Social psychologist Erich Fromm once said, “A technological civilization is programmed by the principal that something ought to be done if it is technologically possible. If it is possible to make nuclear weapons, they must be built even if they destroy us all.” So it is in the world of science as it is practiced today. The ambitious and beautifully produced new documentary Strange Matters shows us a scientific landscape populated by the most brilliant minds of our time – all collectively accelerating discoveries which could hold the power to destroy us all.
Such a discovery was made in August of 2014, when researchers at the Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York uncovered the means by which to manufacture strange matter, a quark liquid which existed billions of years ago and is thought to have played a key role in the Big Bang. When properly manipulated, this liquid quark serves as the most explosive element in the known universe, and can consume and destroy all planetary mass.
The accomplishments and capabilities of the nuclear science industry are advancing at a rapid pace, but at what cost to the future of humanity? Spokespersons for the industry itself downplay these risks by appealing to the public’s insatiable appetite for innovation. Many of the eye-opening revelations presented in Strange Matters lie in stark contrast to our general view of science as a positive force for the betterment of mankind. As explained by Otto Rossler, one of the founders of Chaos Theory and a valuable contributor to the film, “Science sometimes is dangerous to sustainability.”
This dynamic is apparent throughout the history of scientific innovation, particularly in the doomsday functions of an invention such as the atom bomb. The film argues that current research involving particle manipulation and manmade black holes carry the threat of even greater devastation.
Strange Matters contains ample servings of dense scientific data, but presents this challenging information in a clear and easily digestible manner. Beyond the science, however, lies a troubling ethical conundrum: just because our species has the curiosity and power of invention needed to unravel these scientific mysteries, does that mean that we should?