The Sporting Life: Spring Fever Edition

Spring is here! The vernal equinox at 11:57 am CDT on Thursday, March 20 officially heralded the return of the sunshine and longer days as we entered the season of new hopes and bright futures. Congratulations to the 4th year medical students at Meharry Medical College for their residency assignments, which they learned about on Friday, March 21 during Match Day at the college. Look for a story on that in the Friday, March 28 print edition of the Nashville PRIDE. The sports world is caught up in their March Madness for the college basketball tournaments, with the NCAA womens championship set to be determined in Nashville during the Final Four on April 6 and 8 at Bridgestone Arena. And yes, we’ll be covering that, as well.

For folks who love science, spring is bringing a fever of another kind. There are exciting discoveries being made in every field, particularly in astronomy and astrophysics, as recent exoplanetary sightings and revelations about subatomic particles have captured the imagination and the passions of professional scientists, academics, students, and those of us who love science just because we do. Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson is delivering a spectacular and spellbinding hour-long adventure each Sunday evening on television as FOX and National Geographic present the captivating Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, bringing the iconic Carl Sagan PBS program into the 21st Century with breathtaking special effects and illuminating insights into the human condition and how it came to be within the context of the planet and its place in the universe (or multiverses).

Throughout March, the Belcourt Cinema in Nashville is featuring Science on Screen: Connecting Cinematic Art With Hard Science, part of a national initiative made possible through a grant by the Coolidge Corner Theatre, with support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and tied directly to the Belcourt’s ongoing education and engagement programs. The Belcourt is one of only 20 theatres nationwide to receive this grant. Science on Screen is a series of film screenings accompanied by discussions with leading scientists, space engineers and biologists, as well as science-themed midnight movies, Saturday Kid Shows, and special screenings for area high school students during Metro Nashville Public Schools’ Intersession.

As part of Science on Screen: Connecting Cinematic Art with Hard Science, the fascinating documentary Particle Fever gives audiences a front row seat to a significant and inspiring scientific breakthrough—as it happened. The film follows six brilliant scientists during the launch of the Large Hadron Collider, marking the start-up of the biggest and most expensive experiment in the history of the planet, pushing the edge of human innovation. As they seek to unravel the mysteries of the universe, 10,000 scientists from over 100 countries joined forces in pursuit of a single goal: to recreate conditions that existed just moments after the Big Bang and find the Higgs boson, potentially explaining the origin of all matter. But our heroes confront an even bigger challenge: have we reached our limit to understand why we exist? Screenings of this highly recommended and not-to-be-missed film are: Monday, Mar 24 -12:05pm, 6:20pm; Tuesday, Mar 25 – 12:05pm, 6:20pm; Wednesday, Mar 26 – 4:20pm, 7:20pm; and Thursday, Mar 27 – 4:20pm, 7:20pm.

Other feature films as part of the series with discussions following the 7:00 pm Monday screenings include Primer on March 24 and For All Mankind on March 31. In Primer, four young entrepreneurial engineers working out of a garage seek to create the next big electronics product, and two of the men accidentally stumble upon a means of time travel. The scientific impact of their discovery takes a backseat to a lust for monetary gain as they attempt to navigate the world of double selves and paradoxes inherent with the device in order to make it big on the stock market. This mind-bending masterpiece of low-budget science-fiction from actor-writer-director-jack-of-all-trades Shane Carruth illuminates the fundamental theoretical and ethical issues resulting from the creation of such a machine. The screening is preceded by Chris Marker’s stark science-fiction featurette La Jetee, the inspiration for Terry Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys, about a time-traveller obsessed with a traumatic childhood memory. He’s sent from the future to retrieve relief for the survivors of World War III, and in doing so, rewrite the dire fate of mankind. Afterwards, Robert Scherrer, professor and chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Vanderbilt University, will discuss the quantum mechanics that drive the theoretical precedent for time-travel. His research area is cosmology, encompassing work on dark energy, dark matter, big bang nucleosynthesis, and the large-scale structure of the universe. He has authored a quantum mechanics textbook and has published several popular science articles and science fiction short stories.

Forty-five years ago, man first set foot on the moon. Director Al Reinert’s benchmark 1989 film For All Mankind tells the story of the Apollo missions from the perspective of the men and women who made this momentous occasion possible. Through first-person narration from those involved and the 8mm home movies shot by Apollo astronauts, we are taken on the harrowing but breathtaking journey from the earth to the moon. Punctuated with a phenomenal score by ambient music pioneer Brian Eno, the film revels in the wonder and ecstasy that results from man’s step into the unknown while also reflecting on the deeply personal experience of being completely untethered from the world in which we all live. For All Mankind is both an astounding look at the excitement of the scientific discovery of generations past and a melancholic counterpoint to the current state of space exploration. A post-film panel discussion with NASA engineers Brooks Moore and Al Reisz who both worked on the Apollo missions will delve into the science that made the mission a success, what the key scientific benchmarks that led to the moon landing —and the expected and unexpected science and engineering challenges.

More fun movies this spring of interest are highlighted by the return of Veronica Mars by Warner Bros. as Rob Thomas directs a screenplay he co-wrote with Diane Ruggiero. Kristen Bell reprises the title role, and is joined by Percy Daggs III, Jason Dohring, Francis Capra, Martin Starr, Gaby Hoffmann, Jerry O’Connell, Jamie Lee Curtis, Justin Long, James Franco, Ryan Hansen, Tina Majorino, Chris Lowell, Enrico Colantoni, Ken Marino, and Krysten Ritter, among others. See this one-of-a-kind revival of a cult tv show in a one-week exclusive engagement in the Nashville area at the Belcourt Theater nightly at 8:30 pm beginning March 28.

Go to your local Carmike Cinema (including Governor’s Square 10 in Clarksville, Thoroughbred 20 at Cool Springs, Wynnsong 16 in Murfreesboro, Bellevue 8 in Nashville, Wynnsong 10 in Madison, Cinema 1 in Springfield, Wynnsong 10 in Chattanooga, Majestic 12 in Chattanooga, East Ridge 18 in Chattanooga, Wynnsong 16 in Knoxville, Carmike 10 in Knoxville, or Movies 7 in Knoxville) to see one of the following major motion pictures coming this spring in April and May:

Marvel Studios’ Captain America: The Winter Soldier with Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America, Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie as The Falcon, Emily VanCamp, Hayley Atwell, Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, Robert Redford, and Cobie Smulders opens April 4.

Relativity Media’s Oculus starring Karen Gillan and Katee Sackhoff opens April 11.

Columbia Pictures / Marvel Studio’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2 with Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Paul Giamatti, and Sally Field opens May 2.

Warner Bros. / Legendary Pictures’ Godzilla, based on a Frank Darabont (The Walking Dead) screenplay with Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, and Bryan Cranston, opens May 16.

A memorable mutant memorial Day weekend kicks off as the highly anticipated X-Men: Days of Future Past by 20th Century Fox / Marvel Entertainment, directed by Bryan Singer opens May 23, starring Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Ellen Page, Shawn Ashmore, Peter Dinklage, and Halle Berry.

ON TELEVISION:
March Madness of another kind reigns as the Sochi Olympics caused the TV networks not to program as the traditional February Sweeps bombshell episodes they would have but airing them this month instead. The Walking Dead is killing it, with brutal episodes — “just look at the flowers” — leading up to the season finale Sunday, March 30. Cosmos sparkles Sundays through June 8 on FOX. Game of Thrones rules as the fourth phenomenal season runs April 6 through June 15. Mondays, Warehouse 13 returns for a short six episode final season April 14. And Monday, May 5 brings the return of Jack Bauer as 24: Live Another Day premieres for a 12 episode day in the life of the the longest running espionage show ever, Fox’s 24. Catch the series finale of Psych Wednesday, March 26, on USA followed by a one-hour retrospective of the show. Also Wednesdays are home to Arrow and The 100 on The CW, two great shows. Thursday night belongs to Scandal, which ends its pregnancy-shortened 18-episode third season on Thursday, April 17. But the week before, on CBS’ The Crazy Ones, don’t miss a reunion 32 years in the making as Pam Dawber guest stars; she was Mindy and Robin Williams was Mork on Mork and Mindy. SyFy Fridays are back as Continuum loops in for a 13 episode third season starting April 4. And, Tatiana Maslany is back as several versions of herself in the ridiculously addictive Orphan Black on BBCAmerica; the second 10-episode season starts Saturday, April 19.

COOL LECTURE:
If you want to hear from a leading African American astrophysicist in person, come out to Tennessee State University on Monday, March 31. Dr. Sylvester James Gates Jr., the John S. Toll Professor of Physics at the University of Maryland – College Park, will be the featured keynote speaker officially opening the University-Wide Research Symposium Monday, March 31. He is nationally and internationally known for his research on supersymmetry, supergravity, and superstring theory. The keynote address at 2 p.m. is free and open to the public, and will take place in the E.T. Goins Recital Hall, located in the Performing Arts Center on the main campus. Dr. Gates was recently elected to membership in the National Academy of Sciences, the first African American so recognized in their 150-year history. Professor Gates was awarded the Medal of Science presented by President Obama, the highest award given to scientists in the U.S., at a White House ceremony in 2013. Dr. Gates currently continues his research in supersymmetry in systems of particles, fields, and strings. This month, Gates will be honored as the Harvard University 2014 Scientist of the Year.

And, if you just wanna have geeky fun with sciency / artsy /nerdy types, don’t miss this year’s Middle Tennessee Anime Convention…. trust me, it’s about way more than just anime. It’s Easter weekend at Embassy Suites Nashville SE, locatedat 1200 Conference Center Blvd. in Murfreesboro. That’s April 18-20, go to www.mtac.net for details.