I sent this out to the Neuroscience and the Humanities Workgroup earlier today, so I thought that I would share it here, too.
Today, the Science Channel is running a marathon of Morgan Freeman’s Through the Wormhole pop science series. There is one episode that I wanted to share with you if you can spare 45 minutes to watch it on Youtube (it is divided into three parts):
The episode, “Is There Life After Death?” could have been alternatively named “What is consciousness, and what happens to it when we die?” There are good (albeit short) interviews with Stuart Hameroff (the anesthesiologist who collaborated with Roger Penrose on a quantum theory of consciousness), Douglas Hofstadter (Godel Escher Bach), and Steve Potter of Georgia Tech (he has built computer chips that interface with rat brain cells that control robots | http://www.neuro.gatech.edu/wp/labs/potter/).
The discussions of anesthesia and consciousness might be the most enlightening ones for our recent conversation about consciousness.
Also, it is a good show. Freeman is a long advocate of science and education, and I believe that his series (he is executive producer) now in its second season demonstrates his commitment to these things.
I have written about Freeman’s Through the Wormhole series before here.
This morning, I watched several episodes of Science Channel’s Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman. I believe that it was during the “Are We Alone?” episode about alien life in the universe that Mr. Freeman says that he read science fiction when he was younger. According to this brief TV Guide interview, Mr. Freeman says in response to the question, “Where you always a science geek?” that, “No, I was playing sports. But in my twenties, I got into science fiction.” I wonder what kinds of science fiction did he used to read. Who were the authors of those stories? Does he still read science fiction, and if so, what are his favorite recent stories or novels?
Mr. Freeman’s foray into science programming is a welcome one. Considering the cultural cache and prestige that movie celebrities receive, it is refreshing to see such an important film actor as Mr. Freeman host and executive produce a program about science. By doing this, he demonstrates that it is perfectly acceptable to entertain an interest in the wonder of the universe. His curiosity comes across as ernest and respectful. Additionally, he lends his own stature to the subjects that he explores with the help of leading scientists. Perhaps this will be a hallmark program for a generation of young people today who I suspect desire more science education than they may be receiving in increasingly anti-science local and state school systems in many parts of the country.
I applaud Mr. Freeman’s efforts, and I look forward to seeing more of his Through the Wormhole program.