Saturday, 10 October 2015

Ridley Scott & Aristotle on Mars & Entertainment

It was on 4 May 357 BCE that Aristotle got to grips with the planet Mars. May 4th is of course Star Wars Day, as in ‘May the Fourth/Force be With You’. One of my children was born on that date and once got free Star Wars minifigures in the Cardiff Lego shop simply by waving a copy of her birth certificate. Now my political party's leader, wonderfully, has a May 4 connection simply by looking like Star Wars’ Obi Wan Kenobi.

The View from Athens Pub, 357 BCE
Back in 357, at about 2000 in the evening Athens time, Aristotle (then in his mid-thirties and studying with Plato) watched the moon move in front of the planet Mars. He was the first known person in history to observe, I like to think from a tavern near the Academy, the distinctive planet re-emerging from behind the dark side of the moon on its other, ‘brilliant and shining side’ (On the Heavens, aka de Caelo book 2 chapter 12, 292a).

'The War-God Planet is further away than the Moon'
From this empirical observation Aristotle was able to infer that the moon was nearer to planet Earth than Mars, even though he still thought that the centre of the whole system was Earth. Aristotle, however, called the planet Mars by its Greek name ‘Ares’. (He can't be held responsible for the fact that this was the name of my warlike first husband, whom I left the night the Berlin wall came down).

I went on a family outing to see Ridley Scott’s dazzling movie Martian  yesterday. That is, we booked tickets once I had got over the fact that Teenagers Today are not told at school that Mars is further out from the centre of the solar system than Earth (they do know what happens in intergalactic computer games, just not in physical reality). I was also encouraged because the name ARISTOTLE can be coerced out of the letters forming the three words RIDLEY SCOTT MARS, although do not know what to do with the spare letters DYCMRS. (Suggestions from crossworders please in COMMENTS below).

What I have always loved about Ridley Scott is not that he comes from Teesside, although that has clearly made him grounded and funny and will be an advantage when dealing with the monster egos and morons he must meet in Planet Hollywood. His movies—Blade Runner, Alien, Thelma and Louise1492, and Gladiator are my favourites—have ALL managed to be educational and morally edifying as well as enthralling entertainment.

Scott not only seems to think that females are intelligent (the commander of the Mars mission is a woman). He just ‘gets’ that art can be both useful and pleasurable, as Aristotle keenly argued it must be in his Poetics; you should have heard the cheers in (Witney) Cineworld when rational science and transnational human brainpower, to the tune of ABBA’s Waterloo, got the highly resourceful Astronaut (Watney), a Botanist like Aristotle's best friend Theophrastus, off the Red Planet and back to family Homo Sapiens. More, please, Ridley. Aristotle would have approved.

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