Science Fiction and You

Monday 8th September 2008, 3pm to 6.30pm

In Hearnshaw Lecture Theatre, Eleanor Rathbone, University of Liverpool

This session is organised by The BA History of Science Section and the BA Education Section

We would like to thank Futureworld, the Science Fiction Hub and the Science Fiction Foundation for supporting this event.

PROMOTION in association with the book Futureworld from the Science Museum: a fun and exciting look at how science fiction has merged with reality. Order Futureworld at the special pre-publication price of £7.99 (RRP £9.99). Simply enter the code FW when you reach the shopping basket page at PanMacmillan.

Book here

Join us for an afternoon of science fiction as we explore its place in culture, education and science communication. What role does sci-fi play in public understanding of, and hopes and fears around, science? How can we use science fiction in education, and to stimulate productive public dialogue?

Science fiction author Stephen Baxter, popular science analyst Jon Turney and others explore the relationship between science fiction, science communication and education.

3pm Jon Turney: ‘Can you believe anything you learn about science in science fiction?’

Science facts in science fiction may be reliable, but they don’t have to be. But what about other things you might learn about science from fiction?

3.45pm Stephen Baxter: ‘Populating an Empty Heaven. How science fiction has shaped our expectations regarding life in the universe, from public intuition to the scientific search for extraterrestrial life.’

The modern depiction of Mars in science fiction began with HG Wells. Since Wells, fictional models of Mars and Martians have stimulated the aspirations of space engineers, and have informed public perceptions of the threats and opportunities afforded by extraterrestrial life. Science fiction visions have replaced divine visions of the cosmos.

4.30pm Tea Break

4.45pm Panel Discussion. Members of the audience are invited to discuss the day’s issues with our panellists, who will each speak for a few minutes about their involvement with Science Ficiton. Our two opening speakers, Jon Turney and Stephen Baxter will be joined by:

  • Professor Steven French (University of Leeds): ‘Fictional Philosophies of Science in Science Fiction’
    Science fiction not only draws on, reflects and projects scientific theories, it also presents certain views of how these theories are discovered, how they are developed and how they are supported by experiment and observation – how, in other words, science works. Are these presentations accurate? Or do they conform to certain stereotypes, often promulgated by scientists themselves? And if so, does science fiction help or hinder our understanding of science?
  • Katie Claydon-Park (Ryburn Valley High School): ‘Science Fact or Fiction?’
    How can science fiction films augment the delivery of Science in secondary schools? Katie Claydon-Park, Assistant Head teacher at Ryburn Valley High School is part of a team who hove developed imaginative approaches to the use of film to engage students and enhance the delivery of difficult topics.
  • Dr David Kirby (University of Manchester): ‘Big Screen Science: Scientists’ Backstage Role in the Production of Hollywood Films’
    I will elaborate on the role science consultants play in turning scientific facts into plausible cinematic scenarios for Hollywood filmmakers.
  • Dr Irene Lorenzoni (Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research): ‘Seeing or believing: does watching “The Day After Tomorrow” influence our views on climate change?’
    I will focus upon narratives of climate change presented in the film “The Day After Tomorrow” and examine how viewing of the film may influence people’s perceptions and actions.

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