Film: Big trip to the red planet

  • Published on

  • View

  • Download

Embed Size (px)


<ul><li><p> 2006 Nature Publishing Group </p><p>BOOKS &amp; ARTS NATURE|Vol 440|2 March 2006</p><p>28</p><p>by the weather, we are shaping the weatherthrough our greenhouse-gas emissions. </p><p>This brings us to Tim Flannerys The WeatherMakers. Flannery is an acclaimed scientist,writer and explorer, and his book carries aringing endorsement from Bill Bryson, so itshould be a good bet for the Silent Spring of climate change. Flannery is a consummate science writer and weaves together fascinatingdescriptions of his own exploration and experi-ences with interviews from other researchers.On the impacts of climate on biodiversity, Ive not read anything better. From the lastsighting of the golden toad in 1987 a soli-tary male waiting in forlorn hope for a matethat never came to the grotesque hairy</p><p>seadevil, dragged up into our world from theocean depths and slowly dying from the heat,the writing is wonderfully evocative. </p><p>Unfortunately, there are also some nigglingerrors. Most of these are relatively minor, suchas citing incorrect figures for Kyoto Protocoltargets. But there are some clangers that Flan-nery or his editor should really have picked up.At one point he talks of sea water turningacidic, its pH increasing by half to one unit.This kind of error is rather, well, basic. </p><p>Such distractions aside, this is a very goodbook. It covers the science and the politics ofclimate change in an engaging and thoughtfulmanner. Drawing on James Lovelocks Gaiahypothesis at regular intervals, Flannery leaves</p><p>the reader in no doubt about the magnitude ofthe problem we are facing and the urgencywith which we need to act. The Kyoto Protocoland related political machinations are largelycovered well, as are the options for mitigationthrough renewable energy, nuclear power andincreased energy efficiency. </p><p>Is this a Silent Spring for climate change? Itsnot far off. If you want the real story on climatechange its history, science and politics you should put down the Daily Mail and pickup one of these two excellent books. Dave Reay is at the School of Geosciences,University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh EH9 3JN, UK.He is the author of Climate Change Begins at Homepublished by Macmillan.</p><p>its six wheels each individually mounted andwith a robotic arm that has the equivalent ofshoulder, elbow and wrist motions. We see theindividual devices on the arm, and how one ofthem, the rock abrasion tool, can cut throughrock surfaces to allow unweathered surfaces tobe analysed.</p><p>The movie takes us to Cape Canaveral forthe launch. Dramatic high-resolution imagesare followed by an animation of the mission.The main problem I had with the film was dis-tinguishing photographs from the animations,which are of exceptionally high quality; I wishthe latter always had animation printed in acorner, or some other demarcation. And I wishthe movie-makers hadnt added whooshes ofsound as the later-stage rocket engines ignited,as sound doesnt travel in space.</p><p>We are shown an animation of the landing</p><p>on Mars, as no cameras hovered overhead tofilm the event. We see the delicate rovers cra-dled in spherical airbags that are cut free fromparachutes and left to bounce several times,with the images animated using actual datatransmitted to Earth. Real cutaways to the sci-entists, engineers and administrators in theJPL control room provide the spirit of spaceexploration. We clearly see the emotionaleffects of the time delay caused by the finitespeed of light. And we share the elation in thecontrol room when, after a frightening furtherdelay, the first signals come through.</p><p>Actual film obtained on the martian surfaceis shown for only a few minutes at the end, butthe treatment is nonetheless first-rate. The nar-rator discusses the evidence for past water onthe martian surface, and we see types of rockthat only form as sediments, such as jarosite.The movie shows, in tremendous close-up, the haematite masses known as blueberriesthat have eroded out of the rocks these are taken as evidence for past water on Mars. And we see some dramatic images of theplanets surface, including the crater that Spirit</p><p>FILM</p><p>Big trip to the red planetRoving MarsAn IMAX movie produced and directed byGeorge ButlerWalt Disney Pictures: 2006</p><p>Jay PasachoffRobotic space exploration is humanized anddramatized when it is turned into an excitingstory and presented on a screen so large, andshowing such detail, as to be overwhelming.The IMAX film Roving Mars brings the movieskills of the Walt Disney Company to NASAsMars exploration missions. We hear and seethe stories of the Spirit and Opportunity roversas they were built, launched and operated onthe martian surface.</p><p>My bedroom television, although not small,subtends an angle of about 10, the width ofmy fist held at arms length (astronomers goaround measuring angular distances with their fists and fingers all the time). An IMAXmovie, seen from a typical seat in the middle of the theatre, subtends an angle of about 70.Whats more, it is 50 high, enveloping you in the picture. But IMAX is more than simply a big screen the film in the water-cooledIMAX projectors (and in the IMAX cameras)is much larger than ordinary film, havingabout ten times the area, so it captures muchmore detail. And the detail shows: the imagesare crystal clear. High-quality sound, withpumping subwoofers, also helps the ambience,and Roving Mars has an appropriately etherealscore by Philip Glass.</p><p>The film begins by crediting NASAs JetPropulsion Laboratory (JPL) with the uniquecapability of building the rovers, and explainsthat Steve Squyres of Cornell University waschosen to head the mission. A substantial partof the film deals with building and testing therovers, which we see in exquisite, close-updetail. We learn how flexible each rover is, with</p><p>DIS</p><p>NEY</p><p> EN</p><p>TER</p><p>PRIS</p><p>ES</p><p>The rovers six wheels and battery of tools made them well equipped to explore the martian surface.</p><p>2.3 Books 027 MH 23/2/06 5:15 PM Page 28</p><p>Nature Publishing Group 2006</p></li><li><p> 2006 Nature Publishing Group </p><p>NATURE|Vol 440|2 March 2006 BOOKS &amp; ARTS</p><p>29</p><p>climbed out of, complete with tyre tracks.Roving Mars is a model of how to draw the</p><p>public into space exploration. The giant sizeand excellent sound make the movie especiallycommanding, but even the TV-resolution DVDthat may soon be available would be suitablefor showing in schools. A 20-page educatorguide can be downloaded from the official</p><p>website, which includes an excellent 90-secondtrailer that samples various parts of the movie. </p><p>The film can now be seen at IMAX cinemasacross the United States and will be released inother countries later in 2006. Jay M. Pasachoff is Field memorial professor ofastronomy at Williams College, Williamstown,Massachusetts 01267, USA. </p><p>India Company, and the burgeoning enthusi-asm for cabinets of curiosity, beginning in theseventeenth century, support this chronology.The 12 expert contributors to this volume pro-vide a wealth of historiographic data drawnfrom late Antiquity to the nineteenth century,and examine the role of the natural-historycollection through time. </p><p>Giovanni di Pasquale looks at how theGreeks and Romans documented the pastthrough the accumulation of relics, from theancient library at Alexandria to the establishedRoman museums and their collections. Thesuggestion that collecting relics condemns astill evident culture to the distant past is aninteresting one. Susana Gmez Lpez dealswith Spanish museum collections from the fifteenth century onwards and concentrates on the link between the scientific thinking of the time and the collections in Seville, a port of entry for commodities, including slaves,from the New World. She uses a number ofsixteenth-century personalities, includingSpains King Philip II, to illustrate the collectingethos of the time and the value of collections </p><p>in communication. The contemporary import-ance of access, a vital performance indicator formodern museums, is highlighted.</p><p>The Renaissance Wunderkammer, or cham-ber of wonders, tended to be the private pre-serve of a rich or royal coterie with the meansto indulge their passion for bringing togethernatural and artistic objects, which were oftenpresented together in ornate cabinets. Alessan-dro Tosi compares the relatively unscientificWunderkammer of the German tradition withthe great Italian Renaissance collections ofUlisse Aldrovandi, Francesco Calzolari andothers, which were almost exclusively devotedto natural history and were an important com-ponent of an emerging scientific culture. </p><p>Anna Maerker discusses the anatomical col-lections of La Specola in Florence and theJosephinum in Vienna, and examines the tran-sition of the former from a cabinet of curiosi-ties to a public museum. She also explores howthe rejection by both physicians and surgeonsof collections of anatomical models, whichthey dismissed as merely a source of entertain-ment for the middle classes, led to a rapproche-ment of these hitherto rather antagonisticdisciplines. Samuel Albertis article focuses onthe concept of ownership of collections, andcites John and William Hunter as private col-lectors whose anatomical collections becamepublic when they were sold to the University ofGlasgow in Scotland; medical students wereafforded free access while the public had to pay.Collections made and owned by learned soci-eties formed the basis of todays great regionalmuseums, such as those in Manchester andSheffield, and Alberti compares the ways inwhich such regional museums developed. </p><p>The paper by Jonathan Simon on eighteenth-</p><p>The photographer Bill Curtsinger has completed 33 photographic essays for National Geographic magazine as part of his quest to reveal marine species intheir natural settings. The photograph of the harbour porpoise above is from his book Extreme Nature: Images From the Worlds Edge (White Star, 29.20).</p><p>The chamber of wondersFrom Private to Public: Natural Collectionsand Museumsedited by Marco BerettaScience History Publications: 2005. 272 pp.$39.95</p><p>Kathie WayWe have all visited museums of natural historyand perhaps been excited, intrigued, inspired or even thoroughly bored by the objectson display. But I suspect that we seldom pauseto wonder how the contents of these galleriesarrived in their mahogany drawer or tabletopvitrine. These essays, edited by Marco Beretta,address and offer answers to this question. </p><p>In his excellent preface, Beretta discusses theidea that the emergence of natural history asan independent discipline was closely con-nected to the possession and domination ofnature, rather than its contemplation. Thus itwas the passion for collecting natural-historyartefacts from the Renaissance to the end ofthe eighteenth century that drove the estab-lishment of the discipline. The growth ofexploration, the trade routes forged by the East</p><p>Hidden depths</p><p>2.3 Books 027 MH 23/2/06 5:15 PM Page 29</p><p>Nature Publishing Group 2006</p><p> /ColorImageDict &gt; /JPEG2000ColorACSImageDict &gt; /JPEG2000ColorImageDict &gt; /AntiAliasGrayImages false /DownsampleGrayImages true /GrayImageDownsampleType /Bicubic /GrayImageResolution 450 /GrayImageDepth -1 /GrayImageDownsampleThreshold 1.00000 /EncodeGrayImages true /GrayImageFilter /DCTEncode /AutoFilterGrayImages true /GrayImageAutoFilterStrategy /JPEG /GrayACSImageDict &gt; /GrayImageDict &gt; /JPEG2000GrayACSImageDict &gt; /JPEG2000GrayImageDict &gt; /AntiAliasMonoImages false /DownsampleMonoImages true /MonoImageDownsampleType /Bicubic /MonoImageResolution 2400 /MonoImageDepth -1 /MonoImageDownsampleThreshold 1.00000 /EncodeMonoImages true /MonoImageFilter /CCITTFaxEncode /MonoImageDict &gt; /AllowPSXObjects false /PDFX1aCheck true /PDFX3Check false /PDFXCompliantPDFOnly true /PDFXNoTrimBoxError true /PDFXTrimBoxToMediaBoxOffset [ 0.00000 0.00000 0.00000 0.00000 ] /PDFXSetBleedBoxToMediaBox false /PDFXBleedBoxToTrimBoxOffset [ 0.30000 0.30000 0.30000 0.30000 ] /PDFXOutputIntentProfile (OFCOM_PO_P1_F60) /PDFXOutputCondition (OFCOM_PO_P1_F60) /PDFXRegistryName ( /PDFXTrapped /False</p><p> /Description &gt;&gt;&gt; setdistillerparams&gt; setpagedevice</p></li></ul>