The Research Revolution: Science and the Shaping of Modern Life

The twentieth century has witnessed many extraordinary events and experiences, but none more significant than the pace of scientific discovery and technological transformation. Together they have fundamentally altered almost every aspect of life as it is lived. These rapid advances in scientific research and technological development threaten to outpace the understanding of many Americans. According to recent studies, only one in nine Americans feels sufficiently well informed about science and technology. An informed citizenry in a democracy such as the United States is obliged to examine and to discuss important research-inspired discoveries, and to assess how the world as a whole, and people as individuals, have changed as a result.

Format: VHS

Understanding the historical evolution and the contemporary character of the "Research Revolution" will enable us, as citizens, to deal more effectively with the new choices that rapid scientific change creates. The series will help illuminate for us the organization and goals of scientific-technical work, the critical outcomes of research and development, the material and social byproducts of such work, and the ethical issues that sometimes result.

The first of the films is I Am Become Death: They Made the Bomb, a film which raises the ultimate moral questions of the powers granted by science and technology in the context of the dropping of the atomic bomb. But the same kinds of moral and political questions are raised not only by the destructive forces of the atom, but also by constructive attempts to apply science and technology to our own bodies.

Into Our Body, our second film, is a documentary about the increasingly blurred boundary between mankind and machines, and it raises questions concerning the relationship between the "natural" and the "artificial."

The third and fourth films, Our Genes, Our Choices: Who Gets to Know? and Gene Squad, discuss the impact and implications of the new molecular genetics and its applications, especially to forensics. If Into the Body traced the applications of the research enterprise to out bodies, these two films peer within and beyond our bodies to our progeny, our future.

The final two films in the series, What's Up With the Weather? and Natural Connections, go beyond ourselves as individuals to the responsibilities of the human race as custodians of the earth, dealing with such large questions as global warming and our responsibilities to maintain the diversity of species on the planet as part of our stewardship of the earth.

These issues have leaped from the classroom to the daily newspaper, from academia to citizenship. Ideas matter; science matters; people matter.

Session 1: Atomic Age

Film: I Am Become Death: They Made the Bomb

Session 2: Robotics

Film : Into the Body

Session 3: Genetics

Film: Our Genes, Our Choices: Who Gets to Know

Session 4: Forensics

Film: Gene Squad

Session 5: Global Warming

Film: What’s Up with the Weather?

Session 6: Biodiversity

Film: Natural Connections