Stephen Hawking’s Universe
PBS DVD Video
Executive Producer: William R. Grant
3 Discs, 120 Minutes Each: The Big Bang; On The Dark Side; Black Holes And Beyond; Each DVD 120 Minutes Stereo
Hyperspace: From The Birth Of The Universe To The End Of Our World
BBC Video Series Producer Richard Burke-Ward; Stereo; Aproximately 180 Minutes
For those who are mystified by relativity and the Big Bang (let alone “String Theory” which currently mystifies everyone, even the physicists working on it), and are fascinated by the meeting of physics and cosmology, these BBC programs will be of interest. Having been long fascinated myself by these subjects, and tending to read Hawking’s books almost every summer seeking a better understanding, I jumped at the chance to buy these DVDs in the Indianapolis airport science store, when coming home from CEDIA.
Hyperspace is a little quicker and graphically flashier trip from the Big Bang to the end, as the Sun burns out, narrated by Sam Neill (best known as the archaeologist studying dinosaurs in the 3-film series Jurassic Park). Neill is given a very good script (probably a collaborative effort), and he articulates his narration adding the dramatic ability of an actor. There are graphics aplenty, most of them animated, taking us through time, through celestial events, and what our place in the universe is. Are We Alone looks at the 40-year SETI program. There also are sections about the sorts of machines we will need to venture into the light years to preserve our species, and the possibility of life on Earth being destroyed by a huge asteroid (it’s happened before). Though a wonderful disc for young people wanting to understand the Universe and Earth’s relation to it, it does not have the sheer depth of science of the Hawking 3-disc set. Cosmology Lite? Well, it is 3 hours long, and very well organized as an introduction to the subject.
Hawking’s Universe uses not only graphics, but excerpts from his and other scientists’ published work, along with extensive interviews, and, of course, explanations of his many theories by Hawking himself, and his views on the more recent research trying to unify Relativity, Hawking’s own many mathematical discoveries, and Quantum Mechanics. String Theory is the latest attempt to tie things up and harmonize every event that’s ever happened in the large scale of things.
Meanwhile they’re still wondering where all that dark matter since it is said to be the dominant substance in space. I wonder if it isn’t that hugely dense Black Holes that abound, especially those that hold galaxies together. But I can’t do the math. This a very scientifically sophisticated exploration I highly recommend to those with the time and the interest.