Archive for the ‘For: Science Hobbyists’ Category

Science on Screen: “Theremin: An Electronic Odyssey”


Science on Screen at the Coolidge Corner Theatre delves into electronic music with a screening of THEREMIN: AN ELECTRONIC ODYSSEY, the 1994 documentary about the unusual electronic instrument and the strange life of its inventor and namesake Leon Theremin, on Monday, Jan 19, 2009 at 7:00 p.m. Before the film, MIT Professor of Music and Media Tod Machover will discuss his own pioneering work as a composer and inventor of new technologies for music. This program will include Q&A and a short performance by thereminist Dalit Hadass Warshaw.

Leon Theremin made music as strange as the life he lived. In 1918, the Russian-born scientist invented a musical instrument unlike any the world had seen before: one that uses electronic oscillation to produce its sound and is played entirely without human contact. Theremin toured the United States and Europe giving public recitals, and became the toast of New York City’s artists and intellectuals during the roaring ’20s. But in 1938, at the height of his promising career in the U.S., Theremin mysteriously disappeared.

Over the decades, the ethereal, otherworldly sounds of the theremin became the backdrop to scores of science fiction and horror films (particularly in the ‘50s), and have inspired numerous musicians, from the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson to synthesizer pioneer Robert Moog.

While there have been no KGB abductions in his background (at least not that we know of), Tod Machover is himself a remarkable figure. He has pioneered many new technologies for music, most notably his Hyperinstruments that use smart computers to augment musical expression and creativity. He has designed Hyperinstruments for some of the world’s greatest musicians, from Yo-Yo Ma to Prince, as well as for the general public and for children. He and his team also created the interface for the video-game sensation Guitar Hero.

Machover is widely recognized as one of the most significant and innovative composers of his generation. His music has been acclaimed for breaking traditional artistic and cultural boundaries, offering a unique synthesis of acoustic and electronic sound. Machover’s compositions have been commissioned and performed by many of the world’s most prestigious ensembles and soloists.

With Science on Screen, the Coolidge presents a feature film or documentary with a basis in science, paired with exciting introductions by notable scientific figures. This monthly series is co-presented by The Museum of Science and New Scientist magazine.

Science on Screen programs are $9.75 regular admission or $7.75 for students, seniors, and Museum of Science members. Coolidge Corner Theatre members get free admission to these shows. Tickets are available in advance at the box office, located at 290 Harvard Street in Brookline, or on-line at www.coolidgeorg/showtimes

For more details, visit or call 617/734-2500. Upcoming shows include “Groundhog Day” on Feb. 2 with science historian Peter Galison and on March 2, the 1967 classic “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” with social psychologist Mahzarin R. Banaji.

Posted by Joseph, under For: Science Hobbyists  |  Date: December 25, 2008
1 Comment »

Science on Screen Presents “CONTACT”


Science on Screen at the Coolidge Corner Theatre explores the possibility of life beyond Earth with a special presentation of CONTACT, the 1997 big-screen adaptation of Carl Sagan’s novel of the same name, on Monday, Dec. 1 at 7:00 p.m. Before the film, astrophysicist Paul Horowitz will speak on the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI). A true pioneer in this field, Horowitz and his work are believed to have been the inspiration for Sagan’s novel.

In the Robert Zemeckis film, Dr. Eleanor “Ellie” Arroway (Jodie Foster) is a free thinker seeking evidence of the existence of extraterrestrial life by listening for contact via radio astronomy. When Ellie discovers an intelligent message from deep space, her assumptions regarding science and spirituality are challenged, and she must decide whether to play it safe or risk her life in order to make first contact.

Paul Horowitz is Professor of Physics and of Electrical Engineering at Harvard. At age 8, he achieved distinction as the world’s youngest amateur radio operator. His research group is focused on several problems in experimental astrophysics, including the search for intentional radio signals or laser flashes from extraterrestrial intelligent civilizations. The group’s evolving SETI effort has inspired groundbreaking experiments at Harvard, including a 250-million-channel radio receiving system and a pair of optical searches that process a trillion measurements per second. Dr. Horowitz is renowned for his work in electronics design and is the co-author of The Art of Electronics, a bestselling book widely regarded as the electronics bible.

With Science on Screen, the Coolidge presents a feature film or documentary with a basis in science, paired with commentary by notable scientific figures. This monthly series is co-presented by The Museum of Science, Boston and New Scientist magazine.

Science on Screen programs are $7.75 for students, seniors, and Museum of Science members, or $9.75 regular admission. Tickets are available in advance at the box office, located at 290 Harvard Street in Brookline, or on-line at

For more details, visit: or call 617/734-2500.

Posted by Joseph, under For: Science Hobbyists  |  Date: November 17, 2008

Science on Screen Series Presents Psychological Thriller “Marnie”



The Coolidge Corner Theatre continues the fall season of its acclaimed Science on Screen series with Alfred Hitchcock’s classic psychological thriller MARNIE on Mon, Oct 13 at 7:00 pm. Before the film, noted psychiatrist Phillip Freeman will talk about Hitchcock’s use of the language of cinema to cultivate a sense of disorientation that lends depth to the film’s narrative of traumatic memory.

Alfred Hitchcock reunited with Tippi Hedren, his leading lady from THE BIRDS on MARNIE. Marnie Edgar (Hedren) is a habitual thief who uses her ample charm and good looks to gain the trust of her employers, only to rob them. She eventually meets her match in Mark Rutland (Sean Connery), a publisher who decides to observe her more closely rather than turn her in to the police. After marrying her, Mark gradually uncovers incidents from Marnie’s childhood that are to blame for her split personality.

Dr. Freeman is a practicing psychiatrist a training and supervising psychoanalyst at the Boston Psychoanalytic Institute. He has faculty appointments at Harvard Medical School and Boston University Medical School, where he was director of Medical Student Education and a vice chair in the Department of Psychiatry. Dr. Freeman has published extensively on psychopathology, and applied psychoanalysis, and has also served as a consultant on films and plays in the Boston area.

With Science on Screen, the Coolidge presents a feature film or documentary with a basis in science, paired with exciting remarks by notable scientific figures. The Boston Globe has called this monthly series “one of the most accessible local forums for exploring the realities of the scientific world and how they’re depicted in mainstream culture.”

Science on Screen is co-presented by the Museum of Science, Boston and New Scientist magazine. For details and ticketing information, visit or call 617/734-2500.

Posted by Joseph, under For: Science Hobbyists  |  Date: October 8, 2008

Tonight at New England Aquarium: The Search for Interspecies Music


David Rothenberg

David Rothenberg, author, composer and jazz clarinetist “jams” with whales around the world. (Credit: David Rothenberg/Thousand Mile Song)

“Thousand Mile Song”

A lecture and performance by David Rothenberg

September 15, 7:00 p.m. Free

New England Aquarium, Harborside Learning Lab

Registration Required

Musician/Philosopher David Rothenberg, author of “Why Birds Sing” and more recently “Thousand Mile Song: Whale Music in a Sea of Song” will speak tonight as part of the New England Aquarium Lecture Series. Rothenberg has traveled from Russia to Canada to Hawai’i to play his jazz clarinet with whales in their native habitats. According to the Aquarium, this search to understand whale sounds “culminates in a grand attempt to make interspecies music.”

Although there is no evidence that the whales respond to his music (see video below), Rothenberg has a rather supportive following, and much of his music, he has six CDs, is grounded in the natural world. “Thousand Mile Song,” which was published last spring, received favorable reviews from readers, and the UK Guardian. Said Guardian critic Susan Tomes:

“Sound in the deep ocean spreads out evenly from its source, making it very difficult to tell where it comes from. And so it is with Rothenberg’s style in this erratic but engaging book. He writes now as a philosopher, now as a new age pantheist, now as a jazz clarinetist, and finally as a sober scientist. A musician himself, he considers the whales to be “grooving” in their own dark nightclubs.”

A professor of philosophy and music at New Jersey Institute of Technology, Rothenberg represents the divide between art and science.  Because his research is more liberal arts than marine biology it could be interpreted as a bold move for the Aquarium to invite Rothenberg to speak, giving tonight’s event great promise as a lively presentation and discussion.

The program lasts approximately one hour, and a reception follows. The Aquarium Lecture Series is free and open to the public. Registration is required. For a list of other upcoming lectures and events, visit the Metro Calendar.

Posted by Joseph, under For: Science Hobbyists  |  Date: September 15, 2008
1 Comment »

Supersize Crocs: Sunday on PBS


Supersize Croc Wallpaper

One of many crocodiles starring in the NATURE documentary Supersize Crocs. (Credit: NATURE/Thirteen)

This Sunday, NATURE re-airs from its 2007 season, Supersize Crocs. The documentary by one-time director Richard Chambers follows reptile conservationist Rom Whitaker on a  journey through Ethiopia, India and Australia to find the world’s last remaining giant crocodiles.  According to NATURE, he suspects that human hunting may have selectively killed off crocodiles surpassing 20 feet in length. 

“Reptiles always get the worst end of the stick,” Whitaker told NATURE in January 2007, “They do not have the cuddle-factor that mammals and birds have and that works against them.”

The film is peppered with fascinating factoids about how scientists study crocodiles and how the scaled lizards outlived dinosaurs to became the most-feared freshwater predator.

Supersize Crocs airs Sunday, September 14 at on PBS (check local listings).

P.S. As a member of the NATURE | PBS Facebook group, one is privvy to weekly updates about the NATURE series, which will begin its 27th season on October 26.  The short e-mail reminders assure you never miss a broadcast. 

Posted by Joseph, under For: Science Hobbyists  |  Date: September 11, 2008
No Comments »

BU School of Medicine Lecture to Honor Victim of 9/11 Tragedy


Sue Kim Hanson

A memorial immunology lecture in honor of Sue Kim Hanson (left) will be delivered Dr. Laurie H. Glimcher (right) later this week at Boston University School of Medicine. (Credit: BUSM.)

“Transcription Regulators of Inflammatory Diseases”

A lecture by Laurie H. Glimcher, M.D.

September 12, 12:00 p.m. Free

Boston University School of Medicine, Keefer Auditorium

Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) will present The Seventh Annual Sue Kim Hanson Lecture in Immunology on Friday, September 12, 2008 at noon in the School’s Keefer Auditorium. The annual lecture is in honor of Sue Kim Hanson, MA, PhD ’02, a former researcher in BUSM’s Pulmonary Center. Kim Hanson, along with her husband and daughter, were passengers on United Airline flight 175, the second plane that struck the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

The lecture titled, “Transcription factors that regulate inflammatory diseases,” will focus on immune system transcription factors that control the severity of autoimmune diseases like inflammatory bowel disease. It will be presented by Dr. Laurie Glimcher, MD, the Irene Heinz Given Professor of Immunology, Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases at Harvard University School of Public Health.

Glimcher’s laboratory uses biochemical and genetic approaches to elucidate the molecular pathways that regulate CD4 T helper cell development and activation. The complex regulatory pathways governing Thelper1/Thelper2 (TH1/TH2) responses are critical for both the development of protective immunity and for the pathophysiologic immune responses underlying autoimmune diseases.

Kim Hanson moved to Boston and earned a MA degree in medical sciences from BUSM in 1992. After graduation, she joined the School’s Pulmonary Center. She then concurrently entered the PhD program in the department of pathology and laboratory medicine at BUSM.

Her thesis project was an investigation of the role of interleukin-16 in immunity and targeted deletion of the interleukin-16 gene in mice. Her degree was awarded posthumously by unanimous vote by the thesis committee.

“Sue was on her way to a promising career in molecular biology,” said David Center, MD, Gordon and Ruth Snider Professor of Pulmonary Medicine, Professor of Medicine and Biochemistry at BUSM. “While her life was taken at an early age, her legacy lives on through this annual lecture. We are proud to remember and honor her and her family each year.”

— press release provided by Boston University School of Medicine. For a list of upcoming lectures and events, visit the Metro Calendar.

Posted by Joseph, under For: Science Hobbyists  |  Date: September 9, 2008

Award-winning “The Queen of Trees” to air Sunday night on PBS


Fruit fly with fig wasp on wing

Fruit fly with fig wasp on wing from NATURE documentary “The Queen of Trees.” (Credit: Deeble and Stone Productions)

 When it first premiered in the Spring of 2006, the New York Times declared NATURE’s The Queen of Trees as an extradordinary film. Aside from a surprisingly exciting storyline, considering it focuses on a single species of African fig tree that sustains a complex ecosystm, the filmakers, husband-and-wife team Mark Deeble and Victoria Stone obtained stunning visuals, only possible with the invention of  high-definition cameras. 

The documentary, which took two years to make, highlights the relationship between a tiny wasp and a giant fig tree, the sycomore.  According to NATURE, “The Queen of Trees  documents the tree’s pivotal role as a source of food and shelter for everything from gray hornbills, Africa’s largest bird, to swarms of invading insects searching for food. In a surprising turn, some insects come to the tree’s aid — sparking a battle you won’t want to miss.” 

The Queen of Trees airs Sunday, September 7 on PBS (check local listings).

Posted by Joseph, under For: Science Hobbyists  |  Date: September 6, 2008
No Comments »

The Cardiology Professor Who Took On Nuclear War


Protest Signs

Signs of protest against nuclear weapons. (Credit: ilbusca/iStockphoto)

About once or twice a season, Brookline Booksmith, an independent bookstore located right off the Coolidge Corner Green Line stop, invites both bestselling and lesser-known science and medical writers to  talk about their work. Whether Mary Roach, author of “Bonk,” or Richard Preston of “Hot Zone” fame, the bookstore never fails to deliver a lively author-reader discussion. Tonight’s event should be no different:

“Prescription for Survival: A Doctor’s Journey to End Nuclear Madness”

A book talk and signing with Dr. Bernard Lown

September 3, 7:00 p.m.  Free

Celebrated peace activist, Nobel Peace Prize recipient, co-founder of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, and inventor of the defibrillator Bernard Lown will deliver a compelling account of how a group of concerned citizens changed the course of history.

Book Synopsis from publisher: In “Prescription for Survival,” Lown, Professor of Cardiology Emeritus at the Harvard School of Public Health, tells the extraordinary story of how a group of Soviet and American doctors came together to stop nuclear proliferation and ended up winning the Nobel Peace Prize and influencing the course of history. In 1981, Lown and a Soviet colleague, Evgeni Chazov, launched a USA-USSR medical antinuclear movement: International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW). Over the next four years Lown and Chazov recruited more than 150,000 doctors worldwide, met with numerous world leaders, and, after a surprising amount of adventure, intrigue and conflict, in 1985 accepted the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of IPPNW. More than a memoir, this book sheds new light on what really drove and still drives the nuclear arms race, the critical importance of citizen involvement in social change efforts, and what Lown terms the ongoing epidemic of militarism, which a glance to recent headlines shows is still very much with us.

The book has not received many formal reviews, but “brookside hannah,” a buyer from, wrote a posive critique: “I’m someone who often purchases important books, skims them quickly and then shelves them. So I was surprised when I started flipping pages to find that the author had turned this critical issue into a detective story. Instead of being bored by didactic lessons that I agreed with, I found myself reading until 2AM to follow the story of these brave doctors who wouldn’t take no for an answer. I thought I knew a lot about the subject, but this story surprised and fascinated me, made me laugh and made me angry too.”

Posted by Joseph, under For: Science Hobbyists  |  Date: September 3, 2008

Science on Screen Kicks Off With Indiana Jones



It’s the perfect combination, fine cinema and fine science. The Coolidge Corner Theatre in Brookline has been mixing the two since 2005 with their “Science on Screen” series. Each movie is matched with a professor who gives a relevant presentation about the science featured in the film. For directions and to buy tickets, visit the theatre’s Website.

September’s pick:

Raiders of the Lost Ark

September 1, 7:00 p.m. $9.00

Harrison Ford stars as Dr. Jones, a world-renowned professor of archaeology hired by the U.S. government to track down the Ark of the Covenant, a supremely powerful (and deadly) Biblical artifact. With his trusty leather fedora and all-purpose whip, Jones sets out on a journey across the continents. But he isn’t the only one after the Ark. With a little help from his friends and his old flame, Marion (Karen Allen), Jones must fend off unscrupulous SS officers eager to get their leather-clad mitts on the Ark and harness its power for their evil cause.

Before the film, we’ll have a special talk by archaeologist Curtis N. Runnels on real archaeology versus how it’s portrayed in the movies. (We’re thinking there a lot fewer whips involved.) Runnels is Professor of Archaeology in the Archaeology Department at Boston University. Trained in archaeology at the University of Kansas (B.A. 1972) and Indiana University (MA 1976, PhD 1981) he taught at Stanford University from 1981 to 1987 before moving to BU, where he is also Editor of the Journal of Field Archaeology. He has carried out archaeological research in Greece, Turkey, and Albania since 1973 and has published numerous scientific articles and books.

Posted by Joseph, under For: Science Hobbyists  |  Date: September 1, 2008