on October 25, 2010
Professor Brian Cox is a particle scientist who's clearly passionate about his work. In Wonders of the Solar System, he explains some of the wonders in space (hence the title) with comparisons to phenomena on Earth to make the subject matter more easily understood. For instance, when talking about Saturn's icy rings, he draws a parallel with the Arctic glaciers. His enthusiasm is contagious and makes you want to learn more. For people with little or no scientific knowledge, this is a great documentary series that look simply amazing on Blu-ray. There are some CGI used for the planets, but it is so well done that it's unnoticeable.
on August 29, 2011
I have just finished watching the UK DVD. Superb, I loved it. Prof. Brian Cox is great (winsome actually), his explanations were very good, his explanation about the conservation of angular momentum in star formation and tornadoes was superb. His explanation of the retrograde motion of Mars was also very good, it was the first time I understood it. He calculated the total energy output of the sun, using a can of water, an umbrella and a thermometer. Maybe he will encourage more people to study physics (he is a particle physicist).
As it was written in 2009, it takes into account all the probes that we have sent into the Solar System (over the last 30+ years). What was of particular interest, to me, is all the moons in the Solar System, all 145+ of them, Saturn alone has 61 moons. Titan has liquid methane lakes instead of water and it has an atmosphere, Enceladus has geyser like events. With Jupiter's 63 moons, IO has active volcanoes, and Europa is an Ice moon with some evidence of water below the surface. With Mars there is evidence of water and an atmosphere in the distant past, and there is methane on Mars now. He goes into some detail about Saturn's rings, which was fascinating, to me as a physicist. The only problem I have is it is only 5 episodes and I wanted more, the next series will be on Wonders of the Universe. It is fascinating stuff. The SFX were good too.
The series is a good example of the Anthropic principle, Cox calls it the Goldilocks principle, "everything was just right" to produce life (on Earth). It is the correct mass, distance from the sun, it has an atmosphere so that the Earth can support liquid water, without which there would be no life. The magnetic field deflects the solar wind so the atmosphere is not stripped off, the atmosphere helps to regulate the climate, protects us from the sun's rays and helps to protect from meteorites.
Episodes: (Adapted from Wiki.)
1. "Empire of the Sun"
The first episode illustrates how the formation and behaviour of the Sun affects each planet in the Solar System. Includes solar wind, Aurora Borealis, plus aurora on Jupiter and Saturn.
2. "Order Out of Chaos"
The second instalment focuses on the Rings of Saturn, and the geysers of Enceladus. Plus the formation of the solar system. Here he introduces the conservation of angular momentum, as my degree is in physics, I loved it.
3. "The Thin Blue Line"
The third episode looks at the atmosphere of Earth and that of Saturn's moon Titan. Plus Enceladus's geyser like events.
4. "Dead or Alive"
The fourth episode looks at the size of planets, volcanoes, and the Jovian moon Io. Plus dead Mars and hot Venus, Earth being the Goldilocks planet.
The final installment covers life surviving in extreme environments, and how the search for life on other worlds follows the search for water, focusing on Mars and Jupiter's moon Europa.
NB. The next series is on Wonders of the Universe [Blu-ray] release date October 11th 2011.
I'll try just about any nature documentary produced by the BBC, and this 5-hour series doesn't disappoint. It's a great way to catch up on the pictures and information that our probes have been sending back from the outer reaches of the solar system in the past decade or so. Brian Cox is a physicist, and develops the central idea that the same laws of physics have shaped all the different bodies in the solar system, for instance comparing the icy eruptions of one of Saturn's moons with geysers on Earth. His enthusiasm for these discoveries is infectious and some of the footage, both direct video and CGI, is astonishing. The extras on this Blu-ray, hour-long programs on gravity and time hosted by Cox, are also well worth a look if you're curious about what physicists are up to.
Why only four stars then? Well, i don't think either the script or the delivery is quite up to the level of a David Attenborough, or of Iain Stewart in "Earth: The Biography." The music here is a bit obtrusive at times, and so are all the scenes of Brian Cox zooming around on everything from a jet climbing to the upper reaches of the atmosphere, to an ATV in the Namibian desert, to an ultra-deep-sea submersible. I suppose these add to the excitement for many viewers, and maybe i've just become jaded from seeing too many spectacular BBC science programs. But i can't quite put this in the same class with favorites like Galapagos, or Life in the Undergrowth, or the original Planet Earth series. I can certainly recommend it though! If nothing else, it will renew your respect for the natural forces which have shaped our planet.
on August 5, 2011
BBC documentaries are always great...at least that's what I used to think. I bought this Blu-ray expecting an amazing documentary with lots of images of the solar system...both real & CGI. While there are some images of planets, moons and the sun, there's just way too much of Brian Cox, the presenter. While I have nothing against Cox personally - he seems like a pleasant fellow - when I watch a series called Wonders of the Solar System, I expect to see lots of stuff of the solar system, not Cox talking at me. And was it really necessary for Cox to go all the way to Iceland just to pick up a piece of ice and tell us that Saturn's rings are made of the same stuff? Couldn't they have just pointed the camera to his freezer and use the money that they saved to create more CGI of the solar system?
As for the special features on this set...don't bother. The special features are 2 episodes from another series called Horizon. One episode is about gravity, and the other is about time. I was falling asleep half-way through both episodes.
I bought this set in preparation for the upcoming release of Wonders of the Universe. I'm not sure now if I'll bother to get that set.