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The Fabric of the Cosmos

(PBS; US DVD: 22 Nov 2011)

When I was a kid, I read a book that talked about what could happen to the universe billions of years in the future. The thinking at the time was that the universe would eventually fall back in on itself, and two possibilities after that were posited; one in which the universe undergoes another Big Bang, and one in which it collapses and time ceases to exist.


The second one blew my little mind, and it still does today. How does time cease to exist? If you enjoy pondering such conundrums, The Fabric of the Cosmos should be right up your alley. Hosted by Brian Greene and based on his book, this series explores the universe with four intriguingly-titled one-hour episodes: “What is Space?”, “The Illusion of Time”, “Quantum Leap”, and “Universe or Multiverse?”. They are contained on two discs; unfortunately, there are no bonus features.


Obviously, much has changed since my grade school days, and this series does a nice job of exploring the history of these concepts while bringing viewers up to speed with modern-day thinking. Greene is an affable host who is good at explaining big ideas in ways that are understandable for non-scientists. Copious helpings of special effects help underscore his points.


A series of physics professors from various universities also chime in with their thoughts in each episode, helping give the relevant subject a broader perspective. In the multiverse episode, however, their viewpoints begin to diverge as Greene delves into a new hypothesis that science currently has no way of testing: the idea that our universe is just one of an infinite number of universes, with our Big Bang just one of an infinite number of Big Bangs that are happening all the time.


If that’s the case, odds are that universes will (or have) come into existence with galaxies, stars, planets, moons, and lifeforms similar to ours, which means there could be duplicates of us out there somewhere. That concept could mean that time has no beginning and no end; it simply exists. I’m sure I would have appreciated that idea when I was a kid.

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