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A Sidewalk Astronomer

John Dobson and his simple telescope mount have revolutionized astronomy.


A printer-friendly version of this page 75 minutes
Directed by Jeffrey Jacobs
Produced by Jacobs Entertainment, Inc.
Editor: Jean Vitale
Camera: Jeffrey Jacobs
Music: John Angier
Featuring John Dobson





''An inspiring film about an inspired teacher." Dana Stevens, New York Times
On any given night around the world, thousands of people peer into deep space because of John Dobson. An 89-year old with a white ponytail and a knack for comedy, John Dobson revolutionized astronomy. He is the inventor of the Dobsonian telescope mount, which changed the field of astronomy dramatically, making telescopes accessible to the public on every continent.

A former Vedanta monk, he is a co-founder of "Sidewalk Astronomers," an organization that encourages amateurs to share their telescopes and knowledge with others on busy city streets and in national parks "so people can see something of the Universe in which they were born." The film follows John as he tours the country from the sidewalks of San Francisco to Stellafane, a convention of telescope makers in Vermont. It features sequences on sidewalk astronomy, telescope making, the Moon, Sun, major planets, galaxies, Big Bang Theory, and the nature of time and space.

We also get to know Dobson, a fascinating thinker, philosopher, teacher, and human being. This astronomical and cosmological journey is illustrated with actual film footage and stills of space shot from satellites and spacecraft courtesy of NASA, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the Goddard Space Flight Center and the Hubble Space Telescope Institute.



Grade Level: 7 - 12, College, Adult
US Release Date: 2006     Copyright Date: 2005
DVD ISBN: 1-59458-541-5     VHS ISBN: 1-59458-540-7




Reviews
"A Sidewalk Astronomer is an inspiring film about an inspired teacher. It should leave all viewers with an ounce of curiosity eager to hit the streets with Dobsonian telescopes of their own."
Dana Stevens, New York Times

"This film will thrill astronomers and astronomy enthusiasts. It provides a look into the life and accomplishments of a folk-hero among astronomers, and gives much to ponder about the universe and the nature of time and space. Non-astronomers should find enough to inspire an interest in the universe and its wonders. Recommended, Highly Recommended for astronomers."
David Bertuca, University at Buffalo, State University of New York, Educational Media Reviews Online

"Here is a spectacular, and masterfully produced presentation, starring the inventor of the Dobson telescope, who boldly and humorously devastates two sacred cows of cosmology, the Big Bang and the expanding universe interpretation of the red shift."
21st Century Science and Technology Magazine

"Resource meets CLRN Review Criteria."
California Learning Resource Network

"This is a fine film about an engaging and amazing character...[A Sidewalk Astronomer] would appeal to a broad audience - certainly, to anyone who has ever gazed in wonder at the sky on a moonless night."
AAAS's Science Books and Films

"Fascinating viewing...Highly recommended."
Library Journal

ABOUT JOHN DOBSON:
"'It's not that he thinks outside the box,' reflects filmmaker Jacobs. 'He doesn't even see the box.' Or, for that matter, believe in the Big Bang. 'First of all, they have it coming out of nothing and that's impossible,' he says. 'And then they have it coming out of a black hole and that's just as impossible.' Dobson believes in something bigger than the bang. 'He thinks he's got the secret to the universe,' complains one astronomer. Chortles Dobson, 'hundreds of years ago they would have already burned me at the stake.'"
Smithsonian Magazine


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Awards and Festivals
Tribeca Film Festival
Singapore International Film Festival
Maine International Film Festival
International Film Festival of the Spirit
Avignon Film Festival

Subjects
American Studies
Anthropology
Astronomy
Biography
Environmental Ethics
Humanities
Humor
Philosophy
Physical Science
Science
Technology
Society

Sociology
Technology


Related Titles

A Sidewalk Astronomer (Short Version)
John Dobson has revolutionized astronomy and helped thousands to look in wonder at their own universe.

Galileo's Sons
A rare behind-the-scenes look at the Vatican Observatory, and the cosmological questions tackled by the Jesuit astronomers there.

The Mystery of Chaco Canyon
Unveiling the ancient astronomy of southwestern Pueblo Indians.

The Sun Dagger
The astonishing discovery of an ancient celestial calendar in Chaco Canyon, NM.

In the Light of Reverence
A stunning portrait of land-use conflicts over Native American sacred sites on public and private land around the West.


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