James Cameron on Science, Art, and the Assault on Science

Revolutionary Worker #1274, April 10, 2005, posted at rwor.org

An encouraging character in the Imax film saga is James Cameron, the film director who produced both Volcanoes of the Deep Sea and Aliens of the Deep .

Cameron studied physics in college before going on to make films like The Terminator, Aliens, and Titanic . He has undertaken these deep sea expeditions and documentaries with enormous enthusiasm, even helping to develop a photography system so that life at the bottom of the sea could be investigated and recorded. (Video is literally the only way to see these creatures and plants alive; their molecular structure cannot survive being brought to the surface.)

Cameron's aim is to "expose millions of people who would never be able to get into a submarine to the extraordinary diversity and resilience of life on (and possibly off) earth, and to make science cool again." He says he wants to inspire people about the sciences in a time when there's "a backswing against science. I think we're seeing a weird turn back to a faith-based view of the universe as opposed to empiricism."

Cameron told The New York Times (February 1, 2005):

"The deep ocean has the same surface area as all the continents of the planet put together. We've got five submersibles in the world that can reach those depths. Russia has two, which we used. Japan has one, the French and the U.S. That's like exploring all the continents of the earth with five Jeeps.

"There are so many biology and geophysics stories that can be told. The Indian Ocean is a big blank area for data. So here you have a tsunami that kills probably coming up on a quarter of a million people in an area where there's almost no data on the deep sea. If ever there was a clarion call for knowing more about what's going on in these regions —even setting aside the biology story, just the geophysical story—it is that event.

"At what point are people going to really acknowledge that global climate change is real and is really going to affect them in a negative way? The problem with that is that as these thermal loads build up, at the point at which it starts to affect you it's already way too late.

"By the point at which people knew the Titanic had hit an iceberg it was way too late, unfortunately."