Time Travel - between Scientific Fact and Science Fiction. Accounts from a Popular Science Perspective
Mircea Sava – University of Bucharest. Romania
Time travel and journeys to remote places in the Universe have always been preeminent themes of SF literature and SF film, but they are also present in the inventory of the most common topics that are scientifically explained in popular science books and in TV science documentaries. At a first glance, the proximity between the two categories of media formats consists only in the common subject. But if we consider them from the perspective of science communication, we can identify in this transfer of the space-time journey theme a transfer of the functioning mechanisms of popular culture. These mechanisms have become today models of production and consumption for the genres of science communication and not only for the already established popular genres of SF literature or film. This paper aims to analyse the ways in which time travel and journeys to distant places in the Universe are exploited as themes in a series of books and documentaries of popular physics in an effort to explain science at the border with fiction, as an effect of adopting popular culture models in science communication. In Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time and Brian Greene's The Elegant Universe, and also in the series of documentaries derived from these popular science books, there is a considerable proportion that the joint themes with SF literature and film have in their construction. This has some implications for the endeavour of the boundary work between science and fiction, in which the producers of popular science engage. Explaining science through fiction produces cracks at the border between the two and proposes a shared territory. At the same time, positioning science near science-fiction highlights the factual poverty of fiction and thus strengthens the boundary between the two.
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