Mr. Spock and Dr. Strangelove
Friday, January 27, 2012
Samantha Hunt describes the turning point in Tesla’s life when he began acting like a mad scientist we recognize from movies. In 1899, Tesla lived in a mountain lab in Colorado Springs and "he went through a million dollars in about eight months," Hunt explains. "He fancied himself a magician but then insisted it wasn't magic." Tesla could actually command lightning bolts out of the palm of his hand. But he also tried to listen for signs of intelligent life in outerspace, and drew ridicule for it. It was a reputation he was never able to shake.
Biologist Vincent Pieribone traces how scientists have been portrayed on screen — from Dr. Strangelove (1964) to Independence Day (1996). He remembers watching Star Trek's Mr. Spock struggle to balance logic and emotion. "Scientists in film are more likely to put people at risk for scientific gain," he says. And that’s a result “of the atomic bomb era,” he argues. “One of the most horrific things that has ever been brought to the human race. And brought to us in full color by scientists." But Pieribone thinks that Hollywood’s most dangerous fantasy about “mad scientists” is that scientists have any power at all.
(Originally aired: January 25, 2008)
White's DreamArtist: PlaidAlbum: Tekkon Kinkreet SoundtrackLabel: SonyPurchase: Amazon