Inquisitive minds

inquiring

Finding answers Stephen Hawking, as narrator of the episode, ‘Did God create the universe?’

“I am a man on a wheelchair; I can speak only through a computer. But my mind is free,” says Stephen Hawking, astrophysicist and cosmologist, in the episode Did God create the universe, on Discovery Channel’s new television series titled Curiosity. He then goes on to explore if there is place for God in the creation of the universe and at the end of a 40-minute episode, comes to the conclusion that there isn’t. He uses physics and cosmology as tools to answer questions that philosophers have struggled with for thousands of years. The Pope might not agree with Hawking, but some of us might see the logic in his reasoning. For people with curiosity and minds that are free to explore alternative answers to life’s most challenging questions, Curiosity comes as an engaging and mindful watch. Cosmology, logical science and Hawking’s gravelly computerised voice combine with startling images of fearsome Vikings sailing on stormy grey seas, trying to scare away a wolf god that they believe is swallowing the sun. Now, of course, we know that as a solar eclipse.

Episodic breakdown

With scary visions of the end of the world in the year 2012 terrorising the weak hearted amongst us, the episode, How will the world end, hosted by American actor Samuel L Jackson, is an interesting watch. The Mayans have said it will happen as close as December 21st, which, if you come to think of it, might not even give us time to watch all of the episodes of Curiosity. Others predict 2012 as the year of global doom. Jackson uses the scientific point of view to explore the chances of a global apocalypse, when and where it would happen, if at all; and how it might unfold. He lists an asteroid hit, a giant tsunami, an underwater volcanic eruption as three of the 10 likely ways that might bring life on earth to a halt. He calculates the odds of each event happening and the amount of damage it may cause. Awesome picturisation, intelligent commentary and a dramatic narration combine to make it a gripping episode.

If we look far enough through the universe, would we be able to find a person who looks just like us? Could there be more than one version of reality and more than one ‘you’? Are alternative realities no longer restricted to the realm of science fiction? Could intelligent life forms from another world be trying to send us messages? These are some of the fascinating questions explored by the unparalleled (in Hollywood) actor/film director Morgan Freeman in Parallel Universes — Are they real? Through a captivating narrative, he introduces us to the possibility that a parallel universe might simply be one of an infinite number of faraway worlds, or it could be an alternate reality caused by time travel or universal wave function. In those parallel worlds, we could be living our wildest dreams, or our worst nightmares.

Other episodes include Why is sex fun, where the scientific puzzle of female orgasms is explored through scientific research; Alien Invasion — Are we ready?, where host Michelle Rodriguez brings together top scientists and military strategists to dramatise what would happen if and when aliens attack. What’s beneath America has Martin Sheen investigating the earth’s ancient forces that have made America what it is today. How did they create the gold that set California on a course to become the richest state in the Union, and how did vast sheets of ice enable Kansas to produce six loaves of bread a year to every single person on earth. It would be more interesting to Americans definitely, but not totally uninteresting to us in India either.

Curiosity has fascinating fare for adults as well as growing children. Dazzling special effects, beautiful picturisation and talented hosts connect the past with the present, and science with imaginative fiction, in an effort to unravel some of the deepest mysteries of the universe that have been puzzling us for ages. Episodes like Parallel Universes might be more understandable to students of physics; How will the world end? does have an America-specific narration and most of us have heard Stephen Hawking say the same things before — all of it is fascinating to watch for television buffs. Don’t miss it for the world. Or the end of it, on Sundays at 9 pm.

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