What to do if you encounter an alien
Prepare for a close encounter at the Byre tomorrow (Tuesday 5 April 2016) when acclaimed Danish film director Michael Madsen and the School of Physics & Astronomy’s Dr Martin Dominik meet to discuss one of the big questions: how humanity would respond to an alien encounter.
Earth may not have been visited by aliens, but ever since the invention of radio and television, humans have been announcing their existence to other civilizations. Join Madsen and Dominik for a thought-provoking journey into the unknown with a film screening that reveals the fears, hopes and rituals of a species forced not only to confront alien life forms that may or may not view us as a threat, but also its own self-image and the most difficult question of all: ‘Who are we?’
The documentary film The Visit, directed by Madsen, explores what would happen if an intelligent alien life form visited us. The screening will be followed by a discussion session with Madsen and Dr Dominik, who acted as scientific adviser to the film.
Not to be confused with the actor of the same name who appears in Quentin Tarantino films, documentarian Michael Madsen uses the film to ask an eclectic range of military, scientific and philosophical experts to reveal their ideas about how we would react to an alien encounter. With unprecedented access to the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs, NASA and the SETI Institute, the film builds a chillingly believable scenario of first contact.
Dr Dominik, a Reader in Physics and Astronomy at the University of St Andrews, leads an observing campaign to find extra-solar planets and to infer their demographics. In 2010, he organised a Scientific Discussion Meeting with the Royal Society on ‘the detection of extra-terrestrial life and the consequences of science and society’: the same topic now being addressed by the film.
Dr Dominik said: “Michael Madsen and I both wondered about how humanity would approach the discovery of life beyond Earth, for which we are not prepared. The most revealing insight was how little we know about ourselves. The film acts like a mirror. It does not provide us with answers. Instead, it makes us think about who we really are, and makes a great experience.”
The film, which had its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah in January 2015, will be given a special showing at 7.45pm on 5 April at the Byre Theatre in St Andrews. Tickets are priced £5 and available online.
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