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With: John Lowry Dobson
Written by: n/a
Directed by: Jeffrey Jacobs
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 79
Date: 04/19/2005

A Sidewalk Astronomer (2005)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Big Bang Boom

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Buy A Sidewalk Astronomer on DVD.

If you have any curiosity about what happens outside our daily grind, see Jeffrey Fox Jacobs's A Sidewalk Astronomer, this week at the Roxie (3117 16th St., SF). You will hardly meet a more charming genius crackpot than the film's subject, John Dobson, a kind of monk/inventor/astronomer who created the "Dobsonian mount," which allows larger telescopes to more easily track around the sky. When Dobson first viewed the magnified night sky in the mid-1950s he said to himself, "Everyone's got to see this." And so, instead of taking out a patent and getting rich, he teaches people how to build their own cheap telescopes (one was reportedly built for $7). Sometimes he stands on San Francisco street corners and invites people to look at the moon's mountains through one of his inventions. A kind of homemade A Brief History of Time, Jacobs's film cleverly forgoes the usual talking heads and simply shows Dobson while lecturing and talking to fans, capturing in a brief 78 minutes a whole new view of the universe. Forget all about the "Big Bang" theory, Dobson says. There's a better explanation. Dobson makes his theories clear with his colorful stories and similes. He compares solar flares to "sea snakes" and describes the galaxy's creator as "the Exterior Decorator." Don't pass up this extraordinary new look at our visible universe. And you may want to take notes, so don't forget your pen.

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