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STS Colloquium with Joanna Radin

Monday, November 20, 2023 at 3:30pm to 5:00pm

Morrill Hall, 423
Cornell University Dept, 159 Central Avenue, Morrill Hall, Ithaca, NY 14853-4701, USA

The Andromeda Problem: Michael Crichton, Mass Culture, and the Prophecy of Truth

 In this talk, I present material from a book in progress that asks what happens to the history of 20th and 21st century science if it’s evaluated through the career of author/director Michael Crichton. Less a biography than an ironic media and religious history of science, my approach seeks to reckon with the ways Americans have been cultured to feel about facts since the onset of the Cold War. It was at Harvard in the 1960s, amidst the rise of computing as well as civil rights that Crichton, who majored in Anthropology and earned an MD from its School of Medicine, identified the sociological phenomenon of ‘unintended consequences’ as a profitable domain for an aspiring writer. His prolific and distinctively influential expressions of that theme across a variety of mass mediums—journalism, genre fiction, film, TV, video games, virtual reality, the fine art market, as well as scientific practice itself—led Crichton, who died in 2008 at the age of 66, to be hailed by many (including those with competing interests) as a secular prophet of technoscience. Taking such claims of prophecy seriously without endorsing their veracity is a way into what I call the “Andromeda Problem,” the difficulty defenders of science have in confronting the problem of belief and the mediation of their ideas about truth.

Joanna Radin received her PhD in History and Sociology of Science from the University of Pennsylvania. Her research examines the social and technical conditions of possibility for the systems of biomedicine and biotechnology that we live with today. She has particular interests in global histories of biology, ecology, medicine, technology, and anthropology since 1945; history and anthropology of life and death; biomedical technology and computing; feminist, indigenous, and queer STS; and science fiction.

She is the author of Life on Ice: A History of New Uses for Cold Blood (Chicago 2017), the first history of the low-temperature biobank and co-editor, with Emma Kowal of Cyropolitics: Frozen Life in a Melting World (MIT 2017), which considers the technics and ethics of freezing across the life and environmental sciences.

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Science and Technology Studies



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Contact Name

Claire Pfeiffer


Joanna Radin

Speaker Affiliation

Yale University

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