An Older, but Decent Documentary
Gradient Vector Field | MA, USA | 07/20/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"For 1985, I'm sure this documentary was pretty well done. However, now that I'm reviewing this in 2008, I kind of expect a little more from documentaries. I know that sounds somewhat unfair, but bear with me and let me explain. I really love Cosmology; I find it to be an utterly fascinating subject. I've read books by some of the people interviewed on here, namely Stephen Hawking. However, I can't help but find this to be a fairly dry documentary. It doesn't feel like it's geared towards the general public, but more for people at the college level in some field of science. This was done both in a good and bad way in my opinion.
First off it was really cool to visit many locations and science facilities as we journey with Timothy Ferris around the world. He takes us inside particle accelerators and to different observatories to help us see what scientists are working on in these fields at that time. This is a great documentary from a historical perspective and it's very timeless in that nature. I thought seeing Ferris sit down at some of those ancient computers was quite humorous. I do think the information held within was interesting, but there's just something about the way it's presented that was a bit too dry. This would be an alright form if the documentary was shorter, but then you'd be hard pressed to fit all of the information in there!
Some sections of this are also overly technical. It says it's something for the "whole family", but unless your whole family understands a little bit about particle physics you might find this a little tough to follow. When he goes over the strong and weak nuclear forces and how Z or X particles relate, it gets kind of convoluted. I realize that this is pretty much the most basic explanation you'll get for anything on particles or quantum physics, but still it's kind of tough to follow and then retain that for the full story on the creation of the universe. And this is coming from someone who gets the general concept behind how particle physics works. I'm not saying you need a PhD to really understand this documentary, but I think things are explained a little TOO fast, so if you're looking for a basic overview for a high school class or anything on that level you really should rethink that. Or at the very least view this well beforehand and even then I would only recommend showing this to Advanced Placement students outside of the college venue. If you want something a little more basic that gives a great general overview then I highly recommend "Hyperspace". This is great introductory material and it has stunning graphics to accompany all the explanations. You don't get to see the real scientific facilities, but students will walk away being mystified by scientific concepts. "The Creation of the Universe" is great for students who want to see the actual facilities and see how things are actually being done in reality. "Hyperspace" is great if you want to teach concepts and want to wow the viewer, but again, it's very basic.
The one other problem with this documentary is the interview sequence. I can't express enough how much respect I have for Hawking, his research, and his discoveries! But he's given a lot more talking time than he should in this documentary. I realize the disease he has is a tragedy, but this is prior to when he had a computer that could talk for him. In this documentary he has a student that can understand him translate for him. Unfortunately this goes back and forth like any interpretation method, so Hawking speaks, the audience doesn't understand a word of it then the translator speaks. However, this is not a good method to convey that brilliant man's ideas. He doesn't speak in full sentences, so it's not like a normal linguistics interpretation and the sentence structure sometimes feels like it's lost, especially when the translator has to have him repeat once in a while. Its one thing to show it once, but this happens a couple times on this documentary. He's a brilliant mind, and he should get credit for his research, but if you're trying to convey those ideas to an audience, I felt they were simply lost in translation. It felt more like they had him on there for the sake of filming him. However, this documentary seems to be heavily based on the reality of the situation science is in and we get that feeling with other interviews, like with Wheeler and Hawking. I just felt at the end of the interviews with Hawking that they were more of a detriment than a help.
At the end Ferris goes over some religious analogies and talks about historical scientists that were all religious. He relates the worldview of monotheism to the scientific concept of a grand unified theory. I'm sure Ferris is very sincere in his presentation of this, but I felt like he was playing too much to apologetics at this point. Granted the creation concept is a hot topic in any religious belief, but it just felt so out of place at the end. I realize many Christian viewers will enjoy this, since he does play a focus on that, but he does point out that science is rather impartial and it doesn't matter if you're agnostic, atheist, Buddhist, Hindu, or whatever to do good science. But I just didn't fully get where he was going with this section of the argument. It just felt like it was a time filler to play apologetics for whatever religion doesn't fit into the scientific view of the Big Bang.
Overall this is incredibly well researched. It gives you a lot of information about what scientists have worked on, but mainly sticks with things that are between Einstein and the 1980's. So don't expect a major history lesson, though there is a little bit of historical reference thrown in for good measure, such as Galileo inventing the telescope and going on location to see where it was used by him. I don't think this documentary will interest many people unless you really have an interest in particle physics. They spend a huge amount of time on that, the first few seconds of the big bang and what particles were doing then. It's filled with cheesy 1980's computer graphics, but you should expect that. So remember, if you want to wow students and have something basic, go for "Hyperspace" and if you want something more intermediate that focuses on realistic scientific research get "The Creation of the Universe".
3.5 out of 5"