Reviews

Physics Does Radical Violence to the 'Fabric of the Cosmos'

Brian Greene is an affable host who delves into the history of each topic and current-day thinking about it, and a wide variety of physics professors help shape each episode.


The Fabric of the Cosmos

Distributor: PBS Distribution
Cast: Brian Greene and a variety of physics professors
Network: PBS
Release date: 2011-11-22
Amazon

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.

8

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less
Culture

Net Neutrality and the Music Ecosystem: Defending the Last Mile

Still from Whiplash (2014) (Photo by Daniel McFadden - © Courtesy of Sundance Institute) (IMDB)

"...when the history books get written about this era, they'll show that the music community recognized the potential impacts and were strong leaders." An interview with Kevin Erickson of Future of Music Coalition.

Last week, the musician Phil Elverum, a.k.a. Mount Eerie, celebrated the fact that his album A Crow Looked at Me had been ranked #3 on the New York Times' Best of 2017 list. You might expect that high praise from the prestigious newspaper would result in a significant spike in album sales. In a tweet, Elverum divulged that since making the list, he'd sold…six. Six copies.

Keep reading... Show less

Under the lens of cultural and historical context, as well as understanding the reflective nature of popular culture, it's hard not to read this film as a cautionary tale about the limitations of isolationism.

I recently spoke to a class full of students about Plato's "Allegory of the Cave". Actually, I mentioned Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" by prefacing that I understood the likelihood that no one had read it. Fortunately, two students had, which brought mild temporary relief. In an effort to close the gap of understanding (perhaps more a canyon or uncanny valley) I made the popular quick comparison between Plato's often cited work and the Wachowski siblings' cinema spectacle, The Matrix. What I didn't anticipate in that moment was complete and utter dissociation observable in collective wide-eyed stares. Example by comparison lost. Not a single student in a class of undergraduates had partaken of The Matrix in all its Dystopic future shock and CGI kung fu technobabble philosophy. My muted response in that moment: Whoa!

Keep reading... Show less
Books

'The Art of Confession' Ties Together Threads of Performance

Allen Ginsberg and Robert Lowell at St. Mark's Church in New York City, 23 February 1977

Scholar Christopher Grobe crafts a series of individually satisfying case studies, then shows the strong threads between confessional poetry, performance art, and reality television, with stops along the way.

Tracing a thread from Robert Lowell to reality TV seems like an ominous task, and it is one that Christopher Grobe tackles by laying out several intertwining threads. The history of an idea, like confession, is only linear when we want to create a sensible structure, the "one damn thing after the next" that is the standing critique of creating historical accounts. The organization Grobe employs helps sensemaking.

Keep reading... Show less
9
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image