Universe In 3D A Whole New Dimension
Like most cable networks the History Channel had humble beginnings. At first all they could manage to muster together were grainy clips from World War Two giving the channel the unfair moniker of the Nazi network. Then, following a trend that would be de rigueur for the majority of cable stations, they began creating original programming. They expanded the connotation of the term, ‘History’ from the usual restrictions of the events of mankind to that of the universe itself. With series that probe the way technology has affected our lives to the manufacturing processes that allow humans to move beyond mud shacks to buildings of cutting edge materials that reach up to the sky. At the top of my favorites list and the channel I am most likely watching the History Channel is arguably one of the most eclectic and well produced on television. Near the top of my most frequently watched series is aptly named, ‘The Universe’. In the last couple of years the History Channel has been releasing specific episodes remastered in 3D. There is very little television programming that is broadcast in 3D. Let’s face it, not much is worthy of the extra processing. The exception is the episodes of ‘The Universe’ selected for this special treatment.
This series is one of the History longest running hits currently in its sixth season. All of the episodes contained in this release; ‘The Universe in 3D: A Whole New Dimension’, are culled from this latest season. Unfortunately they have yet to address releasing entire seasons in 3D but hopefully that will become a reality. As it is the loyal fans like me have to make do with 3D editions featuring three or four episodes. As with the other releases I have the pleasure to review this one includes a well selected trio of episodes that highlight the fundamental nature of this show that reinforces the primary mandate of the channel; history is not that dry subject you dreaded in school, it is fun.
The top notch animation and special effects place you on a journey to the furthest corners of the universe and back in time to where time and space began the big bang. Experts in fields ranging from theoretical physics to exobiology have made scientist, leading innovators of their respective fields into well-known faces. Actual scientists like Alex Filippenko, Michio Kaku and Amy Mainzer have become the rock stars of science. Accomplished people like this are far better role models for all ages than the usual motley crew kid’s look up to currently. An accomplished young woman demonstrating what a comet is made of using household items is someone I’d rather my daughter look up to rather than some twenty-something riding a wrecking ball naked with her tongue sticking out. These men and women have made learning entertaining. Now, with men and women like this this generation has been giving a new incentive to investigate history and science with 3D just an added bonus to bring the material to life.
Crash Landing on Mars
Episode 4 November 22, 2011
This episode looks at the first manned expedition to the Red Planet Mars. Long utilized as the source of advanced civilizations bent on conquering our planet numerous unmanned probes have indicated that while microscopic of perhaps fossilized forms of life might still be found with man’s person investigation of the planet. What does await us on the forth planet is a hostile environment more dangerous than anything our explorers have ever encountered. In preparation for the mission a habitat was sent ahead. The crew would use a decent vehicle to land on Mars, use the habitat as living quarters and a base of operation and then return to the lander for the return home. Unfortunately the landing encountered problems and the crew crashed a significant distance from the safety of the habitat. With an atmosphere a slight percentage of that on earth, no magnetic field to protect humans on the surface from deadly solar winds and gravity 38% of our home world the crew were forced to make the long overland trek to safety. Along the way just about everything that could go wrong does. Oxygen supplies are lost making it impossible for the entire crew to survive the journey. Crafting a makeshift balloon one crewman was able to make it to the habitat and shuttle the rest to safety. Through the entire episode the crew had to deal calmly and rationally depending on their extensive training and the resourcefulness of a human explorer.
Worst Days on Planet Earth
Episode 5 November 29, 2011
This episode counts down the seven most catastrophic events in the 4.5 billion year history of the planet earth. This countdown motif is a popular one for this series and extremely effective as used here. one of the most fascinating aspect of this particular episode is are it points out that not only did life retain its tenuous hold on the hostile environment of the still forming planet but each c cataclysmic event in some fashion or another contributed to the forms of life that survived eventually leading to us. The molten core at the center of the earth led to volcanic activity of unimaginable intensity. The material spewed into the upper atmosphere reduced the amount of energy from the sun reaching us. Comets slamming into the surface with the force greater than any nuclear weapon also blacken the sky plunging our planet into an ice age that created a snowball planet. The dinosaur’s golden age was ended by fire and ice leaving tiny mammals to eventually rule the planet.
God and the Universe
Episode 7 December 20, 2011
This episode represents one of the aspects of the series that makes it such an incredible experience. It combines the latest discoveries from the frontiers of scientific research with cutting edge theories and utilizes this as the basis for conjecture that addresses some of the fundamental aspects of the human experience. Although there is no scientific methodology to fully examine the part of a creator in the formation of the universe there is ample research into the conditions necessary to make a star, form planets and moons around it and bring the molecules necessary for self-sustaining life into reality. Life as we know it is a long shot beating incredible odds. Years ago there was the Drake equation that took a number of conditions necessary for a world to be conducive to life. Over time the number of terms in this equation has grown significantly. A Jupiter sized planet is required to pull dangerous debris away from the planet. A large moon is necessary to stabilize the planetary axis providing a steady climate. A magnetic field provides protection from radiation and particles that could sterilize life before it could gain a foothold. The rarity of all these factors occurring on one planet and the slim slice of ideal conditions makes us either extraordinarily lucky or it could point to a guiding deity ensuring this little blue planet had exactly what was necessary for life to develop in precisely the right measure; neither too much or too little.
The 3D effects are effective here giving the viewer the distinct feeling of soaring through time and space afforded a front row seat to events on the cosmic scale. Planets colliding ejecting magma and rock into space only to be caught by gravity to reform as our moon is better than most space battles used in science fiction. When you underline this sight with the probability that this is how these events actually happened you are left with a different appreciation for the vastness and power that went into the birth of our world. the episode concerning Mars demonstrates that no matter how advanced our technology becomes our expansion into the cosmos will ultimately be initiated and achieved by human curiosity, resiliency and ingenuity.