A Science Odyssey Title Physics and Astronomy Activity Title

Stranger than Fiction?

Overview: Analyze science fiction films as reflections of attitudes toward science
Learning Goal: Appreciate the impact of science on the popular imagination
Video Link: Beyond the Visible Universe

By taking current scientific knowledge and adding a twist of imagination, science fiction movies reflect our hopes and fears. Show students the video segment, in which a space crew from the British television show Blake's 7 (1980) discovers that its spaceship is "falling into a black hole."

Then, ask students to brainstorm other science fiction movies or TV programs that deal with travel in space. What characteristics do they share with Blake's 7? What problems with space travel have been overcome, and how? What problems have been overlooked? How do the films play upon fears about new scientific discoveries?

To further explore what science fiction reveals about our attitudes toward science, have students choose a sci-fi movie from any time period and prepare a two-minute synopsis to share with class. In addition to the synopsis, students should mention when the film was made and describe what knowledge and technology it presents as new. They should also address questions such as: What scientific principle was at the heart of the plot and how might the audience have felt about it? How was science going to save or ruin people? How were scientists portrayed? Suggest that students look for political and social issues addressed through the science fiction. After students' presentations, ask students to form generalizations about movies from the same decade.

Physics and Astronomy Program Contents

Activities subtitle

Looking Back in Time
Atomic Ethics
In-Depth Investigation: Universal Proportions

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