What’s the Filmmaker Reading? A Book About DARPA

The Department of Mad Scientists: How DARPA Is Remaking Our World, from the Internet to Artificial Limbs by Michael Belfiore, a book loaned to me by filmmaker and friend Daria Price.

In the book, Belfiore discusses the birth of DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), an agency of the United States Department of Defense responsible for the development of new technology for use by the military, but technologies that have effected civilian life in a big way. GPS? The Internet? Thank DARPA. Here’s how DARPA came into being.

Sputnik 1

It’s fall, 1957 and Eisenhower is president. The Soviet Union has launched the first satellite into orbit, Sputnik, and there is concern about a science, technology, and missile gap between the USA and the USSR. Eisenhower meets with his Science Advisory Committee.

Was the United States devoting sufficient resources to science and technology development to keep its edge? Or would it steadily lose ground in the face of relentless progress by Soviet scientists born into a culture that treated science and engineering as a “kind of social passion.” That kind of passion for problem-solving was “missing in American life,” committee chairman Isidor Rabit lamented. “When I was growing up, all the boys wanted to play first base. Now most of them seem content to sit in the bleachers.”

Eisenhower wasn’t so sure about that… Eisenhower told the committee that he’d do what he could to inspire the nation’s young people to get excited about science and technology. “The people,” he said, “were alarmed and thinking about science and education,” and that should be enough, with just gentle prodding, to keep kids inspired all on their own.

There was one kid who was inspired to be an engineer before Sputnik beeped its way around the planet, Jill Tarter. But the little Soviet satellite would also play a big part in her future. More on that here.

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What’s A Life’s Work about? It’s a documentary about people engaged in projects they won’t see completed in their lifetimes. You can find out more on this page.

We recently ran a crowdfunding campaign and raised enough to pay an animator and license half of the archival footage the film requires. We need just a bit more to pay for licensing the other half of the archival footage, sound mixing, color correction, E&O insurance and a bunch of smaller things. When that’s done, the film is done! It’s really very VERY close!

So here’s how you can help get this film out to the world. It’s very simple: click the button…

Donate Now!

… and enter the amount you want to contribute (as little as $5, as much as $50,000) and the other specifics. That’s it. No login or registration required. Your contribution does not line my pocket; because the film is fiscally sponsored by the New York Foundation for the Arts, all money given this way is overseen by them and is guaranteed to go toward the completion of this film. Being fiscally sponsored also means that your contribution is tax-deductible. So why not do it? The amount doesn’t matter as much as the fact that you’re helping to bring a work of art into the world. And that, I think, is really exciting!

Questions? Email me at d a v i d ( aT } b l o o d o r a n g e f i l m s {d o t] c o m[/color-box]