Josh Coppersmith Heaven described his MA Anthropology dissertation as “very academic and convoluted.” Yet his academic dissertation gave birth to the highly accessible Once Upon a Universe, a project exploring how science can use mythology to communicate the origins of the universe to a wider audience.
The project began in April 2011 and was funded by the Science and Technology Facilities Council. Some folks from the Scottish Storytelling Centre along with guides Norman Gray—a Glasgow based astrophysicist—and David Sobral—a cosmologist—boarded the aptly named “Discovery Bus.” Their mission: to collectively make science more accessible. Time was of the essence as their project would conclude after two days at the Galloway Astrology Centre.
By Liane Fredericks
Once Upon a Universe was an ambitious undertaking for a group of strangers. Their hard work paid off as a performance of their project in Edinburgh enthralled the audience, proving the success of their mission. The project continues online: the website for Once Upon a Universe explains the evolution of the solar stystem in thirteen chapters, contains audio recordings of the performance, and ten creative writing stories and poems showing the diversity of voices within the group. Here are a few excerpts:
· ‘Just a little bit of this dark energy stuff my friend, and you’ll feel a thrill like you’ve never felt before’ – we were told. ‘Why not?’ we thought. ‘What’s the worst that can happen?’ from Confessions of a Dark-Energyholic Old Universe by David Sobral.
· ‘Warning note: Do not let the universe cool too far before you consume it. The structure will coagulate into large chewy lumps that taste a bit like gristle. If this happens, your only option is to bin it and start again.’ from Subject: Recipe by Helen Sedgwick.
Through the process Josh Coppersmith Heaven learned that his initial concept of using pure mythology was too constrained. Participants ended up wanting to include raps, recipes, poetry, and even interpretive dance. Josh is now looking to create a short animation of the science behind the origins of the universe, even as theoretical physicists are evolving the story. At the heart of it, Josh conveys successful SciArt collaborations will have “artists that are interested in science and scientists who are interested in art.”