Friday, January 11, 2008

B-Movie Biology: The Course

If you are going to be in the Northampton, MA area next week, Diane A. Kelly is going to be teaching a course in the Smith College Interterm Faculty Film Series called "B-Movie Biology". Each evening a single movie will serve as the basis for discussion an important biological concept. From her course outline:
Monday, January 14
To discuss: How does size affect the physiology of living organisms?
Nuclear tests in the American Southwest result in gigantic mutant ants that threaten cities as a team of investigators and the Army search for a way to control their spread in this Cold War-era monster film. (Gordon Douglas, director. 1954)

Tuesday, January 15

To discuss: What is a parasite, and how is its ecology different from a free-living organism?
A commercial space vehicle heading back to Earth picks up an SOS from a nearby planet. When the crew investigates, some of them leave the ship to explore the area when they come across an egg hatchery of some unknown creature. Unbeknownst to the exploring team, the ship's computer deciphers the message to be a warning, not a call for help. When a crew member disturbs one of the eggs, the parasite inside attacks him, and so begins the living nightmare. With Sigourney Weaver, John Hurt and Harry Dean Stanton. (Ridley Scott, director. 1979)

Wednesday, January 16

To discuss: How do genes control animal development?
The Fly
A brilliant scientist offers up his latest research on matter transportation to a journalist in an attempt to impress her. While his research has so far been successful, there is one last problem he discovers when attempting to teleport himself. Best line from the movie: “Be afraid. Be very afraid.” With Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis. (David Cronenberg, director. 1986)

Thursday, January 17

To discuss: How does cloning work?
Jurassic Park
Huge advancements involving DNA extraction from ancient samples embedded in amber have enabled scientists to create an island theme park full of living dinosaurs. When the director of this island park invites a small group of scientists to visit, T. Rex and his Velociraptor friends get a little out of hand. With Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum and Samuel L. Jackson. (Stephen Spielberg, director. 1993)

Friday, January 18

To discuss: Do genes matter when it comes to human behavior?
Gattaca (1997)
A genetically inferior man, one of the last “natural” babies born into a genetically-enhanced society that discriminates against imperfect genes, assumes the identity of a once-perfect specimen in order to remain a viable candidate for space travel with Gattaca Corp. Required to pass periodic gene tests, he must be diligent in his use of DNA samples from his assumed identity’s hair, skin and blood to remain undetected. How long and to what extremes must he go to continue the charade? With Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman, Maya Rudolph and Gore Vidal. (Andrew Niccol, director. 1997)
It sounds like an interesting way to spend a cold winter evening!

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  1. Interesting !I always emphasize that sci-fi is a great learning device !

  2. Anonymous1:44 PM

    Excellent! I wish I was local so I could hear the lectures. This would be really helpful in developing my Master's thesis.

  3. Hey anonymous, I don't know if you're still around, but I'm really curious to know what your thesis is about!


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