Film explores life of legendary rebellious Tibetan monk

March 3, 2010

A free screening of the 2005 documentary “Angry Monk: Reflections on Tibet” is set for Monday, March 22, at 6:30 p.m. at Arizona State University’s West campus. The screening, presented by the Interdisciplinary Arts and Performance (IAP) Club at the West campus and Phoenix-based No Festival Required Independent Cinema, also features guest speaker Dogo Barry Graham, a Zen teacher.

Written and directed by Luc Schaedler, “Angry Monk” was nominated for a Grand Jury Prize at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival. The film explores the life of Gendun Choephel (1903-1951). Choephel is a legendary figure in Tibet, not simply because he was believed to be the reincarnation of a famous Buddhist lama but also because this promising young monk eventually turned his back on monastic life and became a fierce critic of his country’s religious conservatism, cultural isolationism and reactionary government. Download Full Image

After leaving the monastery in 1934, and fueled by his intellectual curiosity and free-spirited nature, Choephel began extensive travels throughout Tibet and India in order to understand the true political history of his country.

“Angry Monk” provides both a personal and political portrait of this pioneering and visionary intellectual who was also a smoking, drinking and sexually active man who renounced the “false duty of monastic obligations.” The film traces the biography and historic times of Choephel, who lived between the British colonial invasion of 1903 and the occupation by the Chinese army in 1951.

In addition to rare archival footage, Choephel's paintings and sketches, and contemporary scenes of many of the sites he visited, the documentary features interviews with Tibetan historians, scholars, writers, poets, a travel companion, a contemporaneous British diplomat, and Choephel's wife. Their commentary and reminiscences chronicle the major phases of Choephel's life, including his monastery education in Lhasa (1927-34), his journey across Tibet (1934-1938), his journey throughout India (1938-1946), and his return to Tibet (1946-1951).

Choephel's many writings include a guide book to Buddhist holy sites in India, a Tibetan translation of the Kama Sutra, and a political history of Tibet published posthumously. He also wrote articles for an expatriate newspaper that criticized Tibet as a political, cultural and scientific backwater, which in 1946 led the Tibetan government to imprison Choephel for three years as a political subversive. Today Choephel is a revered figure in his Chinese-occupied homeland, and an influential symbol of hope for those seeking political and spiritual reform in a free Tibet.

The Vancouver Sun described “Angry Monk” as “absorbing…a very useful perspective on recent Tibetan history.” According to the San Francisco Chronicle, “Choephel’s life of wanderlust and revolution is worth cinematic study, and for moviegoers with even a smattering of interest in and understanding of Tibet, ‘Angry Monk’ will be an eye-opener.”

Dogo Barry Graham, the guest speaker at the March 22 event, is a novelist, poet, screenwriter, journalist and Zen teacher. Born in Glasgow, Scotland, and now based in Phoenix, Graham serves as Abbot of The Sitting Frog Zen Center.

Free seating for the screening of “Angry Monk” is available on a first-come, first-served basis in Lecture Hall 110, on the east side of the CLCC Building at 4701 W. Thunderbird Road in Phoenix. Visitor parking at ASU’s West campus costs $2 per hour.

The film contains adult content. More information about “Angry Monk” is available at

Along">"> with the IAP Club and No Festival Required, sponsors of the March 22 event include Concilo Estudiantil de Lideres Latinos and the Philosophical and Religious Studies Society, student clubs on the West campus.

For more information, call (602) 265-9524.

What's in your iPod might be in your liver

March 3, 2010

When Arizona State University researchers talk about the nanorevolution, they mean more than something limited to the technological realm.

The manufacture, manipulation and use of materials at the nanoscale – at atomic or molecular levels – have implications far beyond science and engineering labs. Download Full Image

Nanomaterials are already in hundreds of commercial products, in our environment   and possibly in our bodies. Researchers are studying whether nanoparticles might be making their way into our kidneys, livers and brains.

The emerging pervasiveness of nanotechnology means “it will increasingly have health, environmental, social, political and economic implications, and raise ethical issues,” says Jonathan Posner, an assistant professor of mechanical and chemical engineering in ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

Nanotechnology is at the leading edge of science and engineering today, and its development – predominantly in engineering and physical science labs – is being largely funded by federal agencies, such as the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Posner says the rapid pace of nanotechnology advances makes it all the more urgent to consider the possible widespread societal and environmental impacts.

Far-reaching impacts

The Center for Nanotechnology in Society at Arizona State University (CNS-ASU) and ASU’s Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes (CSPO) are among national leaders in exploring the potential ramifications of nanotechnology’s emergence. They are working with scientists and engineers such as Posner to encourage researchers to consider the big-picture perspective. 

“There is a pressing need to understand the impact of nanotechnology on human health, the environment and society, to give us an informed background from which we can craft government policy and regulation, as well as legal and ethical guidelines,” Posner says.

One of Posner’s NSF-funded projects is examining health-related questions about the toxicity of engineered nanomaterials. Such nanoparticles remain largely unregulated because of a lack of data about toxicity risks.

Another project focuses on synthetic nanoscale motors and their potential for improving development of nanomachines. Researchers are seeking to understand the physical mechanisms that govern the motion of nanomachines.

They want to devise methods of producing faster and more powerful nanomotors, and to fabricate nanomotors that can serve a broad range of needs, from more effective application of medicinal drugs and environmental remediation to more accurate chemical and biological analyses.

Both projects involve efforts to encourage students to consider the broader implications of their research by examining the potential societal impacts of nanotechnology advances.

“This is about going beyond the merely technological challenges and getting students to think about what difference – good, bad or neutral – that they’ll make in the world by pursuing this work in their careers,” Posner says.

Exploring societal dimensions

Under the umbrella of CNS and CSPO, Posner is working with ASU colleagues to develop a course entitled Societal and Ethical Implications of Scientific Research, which examines nanotechnology issues. His collaborators, Jameson Wetmore, an assistant professor in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change, and Ira Bennett, an associate research professor with CSPO, have also developed Science Outside the Lab, a workshop on science policy and culture to be held in the nation’s capitol.  Posner is encouraging his students to participate in the workshop.

David Guston, CNS-ASU director and CSPO co-director, says Posner’s “openness to collaborations that explore the societal dimensions of his own research in nanotechnology is characteristic of the intellectual fusion that ASU hopes to foster through its concept of the New American University.”

That fusion “is emblematic of a new generation of thinking among scientists and engineers that embraces approaches from the social sciences and humanities,” says Guston, who also is a professor of political science in ASU’s School of Government, Politics and Global Studies.

A nanotechnology future

Scientists and engineers are experimenting with nanomaterials that can propel themselves, harvest energy from their immediate environments, and transport materials 30 times their size.

Such capabilities could be put to use cleaning up pollution in the oceans, transporting medicine in the body to help fight cancer, vastly increasing the power and performance of electronic devices, or better harnessing solar power.

“There are some ‘Star Trek’ concepts that are quickly becoming reality through the use of nanotechnology,” Posner says, but there are also “potential negative implications of the nanotechnology future” that now confront us in the form of unanswered questions about the impacts of introducing more engineered nanomaterials into the ecosystems that sustain us.

“Our goal is to ensure our faculty and students integrate an examination of these questions and potential impacts into their studies and research,” Posner says.

Joe Kullman

Science writer, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering