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What is knowledge?

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Conversations about the invisible
Jean-Claude Carrière Film-maker
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My contact with physicists, the work I did with them, happened at a time in my life when I was about 50 years old, and I felt I was going to die an idiot, like Wolanski said, 'missing the greatest adventure of the [human] spirit in the 20th century', in the west at least, and that is the adventure of nuclear physics. Particle physics. Ever since Einstein, Niels Bohr and the others people have been forced to think differently. I didn't know anything about that. When I met Jean Audouze and Michel Cassé, who have been my guides in this adventure... they took me for two years, one full day every Thursday, at the astrophysical institute, teaching me. At first, I couldn't understand the difference between a neutron and a proton, I didn't know where they were in the atom.  So all of my education was still to be done, but it was completely enthralling, and at the same time they were coming to see the Mahabharata, and I was telling them about the Ancient Indian myths, we were always finding something in common, as if sometimes, ancient myths could carry the dreams we are now able to carry out in experiments.

Mon contact avec les physiciens, le travail que j’ai fait avec eux est venu à un moment donné de ma vie, vers 50 ans, où je sentais que j’allais mourir idiot, c’est à dire comme le disait Wolansky, de passer à côté de ce qui a été probablement la plus grand aventure de l’esprit au XXe siècle en occident en tout cas, qui est l’aventure de la physique nucléaire. La physique des particules. Ce qui s’est passé là, depuis Einstein, Niels Bohr et les autres a obligé l’esprit à penser différemment. Je n’en avais pas la moindre idée. Quand j’ai rencontré Jean Audouze et Michel Cassé qui ont été mes guides, mes pilotes dans cette aventure, ils m’ont accepté pendant deux ans, un jour entier, le jeudi, chaque jeudi à l’Institut d’astrophysique pour faire patiemment mon éducation. Au début je ne savais pas distinguer un proton d’un neutron, je ne savais même pas où ils se trouvaient dans le noyau d’un atome. Donc toute mon éducation était à faire, mais c’était absolument passionnant et en même temps ils venaient voir le Mahabharata, je leur racontais des mythes Indiens anciens et nous trouvions toujours un contact, quelque chose, comme si quelque fois les mythes anciens étaient porteur de rêves que nous réalisons aujourd’hui par des méthodes et procédés scientifiques.

French screenwriter Jean-Claude Carrière began his association with films aged 24 when he was selected by Jacques Tati to write for him. This early experience led to further contact with other film-makers, including Luis Buñuel with whom Carrière collaborated for many years. He has written screenplays for films including 'Belle de Jour', 'The Discreet Charms of the Bourgeoisie', 'Tin Drum' and 'Danton'.

Listeners: Andrzej Wolski

Film director and documentary maker, Andrzej Wolski has made around 40 films since 1982 for French television, the BBC, TVP and other TV networks. He specializes in portraits and in historical films. Films that he has directed or written the screenplay for include Kultura, which he co-directed with Agnieszka Holland, and KOR which presents the history of the Worker’s Defence Committee as told by its members. Andrzej Wolski has received many awards for his work, including the UNESCO Grand Prix at the Festival du Film d’Art.

Tags: Jean Audouze, Michel Cassé

Duration: 1 minute, 21 seconds

Date story recorded: January 2010

Date story went live: 18 October 2010