Big Bang

“Journey of the Universe” and “Journey of the Universe Conversations” – DVD Review

Journey_of_the_Universe_Conversations_coverJourney of the Universe” is an hour-long documentary, previously aired on PBS, tracing, as the title implies, the history of the Universe. It begins at the “big bang” and tells the story of evolution of the universe, our planet, life, and human development. Throughout the documentary, host Brian Thomas Swimme, an “evolutionary philosopher,” (see bio here) projects a sense of awe and enthusiasm in relating the story. You can get a taste in a three-minute trailer here. This is an interesting documentary that gives an overview of this amazing journey. Unfortunately, near its end, the mood is shattered when Swimme devolves into doom-and-gloom environmental propaganda. This DVD serves as an introduction to the next.

Journey_of_the_Universe_Conversations_coverJourney of the Universe Conversations” is a four-DVD set containing 10 hours of interviews hosted by Mary Evelyn Tucker, an historian of religions (see bio here). There are 20 interviews. Interviews on the first two DVDs are those of scientists who relate, in more detail, the “Journey” of the documentary. DVDs three and four are populated mainly by non-scientist activists who are heavily into sustainable development and utopian environmental schemes. Most of the ideas expressed by these people have long been explored over the last 60 years or so in dystopian science fiction stories and found wanting. One interesting exception I found among this latter group, was Dr. David Begay, a physicist at Northern Arizona University, who related the way Navajos thought of the universe and related their “sense of place.”

These DVDs will be released on June 4, 2013 from most vendors. You can pre-order at Amazon here and here.

Stephen Hawking, the big bang, invasion of aliens from outer space, the end of the world, and what’s beneath America, review of a Discovery Channel DVD

The Discovery Channel’s Curiosity series of DVD programs can be controversial, entertaining, and enlightening.

The DVD I watched had five programs (total length 198 minutes):

Did God Create the Universe?

This program presents Stephen Hawking’s view of the universe. It follows the history of our understanding of natural phenomena, such as eclipses, from religious superstition to a physical explanation. Hawking believes our universe started with a big bang, it sprang from nothing. Before the big bang there was nothing, including no time and no cause and effect. For Hawking, there is no God, no heaven, no afterlife.

In a separate program on the DVD, a panel of scientists and theologians discuss Hawking’s view. They discuss the concept of multiple universes, and conclude that science can neither prove nor disprove the existence of a creator.

Alien Invasion: Are We Ready?

This program, narrated by actress Michelle Rodriguez, features scientists and military strategists, first discussing the probabilities that some intelligent alien species exist, then speculating on how the invaders would go about getting rid of humans. If these people were the aliens, they would first disable our communications and other electronics with an electro-magnetic pulse (EMP), then kill many people in coastal areas by causing very large tsunamis. They would finish us off with biological warfare. It’s the stuff of good science fiction stories.

What’s Beneath America?

This program, narrated by Martin Sheen, is about the geology and natural resources of North America. It discusses plate tectonics, mountain building and how some of our large deposits of gold, oil, coal,and iron formed. And they got the geology right.

How the World Will End

The title of this program, narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, is a bit of hype, they destroy just North America, not the world. The program speculates on five types of natural disasters.

1) California is destroyed by an ARkStorm (spelled correctly, and yes, I never heard that term before.) Basically a mega-storm with very strong hurricane-force winds, lasts about a month and dumps 10 feet of water on California, causing flooding and land slides. This kind of storm is purely speculative. See an explanation from the U.S. Geologic Survey here.

2) Asteroid impact. This scenario features Meteor Crater (aka Barringer Crater) in Arizona as an example of a “small” impact. The program explains the consequences of a really big strike. The program claims that children today have a 1 in 20 chance of witnessing a really big strike. They fail to mention how they came up with that number.

3) Mega-earthquake in mid-west along the New Madrid fault on the Mississippi River. This program recounts the earthquakes that occurred between December 1811 and February, 1812, all with strengths estimated to be between 7.8 to 8.1. These earthquakes are the strongest to hit the eastern U.S. The program goes on to speculate what could happen if an even bigger one hits. The program puts the odds of this happening within 50 years at 1 in 10. Again they don’t explain how the number was derived.

4) The eastern seaboard of the U.S. is destroyed by a giant tsunami precipitated by a major volcanic eruption in La Palma, Canary Islands. Odds of happening 1 in 1,000, same caveat.

5) Yellowstone super volcano explodes. I wrote about this one last year (see The Yellowstone Super Volcano). This volcano tends to have a major eruption every 600,000 years on average. It has been 640,000 years since the last major eruption. That one covered about half of the U.S. with volcanic ash.

These programs are interesting and well-made. They show very good animations, but tend to overuse stock footage of disaster scenes. The programs are well-worth watching.

The DVD is available from the Discovery Channel here.

For more on the nature of the universe and religion versus science, see my reviews of two other works:

The Unobservable Universe by Scott Tyson

Religion versus Science by Ron Frost

See all my book and DVD reviews here.