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Fall film festival focuses on science and technology

Johannes Vermeer painting
“Girl with a Pearl Earring” by Johannes Vermeer. The documentary “Tim’s Vermeer,” which explores Vermeer’s painting techniques, will be screened Oct. 28 at Northwestern.
  • Northwestern experts will lead post-show discussions in ETOPiA’s ninth season
  • Films look at scientists’ attempts to produce cold fusion, to find the Higgs boson
  • One documentary focuses on search to understand Vermeer’s painting techniques

Films about scientists trying to produce cold fusion and seeking the elusive Higgs boson to unravel mysteries of the universe are among three documentaries that will be screened during the ninth season of ETOPiA: Engineering Transdisciplinary Project in the Arts at Northwestern University.

An outreach initiative at the McCormick School of Engineering, ETOPiA will feature three movies, rather than a play, this year. The goal is to inspire cross-disciplinary dialogue about the roles of science and technology in society.

“Friday Night at the Movies” will feature “The Believers” (Oct. 7), “Particle Fever” (Oct. 14) and “Tim’s Vermeer” (Oct. 28), a documentary about an engineer and art enthusiast seeking to understand painting techniques used by the Dutch master painter. 

 Northwestern experts will lead a discussion after each show.

Each film will be screened starting at 7 p.m. in the Ryan Auditorium of the Technological Institute, 2145 Sheridan Road, in Evanston. All films are free and open to the public; advanced reservations are strongly recommended.

Since ETOPiA’s production of the play “Copenhagen” premiered in 2008, ETOPiA’s annual arts event attracts a diverse audience of community members, high school students, undergraduates, graduate students, staff and faculty. This year the event moves from the stage to the silver screen.

“We had great success with theater in the past,” said Ermin Wei, co-producer of this year’s ETOPiA event and an assistant professor of electrical engineering at McCormick.

“But we hope that by periodically using other forms of art, we will inspire new forms of dialogue,” added Jing Dong, co-producer and an assistant professor of industrial engineering and management sciences.

Wei and Dong are co-producing this year’s ETOPiA film series with the help of executive producer Matthew Grayson, an associate professor of electrical engineering. Grayson founded ETOPiA in 2008.

Details on the movies follow:

“The Believers,” 7 p.m., Friday, Oct. 7 
The film chronicles the controversial events surrounding two University of Utah chemists’ attempts at cold fusion. Following the show, attendees can join the film’s co-directors, Northwestern alumni Clayton Brown and Monica Ross, and Northwestern faculty for a discussion.

“Particle Fever,” 7 p.m., Friday, Oct. 14
The movie follows the inside story of six brilliant scientists at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider who are seeking the Higgs boson and to unravel the mysteries of the universe. André de Gouvêa, a professor of physics and astronomy, and Ian Low, an associate professor of physics and astronomy, both at the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, will lead a discussion after the show.

“Tim’s Vermeer,” 7 p.m., Friday, Oct. 28
The film documents engineer and art enthusiast Tim Jenison as he seeks to understand the painting techniques used by Dutch master Johannes Vermeer. Following the movie, a discussion will feature Aggelos Katsaggelos, the Joseph Cummings Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and Marc Walton, senior scientist at the Northwestern University-Art Institute of Chicago Center for Scientific Studies in the Arts (NU-ACCESS).

The ETOPiA films are connected to this year’s One Book One Northwestern selection, Nate Silver’s “The Signal and the Noise,” which discusses how predictions of outcomes based on sound methodologies can affect everyone’s lives — even those without a statistical background.

For reservations and more information, go online.

-Megan Fellman, science and engineering editor in University Relations, and Amanda Morris, writer/editor at the McCormick School of Engineering, contributed to the story

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