History and Philosophy Of Science | Science in Film and Film in Science: Aesthetics, Knowledge, Values and Resources
X521 | 29185 | Jordi Cat


This course examines historical and philosophical issues involving
the use of moving images in science. The history of the use of
pictures in science fleshes out and extends the number of
philosophical questions that have been asked about images generally:
Are pictures necessary? For what?  How do pictures represent? How do
they get their meaning? What can pictures represent or communicate?
Can they equally represent facts and values? How do they work as
evidence, or as tools for thinking? Science has added to the kinds
of things, concepts, ideas, values and arguments associated with
pictures. Equally, science has long interacted with the world of art
in the use of imagery and in the creation and understanding of
elements of imagery such as geometry and color. What about moving
pictures, or cinematography? Do they pose new questions? This course
examines some of these questions in the interaction of the history
of science and the history of cinematography. Mechanical toys,
trains and guns, and preoccupations with the nature of time and
motion, attention, perception and memory, illusion and reality,
uniqueness and mechanical reproduction, and cognition, lie at the
origin and development of cinematographic imagery (and authors such
as Maxwell, Claudel, Marey, Einstein, Bergson, Painlevé, Muybridge,
Benjamin, Neurath, Arnheim, etc.) But how has film entered
scientific practice as a tool to meet scientific goals? How is
cinematographic imagery relevant and valuable to scientific research
and education? How is it different from the case of still pictures?
Does it introduce or enforce a different kind of attention or
representation? Is scientific cinematography value-free and socially
neutral? How is it used in different sciences? What are the
challenges it raises? Cases in astronomy, nuclear physics,
microbiology, animal behavior, ethnography and anthropology raise
different questions and challenges, technical, conceptual,
methodological, ethical, etc. For instance, Hollywood resources were
enlisted in classified work recording nuclear tests; and the use of
cameras in ethnographic documentaries has challenged ideals of
realism and objectivity. And realism is not all there is; computer
animations and simulations blur the distinction between
cinematography and science as purveyors of fiction. In addition,
film is the subject matter of science -not just the application of
scientific and technological developments-, for instance in the new
area of neurocinematics. Finally, the course examines the way
science has been portrayed in science documentaries as part of
science education and, more interestingly, in movies as part of art
and entertainment tracking diverse and changing attitudes towards
science and technology.