Wednesday, December 17, 2014

'Noir Science' of the 1940s

Compared to the complex , indeterminate and unresolved plots of 1940s Noir films, mainstream Hollywood plots - then and now - tend to look like they had all been successfully predicted centuries in advance by Isaac Newton or Pierre-Simon Laplace.

Predictable, determinist, reductionist, logical, elegant : words of praise in Science - and in mainstream Hollywood.

It as if news of the 20th century revolutions in probability theory, quantum theory, contingency theory et al has never reached mainstream Hollywood.

Okay - a commonplace criticism of Hollywood plot-making.

But what if we reversed the criticism : searched scientific theories to see if some of them displayed the makings of a well-made Hollywood plot and others  displayed more Noirish plotting ?

I can think of many.

For example , the 1920s saw a fierce and highly personal counterattack by the geological establishment defending Charles Lyell's vision of a slow gradual orderly geology against the new unpredictable geology revealed by young Harlen Bretz's theory of a sudden massive Missoula Flood in ancient times .

To his critics, Bretz's explanation for the some highly unusual geological features seemed positively Noirish -- suggesting a hidden dark unpredictable side to what their own Breen Office had always portrayed as a cheery sunlit orderly process.

Others ?

Obviously Martin Henry Dawson's new vision of the chaotic random horizontal genetic transfers found in the microbe world versus the universal and orderly vertical genetic inheritance scheme proposed by his (intellectual) rival Charles Darwin....

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