Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Icarus at the edge of time

Another impressive event took place at the Guggenheim's Works and Process Series last Sunday night. It featured the physicist Brian Greene, the playwright David Hwang, best known for M. Butterfly, Al and Al, two conceptual artists from England, and our moderator, none other than Alan Alda, lover of all things scientific. Why was this august group gathered at the Guggenheim? To promote a new film that is the brainchild of Professor Greene, based on his earlier children's book called "Icarus to the edge of time." I'm not sure what to make of the story and film that this group has put together. It seems like a fairly conventional science fiction story about a boy who, while traveling on a mission with his father and other family members to a distant star, escapes the mother ship in a small spacecraft to explore a nearby black hole and is sucked towards this hole at the speed of light. Because, as Einstein proved, time slows drastically as we approach light speed, the boy reemerges from the black hole eager to share with his father what he has experienced, only to learn that 10,000 years have elapsed and everything he ever knew about his family and their world has long since vanished.

What I loved about this evening, much more than the film, was a brief display of Brian Greene's ability to teach with clarity, enthusiasm and humor. He really showed himself to be a master teacher, as he strained to explain to us the transformative consequences of Einstein's General Theory of Relativity of 1916. And when you add in Alan Alda's exuberance and out and out funniness, you can't help but be entertained. Further take into account the wine and cookies that were served afterward, and you have a very memorable evening, indeed.


  1. Those must have been very good cookies.

  2. Ah, yes. Chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin, both equally chewy and tasty, just brimming with chips, raisins, and all the other things (and more!) that you tend to encounter in such cookies.