Monday, November 28, 2011

Sophie Scholl

The other evening I watched what may have been the best movie I've seen in several years. The film is titled Sophie Scholl: The Final Days. Released in 2006 it's not only based on a true story, but much of the crucial dialogue was taken from the reminiscences of people involved with Sophie as well as official transcripts of her interrogation and trial.

Sophie Scholl and her brother Hans were devout Christians who were members of a resistance movement in Nazi Germany called the White Rose. They printed flyers which they then circulated among university students and others to attempt to counter the propaganda put out by the Nazi government.

The Scholls were caught, and the heart of the movie is the intense confrontation between Sophie and her Gestapo interrogator, Robert Mohr. Together with the final scene of her trial, every word of which was taken from transcripts, it is some of the most riveting dialogue you'll ever find in a movie. Both the acting and the cinematography are superb. The whole picture is shot in grays and browns except for Sophie's sweater which becomes an unspoken symbol of light and goodness in the otherwise drear, depressing world created by state atheism.

Julia Jentsch plays Sophie Scholl, Gerald Alexander Held plays Robert Mohr, and the trial judge, the insane Roland Friesler, is played by Andre Hennicke. All three are outstanding in these roles.

Sophie Scholl: The Final Days is a film about courage, faith, and martyrdom in the face of demonic evil. It shows the German people of the early 1940s at both their best and their worst. I highly recommend it, especially to those who appreciate films like Schindler's List and The Lives of Others.

All About Nothing

New Scientist offers a brief explanation of how the universe could have popped into existence out of "nothing." Actually, what it is is a mathematical account of how such a counter-intuitive event might be explained. It's pretty interesting:
An accompanying article by Paul Davies gives much more detail. Here's an excerpt:
So the modern conception of the vacuum [i.e. "empty space"]is one of a seething ferment of quantum-field activity, with waves surging randomly this way and that. In quantum mechanics, waves also have characteristics of particles, so the quantum vacuum is often depicted as a sea of short-lived particles - photons for the electromagnetic field, gravitons for the gravitational field, and so on - popping out of nowhere and then disappearing again.

Wave or particle, what one gets is a picture of the vacuum that is reminiscent, in some respects, of the ether. It does not provide a special frame of rest against which bodies may be said to move, but it does fill all of space and have measurable physical properties such as energy density and pressure.
Evidently, according to scientists who study these things, there is no such thing as nothing. Empty space is not completely empty. Very well, but I'm not sure how this explains the origin of the universe since before there was a universe there was no space and thus no vacuum out of which it could have arisen.

I suppose one might respond that our universe is actually only one of a multitude of universes embedded in a pre-existing space, like bubbles floating in the air, out of which our world arose. This, though, sounds more like metaphysical speculation than empirical science.

In any event, the universe is a very, very strange place.