A marvelous collection of 4 Nova programs
Mike Birman | Brooklyn, New York USA | 04/10/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Here, in one box, are 4 superb Nova programs that function as absorbing discussions of some of the most profound scientific discoveries in history and as biographies of the scientists responsible for them. Very few breakthroughs in science follow a linear path: there are usually a host of ancillary scientists whose contributions to the intellectual climate of the time provide the essential nutrients for discovery. Then there are the scientists whose insights are crucial to the final momentous breakthrough. Both groups are part of the fabric of these programs. Abstract ideas are easier to explain when there are people and concrete things to drape them on. I found the superb Galileo and Einstein programs particularly valuable (especially if watched in chronological order) for their thoughtful explication of the scientific concept of Relativity.
Relativity, in it's modern sense, originates with Galileo's primal work on motion and gravity. Following his death, his elegant ideas persisted over three centuries before Einstein's profoundly deep insights into the workings of nature illuminated the Relativity of motion, the speed of light, mass, energy and time. Along this 300 year long thoroughfare of thought, illustrious scientific names such as Newton, Leibnitz, Halley, Faraday, Maxwell and many others illuminate the way. As someone trained as a scientist, I can attest to how this mingling of ideas with personalities and history can make them easier to visualize and understand. Where the Einstein program appears weakest: the occasional emphasis on the 'sexy' Einstein, on 'Einstein the dude' who is just like any other fellow; hating school, ogling women. If the intent is to persuade the audience that Einstein was just an ordinary bloke, that anyone can conceive what Einstein conceived given enough spare time and a sufficient number of rainy afternoons, it is pointless. The kind of insights that led to his miraculous year of discovery, 1905, only happen every few centuries, if not longer. That applies to Newton, Galileo and Darwin, as well. Extraordinary discoveries require extraordinary minds. These 4 programs help curious nonscientists understand the products of these extraordinary minds, and the precursor ideas that helped seed them. Along the way, they also redress some historical wrongs. Women who were marginalized in the world of science by gender and religious prejudice, women such as Emilie du Chatelet and Lisa Meitner, are given long overdue exposure and their proper credit. This is a wonderful byproduct of these programs.
These 4 programs emphasize drama more than the science programs of the past. Inevitably, some may accuse them of being "dumbed down". I've always felt that anything that increases scientific curiosity and aides understanding is worthwhile. These Nova programs definitely achieve that end. They do not engage in deep scientific complexity, but they are intelligently entertaining and dramatically engrossing. If you are curious about these great scientists but are afraid that their science will be over your head, fear not. The shows are clear and not too difficult. They are challenging without being obscure; while never talking down to the audience, they are always eager to inform. For those more scientifically sophisticated than the average viewer, the historical drama and scientific biographies may hold intrinsic interest. All of the performers are superb. All of the scientists providing expert commentary are clear, informative and eager to enlighten. The computer graphics used to illustrate these shows are of the highest technical quality. The photography, likewise.
The DVDs are all NTSC encoded. The films are shot either full screen with a 4:3 aspect ratio or shot widescreen with a 16:9 aspect. The running time of the 4 DVDs is 420 minutes. Sound is Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo and the films are closed captioned. There are various extras including DVD-ROM text material and various web site links.
These 4 programs are an excellent and intelligent combination of science, biography and history presented for those who are curious about the world. Most highly recommended.
NOVA does it again.
Acetaminophen | here, now | 09/22/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"These four videos are just absolutely fantastic. They are so well done that even the students in my introductory classes enjoy them (and that's hard to do when dealing with historical videos). Even I, who knows my history well, enjoys watching them again and again. They are all pretty accurate, and the few sections that aren't are not important or even that noticeable. If this is even a thought, buy it! You won't regret it."
R. Votaw | Paris, France | 03/24/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is a fabulous set of DVD's which explain some the greatest scientific ideas in history and the individuals who authored them. I ony wish each episode were longer in duration and deeper in content.
One reviewer asks why Darwin is included in this set. Although Darwin did not invent the idea of evolution, he did articulate a mechanism by which it operates: natural selection. A preponderance of evidence supports natural seletion as one of, but perhaps not the only, mechanism to explain evolution.
It is true, however, that Darwin's theory has not been "proved". It is a cornerstone of science that a theory can never be proved, only disproved. At best, a theory can only be said to be consistent with the known evidence. But no other theory of evolution or creation stands on as sound a footing as natural selection.
Darwin often is discounted by those who disfavour a world based on reason, preferring instead to accept one of the many forms of religious mythology. But this does not disprove Darwin's writings as a comprehensive framework for biology, a framework which is yet to be developed for physics. The ideas of Galileo, Newton and Einstein no doubt will be key pillars of the latter framework.
Perfect Title For These Great Men
GAG | home | 01/18/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Well produced videos with amazing subject matter.Nova has done some beautiful work here.
For those of you whose faith will not allow them to accept evolution, you should still quite enjoy the other three. You may even enjoy the drama of the disc on Darwin. It's a wonderful story."