The Cosmos: A Beginner’s Guide is available on March 29th from Athena. Host Adam Hart-Davis explores how technology shapes our understanding of the universe in this six episode collection available to US audiences for the first time. Adam Hart-Davis holds a doctoral degree from York University and has presented many television and radio documentaries and has written more than two dozen books on popular science.
Episode one discusses life in the cosmos and takes a look at the possibility of there being intelligent life on another plant or another solar system. It looks at how large the universe is and discusses whether or not it would be possible for us to communicate with other alien life forms if they did exist. It also examines the possible composition of these alien life forms.
Episode two takes a look at the Large Hadron Collider that is built underneath Geneva, Switzerland. It takes a look at whether or not it offers clues about the Big Bang Theory. Scientists also discuss the possible origin of the plants and what stardust might be made up of. It discusses the risk factor involved in the Large Hadron Collider and the possibility that it might actually induce the end of the planet.
Episode three takes a look at other worlds in an effort to better understand the moon and other bodies inside our own solar system. This episode introduces the viewer to the Hubble Space Telescope and how it has helped us to better understand the universe and all it contains.
Episode four discusses space exploration. It takes a look at the astronauts training in the Utah desert for a possible mission to mars. We also learn how scientists keep track of a deep space probe. Engineers discuss how they are testing new ways to escape the earth and how space exploration plays a part in that.
Episode five is titled the violent universe and looks at the violent explosions that happen in space both near our solar system and farther away. It looks at the cause and effect of the explosions, gamma ray bursts and solar flares.
The final episode looks at other worlds and the continued search for a planet similar to Earth. It explains how new technology allows us to better understand the moon and other planets inside of our solar system. Discussion involves water found on other planets and whether or not they are geologically alive.
This set contains two DVDs and a total of 169 minutes of programming. Each episode is about 25-30 minutes long. Bonus features include a 12 page viewer’s guide with the life cycle of a star and articles on the European Space Agency, the Large Hadron Collider, communicating with aliens and the search for Earth like planets. Also included is a gallery of Apollo astronauts and discussion questions along with a time line of space exploration milestones.
This DVD set is loaded with tons of information. While the host does try to make it light hearted and fun, it’s still some pretty heavy material. I like that each episode is broken down into fairly small segments so that it’s easier to absorb. it would also work well being incorporated into a home school unit for an older child. I would think it would be a bit too complicated for a younger child to follow along with. The photographs are fantastic especially in the episode on the violent universe (episode 5). The enclosed viewer’s guide with the life cycle of stars was very informative and went a long way to explain some of the basic information you’ll need to understand how the universe works.