Seeing in the dark: how to tell a subatomic story in science film
Koonce, Evangeline Rose
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Since its inception in the early 20th century, science film has branched into a diverse phylogeny of methods and styles, informed by the subject matter it portrays as well as the technological advances of the day. Narrowing my focus to the science of quantum mechanics, I look specifically at the methods used for subatomic storytelling in documentary films. Unlike other scientific objects, the subatomic object cannot be easily observed with the naked eye or with research tools, preventing its direct capture by both scientist and filmmaker. Comparing the PBS series 'The Fabric of the Cosmos' with the documentary film 'Particle Fever', I investigate the consequences of superimposing a human narrative on the subatomic object as a method of science communication and as a filmic device. This analysis affirms the utility of varied narrative techniques in subatomic storytelling in science film. Expanding on this premise, I examine how the essay films functions within a subatomic story, specifically within my thesis film, 'Circumambulation', which revolves around the 2021 confirmation of the muon's anomalous magnetic moment at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. In closing, I connect science film to the practice of art and argue that not only is art necessary for subatomic storytelling, but the art of documentary filmmaking is particularly suited for this purpose.
Circumambulation is a film that is part of the student's thesis project.