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Director: Peter Galison (Harvard). Movie. Note unusual end time.

Date: Thu. September 15th, 2016, 4:00 pm-5:30 pm
Location: Rockefeller 301



Can we contain some of the deadliest and most long-lasting substances ever produced? Left over from the Cold War are a hundred million gallons of highly radioactive sludge, thousands of acres of radioactive land, tens of thousands of unused hot buildings, all above slowly spreading deltas of contaminated ground water. Stocked around 400 reactors (worldwide) are spent fuel assemblies, growing at a rate of 12,000 tons per year—each one radioactive enough (if unprotected) to kill a carload of people driving by it at full tilt. Not a single country in the world has a well worked-out plan about what to do with the waste stream of such deadly and long-lived materials (plutonium has a halflife of 24,000 years). Leave it where it is–in rotting barrels and shallow ditches? Rocket it into the sun with the risk of a failed launch? Dump it into the seas against international treaties? Bury it hoping it does not escape and poison future cities? The government has demanded that waste sites contain warnings to the future–for a period of risk spanning ten thousand years. ‘Containment,’ using observational as well as graphic novel and 3D animation, winds back and forth between an uneasy present and an imaginative, troubled far future. 


Peter Galison is a Pellegrino University Professor of the History of Science and of Physics at Harvard University. Galison’s previous film on the moral-political debates over the H-bomb, Ultimate Weapon: The H-bomb Dilemma (with Pamela Hogan, 2002) has been shown frequently on the History Channel and is widely used in academic courses. In 1997, he was awarded a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowship; won a 1998 Pfizer Award for Image and Logic as the best book that year in the History of Science; and in 1999 received the Max Planck and Humboldt Stiftung Prize. His books include How Experiments End (1987), Einstein’s Clocks, Poincaré’s Maps (2003), and Objectivity (with L. Daston, 2007) and he has worked extensively with de-classified material in his studies of physics in the Cold War. Galison’s work also features artistic collaborations, including partnering with South African artist William Kentridge on a multi-screen installation, “The Refusal of Time.”

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