hunger.

More detials and booking system here.

September 18, 2007

Stephen Hawking (and Daughter) write science faction

I promised analytical posts based on Japan, and I've got two working through my brain which I'll put up soon, but for now, a bit of news.

Stephen Hawking's written a kids book with his journalist daughter, Lucy, and a French phsycist, Christophe Galfard (just out in English, it'll be published in French next week). You can read an extract here. I'm not that impressed so far, but I'm yet to get my hands on a copy.

According to Cosmos magazine, Lucy Hawking told the press that her father kept repeating "That's too much science fiction, we do science fact." That's fair enough as a bit of hype, but doesn't suggest a very developed attitude to writing (fiction or fact!). They also quote Stephen Hawking as saying "I don't know of any other book quite like George's Secret Key to the Universe... think we may be unique".

Er, Stannard, Gamow, Gilmore, Arnold and DeSaulles, Abbott . Maybe they have added something else as well though, the extract reads like a stilted Stannard, but it is just an extract. Apparently they mix in cartoon illustrations alongside technical drawings, which could add something to the literary mix of fact and fiction that these other authors employ (though DeSaulles' has been doing that for years too, and Gilmore turned his Alice in Quantumland into a computer programme, not to mention the multimedia spectacular that is the Magic School Bus). Mmmm. I'll keep my sceptism in line till I've looked at it properly, it's not fair at this stage.

Anyone else actually read it?

September 10, 2007

Discussing popular science - CFP

Call For Contributors - Workshop on Popular Science Books

We are looking for contributors for a one-day event on popular science books to be held at Imperial College, London on 22nd Feb 2008. Literary critics, historians, writers, illustrators, publishers, prize-givers, reviewers, readers, booksellers, teachers (and others) are all invited to take part.

More details below.

Contributors will be asked introduce a book, collection, theme, or popular science author, perhaps with a small extract, and use it to raise a topic for discussion in or about popular science.

Texts considered can be contemporary or historical, but should be something all participants can get an idea of quickly from the introduction; all important text must be in English. Participants will come from different backgrounds, so be prepared to share examples and speak to people from other fields

Topics may include (but are not limited to):
* Criteria for a 'good' popular science book.
* The use of imagery and metaphor.
* History of Science.
* Illustrations, diagrams, graphics and design.
* Issues of culture and social class.
* Writing for children.
* Epistemology.
* Celebrity and popular science authorship.
* Marketing and publishing.
* Religion.
* Relationships between scientists and 'the public'.

We will conduct participatory workshops rather than following the traditional "papers and questions" model. You would have 30-45 minutes to lead a session, which means speaking about your example for approx. 15 minutes, then leading an open discussion on your topic.

If you are interested in contributing, please send us an outline of your presentation (500 words maximum) and a short bio (approx 200 words). The outline should list the source(s) you want to discuss, and preview the discussion topic your session would raise. Email this to popscievent@gmail.com by the 23rd November 2007.

Registration will not open until the programme is finalised in early December, but we can confirm that the cost will be 10 (includes lunch and refreshments) and it'll be held at Imperial College, South Kensington Campus, on Friday 22nd February 2008.

Further enquires to popscievent@gmail.com.

September 5, 2007

Japan Conference

I'm just back from the ISRCL conference in Kyoto, and having finally cleared my inbox I can post about it!

There was a reasonable amount on science and technology. As always, Mel Gibson's paper on girls and comics was a blast, I especially was interested in her discussion of the 'investigative gaze' of Supergirl's ability to see through walls (which, Gibson argued, she'd be subsequently punished for using). Susan Napier gave a fantastic lecture on anime, which included some discussion of attitudes to technology in Japanese culture. The Dystopia session (characteristically) covered a lot of science issues, from Farah Mendlesohn's paper on allegory to Kay Sambell's fascinating discussion of bodies in Bloodsong (abstracts here, note links to PDF). Also, the eco-criticism strand my paper was in, included Liz Parson's paper comparing Fern Gully and Princess Mononoke, which drew out some of the class issues around Nature/ Culture questions these films address (abstracts here, note links to PDF).

For me, however, about the most interesting thing was learning about Japanese publishing and animation culture, especially picture books. There were loads of papers on the topic, but the conference also had an exhibition of picture books, including a whole table entitled 'science and poetry'. Below are some shots of some books I felt were particularly interesting in terms of a mix of dreamlike picture book style with scientific exposition.

Coral book Coral - inside (image/ text)

Coral - inside (text) Strawberry book

Dandelion book (cover) Dandelion book (inside 1)

Dandelion book (roots) Dandelion book (inside 2)

Click on the images to see bigger versions, and to go to my children's science literature Flickr set, where you can see a few more of the pictures I took. I'll do another post or three next week looking at some other books which were particularly interesting in their construction (and the Tokyo science museums were pretty interesting too...).