The John-Carter Assignment
I know this is old news, but I just suffered through all 2+ hours of John Carter last night. As the requisite nerd in the party (I’m a level 40 dungeon impressario, actually) I felt compelled to respect Burroughs’ A Princess of Mars by watching the entire film, which represents a warning to all story tellers (teachers) who try to tell too much with too little time; imagine if New Line Cinema hadn’t picked up the Lord of the Rings, and it would have remained merely one or two films.
This nerdgasm intersects heavily with a conversation I had with a visiting teacher last week. Will Dible teaches high school in rural-er Iowa than even I do, and his school gave him a free elective to create last semester, so he created “The Nature and Meaning of Science.”
Here’s an assignment I’m absolutely going to steal from him:
Choose a work of science fiction and take it in. Watch/read it again and note the times or page numbers of each hard science reference. Then make a validity argument for or against the implementation of that science content. Feel free to make a youtube voice over, paper, slide show, however best your work can be elucidated.
John Carter centers around a guy who gets transported to Mars, and then has seemingly super-martian strength because of the low gravity of the planet. I’m not sure how this film slipped by the online physics community, but it is literally a physics laugh riot and Newtonian playground.
Carter can jump super high and throw things super far. How have we not analyzed this? Especially when it begs for some basic astronomy and gravity lessons. I’m going to use this film in class next year, but I think it would also make a fantastic work for students to analyze for physics-validity.
I may even use this assignment as my final. Then students would be forced to look for examples (or anti-examples) of each standard.
Here’s the start to a list of works that students might choose, add more in the comments please!
- John Carter (Film)
- 2001: A Space Odyssey (film or book)
- Any super hero movie (Iron Man is especially good, because he has no powers)
- Flatland (Abbott Abbott)
- Ringworld (warning: awkward parts)
- Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
- Ender’s Game
- Star Wars (IV-VI)
- Star Trek (any movie or a few episodes, perhaps across series?)
- Inception (2010)
- Battlestar Galactica (Vipers!)
- Babylon 5 (Also interesting vehicle mechanics)
- Pixar’s UP (So many force diagrams on the house, so many.)
- Rendezvous with Rama (Clarke)
- NPR’s Top 100