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Lost University aims to help fans find the way

The TV show's creators launch an online curriculum that features video courses by USC and UCLA professors on physics, philosophy and topics touched on by the famously baffling series.

December 08, 2009|By Patrick Kevin Day

"Lost" seems to breed obsessive types who are a study in devotion and intelligence. And now, they have another place to congregate: their own school.

As the famously perplexing and mysterious series heads into its final season, its creators have launched Lost University, a multimedia experience that delves into the fields of study touched on in the show's five years. Real university professors will teach short video courses on a variety of "Lost"-related subjects -- and it's not exactly a light curriculum either, with philosophy, physics and hieroglyphics, among others.

"It's a great medium, because you don't want a TV show to become didactic," says Caltech professor Sean Carroll, who is teaching Introductory Physics of Time Travel for the online university. "It's the perfect marriage of entertainment and education."

"Lost" students are provided reading lists, handouts, final exams and homework. Courses can be completed in a matter of days (Lost University forces you to wait 48 hours between classes), but no date has been set for the start of the second semester. And yes, there's a diploma awaiting the studious.

The project was announced in July at the San Diego Comic-Con International with a website and course catalog. But the first semester of classes weren't set to begin until today -- timed to the release of "Lost's" fifth season on Blu-ray. Though anyone can sign up online and participate in forums at www.lostuniversity.org, fans must have the show's Blu-ray discs to access the courses.

The first semester offers a class taught by a trio of USC professors on some of the philosophers referenced in "Lost," including empiricist John Locke and utilitarian Jeremy Bentham. There's also an introduction to ancient hieroglyphics taught by UCLA Egyptologist Kara Cooney.

"Lost" script coordinator Gregg Nations, who tracks the show's rich academic history, was heavily involved in the project, as were executive producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse.

The company hasn't released how many have signed up for Lost University, but a look at the forums on the website reveals an active fan base from all over the world. Students from Turkey, Brazil and the Middle East have been spending their time since July going over the suggested reading list and holding forth on books such as Lynne McTaggart's "The Field," which is about quantum physics.

There's more than a diploma at stake. Students will get hints about what's to come as the serialized ABC hit drama counts down its final episodes.

"A lot of the things in Lost University play into things that will happen in the final season, you just won't realize it until you start watching the final season," says Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment General Manager Lori MacPherson.

But MacPherson would reveal nothing. This is Lost University, after all, and letting secrets slip could mean bad things.

"They'd kill us," she said.

patrick.day@latimes.com

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