If you're anything like me, you'll have found yourself--all too often--either getting annoyed or sadly shaking your head in disbelief at television shows and movies that try to include science or technology in the mix.
The reason for dismay? Science and technology are typically dealt with in a very superficial way by Hollywood, dropped into scripts as window dressing or convenient grease to move along a humdrum plot. Accurate depictions of technology are rare, and saying something meaningful about science or engineering is even rarer. This is a shame, because technology and science are powerful forces in today's global culture, and they have fundamentally changed our relationship with the world around us--and will continue to drive change long into the future. An informed artist's perspective could help us better understand where we all stand as human beings in this shifting relationship.
Since 1997, the New York Citybased Alfred P. Sloan Foundation has been trying to bridge the gap between technology and art by giving grants and awarding prizes to moviemakers who have intelligently incorporated science and technology into their work. (For an interview with Shane Carruth, who won a Sloan prize for his feature-length movie Primer , see ”From Math to Movies,” IEEE Spectrum, November 2004, and, in the interests of full disclosure, you should know I unsuccessfully applied to a similar Sloan project for a book research grant last year.)
Because most of the work concerned is in the form of short films made by students, it has been difficult for the general public to see them, which is why the Sloan Foundation and the Museum of the Moving Image (also in New York City) have teamed up to showcase some of the best productions. They maintain a Web site, Sloan Science Cinémathèque, at http://www.movingimage.us/science, that focuses on science in film. The site, intended for users who have broadband Internet connections, hosts short movies, trailers for full-length movies, interviews, and articles on related topics. The site, which was launched last August, was upgraded in March with new films and other goodies, such as a 30''minute video of a panel discussion with Apollo 13 and A Beautiful Mind director Ron Howard and the movies' producer, Brian Grazer.