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The Curious World of Science in the film ‘Breakthrough’ at SXSW

March 20, 2019

The film follows the main character Jim as he is determined to find a cure for cancer from losing his mother to the disease. Bill Haney talks about the impeccable relentlessness and determination one must possess in succeeding in the science world.

ATM: What can a person assess about Jim’s love for his mother through his passion for wanting to cure cancer?

BH: Ah, this is an interesting question. His mother has motivated him his whole life. The best way to get a sense of passion is by his behavior. If we look the arc of Jim’s life, then he has a time and again endured hardship to work with determination against the disease that took his mother. This tells us what we need to know.

ATM: Explain his inquisitive behavior in trying to find this cure.

BH: His behavior is driven to several things. We talked about his motivation. And, it was not just his mother. He lost both of his uncles to cancer. He lost his brother to cancer. Cancer has ripped its dark claws around his family’s neck. In terms of his inquisitive nature, he is an intellect willing to think differently as well as tactfully, and relentlessly. He has this wonderful tool of being a well-trained scientist. Science is a way to looking into the world and having the tools to examine it. Hopefully, people will share your examination. Jim brings this to finding a cure for cancer.

ATM: How does this film highlight the power of science?              

BH: In Jim’s childhood, he is fighting against pseudo-science and the alternatives to science. He fights relentless his whole way through. Science is the handmade of his creativity and it the tool his community uses to build a cure. The people who are gifted scientists are apart of a gifted community. They celebrate ideas and the thoughtful and exposition of them. They are willing to subject their ideas to public scrutiny and questioning. The refine their ideas based on the work of others. They believe in using true facts to morph conclusions, test them rigorously and to refine them.

ATM: What is your relationship to science or any aspect of it?

BH: I am certainly committed to the sciences. My father was a chemist. I had run and started technology companies my entire life. I am an inventor myself. As a citizen of this great country and world, I have watched how science has advanced in the quality and character of life for people across the world. If you are willing and feel happy to grow above 35 years old, this was the average life expectancy of an American in the 1900s, then you should be grateful for the sciences who have invented the sciences, technology, and sanitizations. These things have given us a chance to have a happy, healthier, and longer life. I am a fan of greatest scientists and great science. Also, there is the scientific method. The scientific method does not have to be practiced by scientist or on scientific subjects. It forces you to use experiments to find facts. To use facts to form conclusions and assess them. We can use this for our healthcare policies in the United States or voting rights protecting endangered species. This tool set is very powerful, objective and should be protected and celebrated.

ATM: As a part of the scientific method, how does your main character Jim use a hypothesis to create a cure?  A hypothesis is the “If, then” statement.

BH: He discovers the power of T cells to work on the immune system. He hypothesis it in terms of what might be valuable in curing cancer. The evidence believes there is a relevance in curing cancer. There are questions marks as to what there has not been. He speculates that the T cell is relevant to this as a graduate student at the University of Texas. He tests the hypothesis. If I modify this point or sector of a T cell, then I am hypothesizing that it might affect cancer. This is what Jim does. When he tests, he sees experimental evidence reinforcing his hypothesis, he pursues it relentlessly.

ATM: Are there any similarities with how scientist creates their hypothesis in how theorists create theories?

BH: In some ways. He does not stud wondering to find a way to cure it. He follows his passion for biology and what he learned in the lab. As he continues to get information, then he starts to form a hypothesis. The difference between a hypothesis and a theory, it is an interesting one, they work to be true. But a theorist might imagine something that is difficult to test at the time. For example, Einstein special theory was an interesting idea. There were no obvious ways to do the experiment. People were not even successful in doing the experiment until 70 years after he theorized it. Jim is able to act on his ideas a little quicker.

ATM: So, in a way they are related, but only a little?

BH: People can theorize a hypothesis. Jim is a practical semiologist. He is not a trained vocational biologist. He is interested in science because of his own right. Because of this he is discovering things he can turn into drugs.

ATM: When someone is curious, what additional traits evolve in their personality?

BH: The first thing is that they ask a question. “Is this taco good or bad?” If they are deeply curious, then “How do I find the best taco in California?” I am going to drive there to test this taco. I have 1500 tacos and 30 reviews. I am going to write a paper on it. These are levels of expressions of the depth of your curiosity. You can decide to find the best by going to every taco bell in California.

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