Peter Galison, Harvard University
Consortium for HSTM; Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University (Philadelphia, PA)
Wednesday, April 6, 2016 - 7:00pm
Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, Auditorium Level 1, 1900 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia, PA, 19103
Can we contain some of the deadliest, most long-lasting substances ever produced? Left over from the Cold War are a hundred million gallons of radioactive sludge, covering vast radioactive lands. Governments around the world, desperate to protect future generations, have begun imagining society 10,000 years from now in order to create monuments that will speak across time. Part observational essay filmed in weapons plants, Fukushima and deep underground—and part graphic novel—Containment weaves between an uneasy present and an imaginative, troubled far future, exploring the idea that over millennia, nothing stays put. In 1989, the Department of Energy hired futurologists, astronomers, science fiction writers, even experts on the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence, to create “scenarios” in which our descendants heedlessly break into the waste burial sites. To guide us through these ten-thousand year futures, historian Peter Galison and filmmaker Robb Moss have filmed the scenarios’ authors and have interwoven a graphic narrative that explores these weird, funny, and unnerving images of the future. The film further engages three radioactive sites where containment has already become a critical issue, in the present. Each site explores a different aspect of the almost impossible task of isolating radioactive waste from the environment. View the trailer for Containment. Peter Galison is Pellegrino University Professor of the History of Science and of Physics at Harvard University. Galison’s previous film on the moral-political debates over the H-bomb, Ultimate Weapon: The H-bomb Dilemma (with Pamela Hogan, 2002) has been shown frequently on the History Channel and is widely used in academic courses. In 1997, he was awarded a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowship; won a 1998 Pfizer Award for Image and Logic as the best book that year in the History of Science; and in 1999 received the Max Planck and Humboldt Stiftung Prize. His books include How Experiments End (1987), Einstein’s Clocks, Poincaré’s Maps (2003), and Objectivity (with L. Daston, 2007) and he has worked extensively with de-classified material in his studies of physics in the Cold War. Galison’s work also features artistic collaborations, including partnering with South African artist William Kentridge on a multi-screen installation, The Refusal of Time.