Science, Theatre, Audience, Reader: Theoretical Physics in Drama and Narrative

Coordinators: Porter Abbott, Peter Frisch, Brian Greene, Davies King, Alan Lightman, William Storm, Kay Young

Co-hosted by the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics(KITP) & the Interdisciplinary Humanities Center(IHC)

An ongoing cultural phenomenon has become more pronounced recently, even though it contains an implicit paradox. In the public mind and imagination there is a sustained and marked interest in physics and physicists, yet this broadly based interest can be coupled with limitations in regard to accessibility for the non-scientific audience--that is, for many of those whose preoccupation sustains the phenomenon. Indeed, the communication of scientific knowledge and experience through artistic and literary means has, lately, created many new questions with respect to both the understanding and the application of science.

How then are theoretical physics and cosmology written, enacted, embodied, performed, and represented in drama, art, literature, and history in ways that assist in their understanding by scientists and the broader audience alike? What are the varying implications of narrating, dramatizing, enacting and embodying physics? What discoveries are possible in the translation of science into narrative and theatrical art? What metaphors apply to scientific inquiry as well as to the representation of phenomena? What is at stake for the scientist, reader, or writer in such translations?

This conference will address these and other questions in a dynamic range of presentations, special events, and meetings that will bring together, and enable discussion among, scientists, specialists in drama and narrative studies, playwrights, novelists, biographers, and science journalists who ordinarily do not have the opportunity for such interactions. The schedule will be designed deliberately to place specialists from different areas in contact and conversation with one another so that, for example, a narratologist with expertise in temporality and cognitive dimensionality can be in discussion with a cosmologist with expertise in the physics of spacetime, or an experimental physicist can converse with a performance specialist on enactment, embodiment, and performative demonstration.

Central to these investigations will be the extent to which scientific concepts are amenable to dissemination in narrative and performance, and the related issue of what is altered or augmented by various interpretive media, which will hopefully lead toward new understandings in the communication of science.

Support for this conference has been largely provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Program in Public Understanding of Science and Technology.

Invited Speakers and Panelists:

Marcia Bartusiak
Edward Branigan
Alan Brody
Ruth Cantrell
Sean Carroll
K.C. Cole
Gordon Davidson
Paul Delaney
Melissa Franklin
Peter Galison(Video Link)
Steven Girvin
Marcelo Gleiser
Rebecca Goldstein
Lauren Gunderson
Jeremy Gwin
Paul Harris
David Herman
Christopher Innes
Jeremy Lawrence
Janna Levin
Sydney Levy
Harry Lustig
Kate McConnell
Dennis Overbye
Penny Penniston
Sidney Perkowitz
James Phelan
Arkady Plotnitsky
Joseph Polchinski
Peter Rabinowitz
Ralf Remshardt
Brian Richardson
Marie-Laure Ryan
Brian Schwartz
Chris Smith
Russell Vandenbroucke
Simon Williams
Michael Wise
Anthony Zee
Muriel Zimmerman
Toby Zinman

Organizing Committee:

H. Porter Abbott
   Department of English, University of California, Santa Barbara
Peter Frisch
   Executive Director, Santa Barbara Center for the Performing Arts
Brian Greene
   Department of Physics, Columbia University
W. Davies King
   Department of Dramatic Art and Dance, University of California, Santa Barbara
Alan Lightman
   Program in Writing and Humanistic Studies