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September 29, 2004


NOVA's Origins series


The new season of PBS' NOVA premiered last night with the first part of a miniseries called Origins, which examines the beginnings of our planet, life, the universe, and everything. Part 1 aired last night, and addressed the creation of planet Earth. The show operates on two levels: one offers complex theories and genuine scientific inquiry into topics like the formation of amino acids and peptides, while the other involves a lot of hokey digital graphics of planets colliding and gigantic resulting explosions that get replayed over and over again. Perhaps the study of space and planet formation seems just a little bit childish and dorky because the last time anyone I knew admitted they were into this stuff was in 4th grade, and those kids weren't exactly in hot demand during kickball team selection. The Mr. Wizard's World-esque fake lab sets didn't much impress the New York Times either; their review notes, "Corny gags are meant as breaks in the solemnity, but might also work against the show's popularizing goal. Mature viewers might receive a this-is-kids'-stuff signal. Cool-conscious youths might conclude, 'If I watch this, then I am a geek.'"

Of course, there are many people out there who are proud to be personally interested in planets and outer space explosions and dinosaurs. Even David Bowie asked "Is there life on Mars?" and no one has called him Bugface for a good many years. In a person-on-the-street interview section, New York's own Naked Cowboy sternly insists that it would be "ridiculous" to think that we are the only intelligent life in the universe. Many of the scientists featured on Origins have fascinating jobs, as well as obvious disregard for their social status and popularity. A Canadian scientist rides around by himself on a dog sled every year to track the ever-moving magnetic North Pole, and seriously refers to making speculations about the future location of it as "dangerous."

However, I couldn't help but notice that I had already learned most of the key concepts in Origins by watching the 2003 movie The Core, which operated as a vehicle for many once-respected actors to degrade their careers and damage their credibility. The earth's molten core is what maintains our gravitational pull? Yeah, no kidding, it also keeps pigeons from freaking out and attacking everyone in Trafalgar Square! This gravitational pull also acts as a force-field that protects us from the solar wind? If you saw The Core, you knew that one too! It also once protected Aaron Eckhart from starring in crappy sci-fi movies! And Suspect Zero!

Part 2 airs tonight, and covers how life on earth began.

categories: Science, TV
posted by amy at 10:53 AM | #

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