review – Stephen Hawking’s Universe
I borrowed this DVD set expecting the program within to be as interesting as Brian Greene’s The Elegant Universe program on Nova or Dr. Hawking’s A Brief History of Time and while the content within is stuff that I normally find fascinating and none of the material or presentation was beyond my understanding, the presentation of this stuff was boring. This stuff was boring.
There are three DVDs in this set, each DVD containing two episodes of the series as presented on PBS. The first DVD “The Big Bang”, contains Progams One and Two. PROGRAM ONE is “Seeing Is Believing” and is merely a history of study, including some overlap with Hawking’s own scientific and then-academic career. It’s about theory and mathemetics. PROGRAM TWO is the titular episode. “PROGRAM TWO: The Big Bang” covers the origin(s) of the Universe and compares/contrasts that with official church thought historically. The most relevent point is that the universe had a single moment of creation.
Volume 2 “On the Dark Side” presents “PROGRAM THREE: Cosmic Alchemy” and “PROGRAM FOUR: On the Dark Side”. The first part covers the question how vast cosmos is birthed from a single point. The question is raised of how energy becomes matter and how matter comes from energy. It goes over the basic elements of old psuedo-science, “fire”, “earth”, “air”, and “water”, the basics of gas and solid and liquid, expands into the Periodic Table and even works to Einstein’s theory of relativity. I wish it wasn’t so dry. “PROGRAM FOUR: On the Dark Side” talks about dark matter. It’s largely discussion of gravity where no objects can be observed (without solid objects gravity cannot be generated; gravity requires a source). This exploration of gravity leads to a discussion of a “Big Crunch” as opposed to gradual fade-out of all stellar objects alongside an eternal expansion.
Volume 3 is “Black Holes and Beyond”. “Beyond” covers the sixth program although in the fifth program, the titular one, it’s a reference to quasars and other stellar objects that are no black holes; that’s very convenient. It’s just very general as physics as we know it, or believe we know it, tends to become stuff that we know we don’t know within black holes. Cosmic anomolies cause cause mysterious phenomena. The last program “An Answer to Everything” is not a reference to Unified Field Theory but to the search for a purpose or a cause to the Big Bang. What started creation? The episode isn’t that simple.
The entire production is aggravatingly boring. We get the experts speaking now and again. We have a generic narrator. We have the typical dogmatic approach to theoretical cosmology. The producers and thinkers go over all this material regarding billion-year-timelines and grand cosmic engagements, events, happenings, and matters of creation and primal force and present it in terms of such certainty as if they observed as it happened and knew what they were seeing in a definite way and manner. The truth is that these notions and ideas are conclusions made from observations made today and calculations made from some definitive and some theoretical knowledge. The conclusions are stated and adhered to as religiously as any dogma a priest or pastor in a Christian church ever made of the Lord.
To them it’s religious doctrine and they speak of these principles with great faith. For the most part that is just what it is. Belief and dedication to what cannot be seen and in some instances cannot be confirmed for a thousands of years.
Stephen Hawking does not narrate the program (such as he would or could) but for the most part it’s obvious that he is the inspiration and possibly the architect of the program. It is all about what he studies. Unfortunately the presentation is much too dry for general public consumption.