Space Science Center Hosting Sci-Fi Convention, Documentary

COLUMBUS, Ga. - During consecutive, upcoming weekends, Columbus State University’s Coca-Cola Space Science Center will stage events featuring sci-fi entertainment, appearances by nationally and internationally known figures and the screening of a critically accaimed documentary described by its creators as “astrophysics, Indiana Jones style.”

On Saturday, Oct. 10 the center will host a Columbus Sci-Fi Convention and Toy Show. The 10 a.m.-9 p.m. event will feature an appearance by actor Sam Witwer, plus comics, action figures, video game tournaments, collectibles, sci-fi movies, model rocket launches and more. Witwer, who was “Lt. Crashdown” on Battlestar Galactica, plays Neil Perry on the Showtime series Dexter. Admission is $5.

The following weekend, the creators of a critically acclaimed documentary BLAST! will appear at the space science center to showcase their work. A discussion and screening of the 74-minute film about a revolutionary quest to investigate galaxy formation begins 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 17 in the Omnisphere Theatre. The presenters are Emmy-winning filmmaker Paul Devlin and his brother Mark, a University of Pennsylvania cosmologist.

Paul (left) & Mark DoddThis event is free, but limited space — about 100 seats — means advance tickets must be acquired from the center at 701 Front Ave., Columbus. For those not able to secure a seat, a second showing of the film — minus the special guests — will take place that evening at 6 p.m.

Mark Devlin, right, led a team of astrophysicists attempting to look back in time to reveal a hidden universe of never-before-seen starburst galaxies. To do so, they launched a revolutionary new telescope via a NASA high-altitude weather balloon.

Paul Devlin, an Emmy winner for his coverage of the Olympics (NBC) and Tour de France (CBS), filmed the adventure that took the scientists from Arctic Sweden to Inuit polar bear country in Canada, where catastrophic failure forced the team to retry the launch, which they executed triumphantly, on the desolate ice in Antarctica.

The filming also encapsulated the real lives of the scientists — their professional obsessions, personal and family sacrifices, and philosophical and religious questioning — giving emotional resonance to the story.

A New York Times review called BLAST! an “absorbing documentary” that “flirts with metaphysics ... but mostly it keeps an amused eye on the effort of these driven brainiacs to set aloft an extremely sophisticated and fragile recording device.”

BLAST stands for Balloon-borne, Large Aperture Sub-millimeter Telescope. “Sub-millimeter” refers to the wavelengths between microwave and infra-red. Astrophysicists are increasingly conducting research in this band, where intergalactic dust and emission nebula are prevalent. BLAST has emerged as an economical means for placing instrumentation above the earth’s atmosphere for such research.

Co-produced by the BBC and Discovery Channel among others, BLAST! premiered at film festivals worldwide, including the Hot Docs festival in Toronto, and has drawn media attention ranging from National Pubic Radio to Comedy Central’s Colbert Report (Aug. 13), where Mark Devlin discussed the project as an in-studio guest.

View the film’s trailer at http://blastthemovie.com/trailer.html. For more information about the Oct. 10 and 17 events, call the space science center at 706-649-1477 or go to http://www.ccssc.org.