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This documentary by James Burke, who also directed the excellent series
is one of the finest documentaries ever made, period. The series provides
human discovery, from both a philosophical and technological point of
interaction of realizations throughout history affords insights that
tabulations overlook entirely.
If you ever get the chance to see this series, do not miss it. It is an absolute shame that this series and the "Connections" series are not available to schools and individuals alike.
I must at the outset confess to a certain bias writing about James Burke. We were both late depression babies born in Northern Ireland, in and near Derry, he a year earlier than myself. We both share a network vision of history as the cause/effect of the interplay of individuals responding to existing conditions and circumstances, sometime with absolutely ironic results. To me, it was always significantly ironic that Karl Marx's inspirator for his social evolutionary model of the Social Man was based on the writings of Lewis Henry Morgan who was the great financier and archcapitalist, J. Pierrepont Morgan's uncle. In his work, Connections, Burke has gone on to explore literally dozens of these baffling circumstances to demonstrate the rather capricious nature of history. And, he has always done it in a witty, entertaining but educating fashion. The series reviewed here, The Day the Universe Changed, was based in large part on work from his earlier Connections but always had a solid political economic basis to it, e.g., his discussion of the role of English Peasant markets and fairs and the rise of early capitalism in pre-reconnaissance England. His presentations were fun to see and wonderful in their solid basis of social and ecological facts. Alas, while we are presently confronted with people spending their time and energy gaw-gawing over who will be the next American Idol, it's nice to look back and refresh our memories that there was a time when we were give substance and wit as entertainment instead of some mindless worship of some feckless celebrity cavorting in a way that will be ultimately boring to the next generation of viewers.
This documentary series blew my mind. I learned so many things about scientific discoveries -- plus it was very well directed with seamless cuts between historical recreation and Burke in the modern time explaining it all. I did tape it on VHS but the tapes are lost. I always wondered why I didn't see this title all over the place in video stores. Everyone owes it to themselves to witness this fascinating glimpse into human discovery and the way that our universe changes with each significant breakthrough in medicine, science and technology over the ages. I still have such vivid memories of this show from 21 years ago. The discovery of ether as an anesthetic was particularly surprising -- US doctors partying with it and discovering they were "painless." Burke on board a modern Navy vessel talking about war technology and sonar, and in another episode, Isaac Newton drops balls from a balcony and Burke catches them in the modern time. I'm searching for this on DVD. Must have.
I have watched this series over again on tape to the point of
destruction and look forward to someday owning a fresh DVD copy.
It is, as my title says, a revelation in the art of bringing an interesting way to learn to the masses. Much like Carl Sagan, James Burke neither complicates nor dumbs down the story of how our view of things is made up of what we know RIGHT NOW.
I agree that it should be made part of high-school classes but I fear that Burke's rather staid sense of humor would turn off groups. Best watched alone with complete attention.
Do not pass up an opportunity to see this remarkable mind-expanding series.
It's been years since I've been able to see this wonderful documentary. It is as beautiful and intelligent as it is elegant. The only unfortunate thing is that I can't find a copy for myself. This should be required viewing in high-schools across America. The ideas found within this program are profound and the day I watched "The Universe Changed" was the day I changed. It is also available as an excellent book which I have but it would be nice to find on DVD as this is one those things I'd love to pass on to future generations. If you ever notice it on coming on TV, do yourself a favor and watch it. BRILLIANT ! !
Sadly, I feel that James Burke's personal view of the way that
discovered knowledge, and inventions, has changed our view of the
universe we live in, will never be made into a DVD set because, amongst
other things, it challenges on too many levels. And the presentation,
so important for any programme to become successful, has become dated.
It isn't chock full of special effects. It isn't full of gee-whizz
quick cutting and camera angles. In fact, it harks back to an earlier
era of experts in their field, such as Dr Bronowski and Desmond Morris.
It is entertainment, but nowadays only for a curious few. Those that
are interested in the knowledge over and above the presentation. The
BBC, to my uncertain memory, repeated it only once. JB's very good
earlier Connections series got similar treatment.
And yet, it is a superb series. Hugely accessible if you're patient enough to watch and listen. And it stands as probably the last important science/philosophy popular media programme made by the BBC. Their trademark weekly technology magazine Tomorrow's World disappeared afterwards. The BBC have done other projects since, but only for much smaller audiences, and hence with nothing like the budget. That all initially disappeared to the BBC's excellent Natural World department, and latterly disappeared altogether. Even David Attenborough doesn't really get a look in nowadays. It's all responsible eco-travel, geography, geology and climate change now. No bad thing, you may think, but JB's series was showing the way back then. And the very latest trend of responsible consumerism and personal health was very much being examined in his programmes in 1985 as well. People haven't changed that much since then, and the series is still almost totally relevant. But in fact, the entire popular media aren't interested (in science/technology from a philosophical/historical perspective) anymore. Technology does its job, people don't understand it, and that's enough for 99.9% of them, or so it's perceived. JB predicted this in his series, as it was very much starting to happen at the time.
The bottom line is, not enough people care, for the media responsible to give the green light to produce a DVD set. Decades will go by, and some educated person will one day possibly look back and tell us how ground breaking the series was, and yet most people who could benefit from seeing it never will. To a certain extent, this is the clincher for me when ordinary people make these recordings available from private collections, either on sites like Youtube or download sites. If the public can't see these programmes, but would really love to, what are they to do..? Wait for never..? Thankfully, I recorded this series on VHS when it was first broadcast in 1985, and having looked after the tapes, have since transferred it to DVD, for my own use only, you understand. I did the same with JB's Connections series and I'm rather glad I did. But that's of little use to someone who would pay real money to watch these series but will never get the legal chance.
I cannot for the world understand why the BBC has not released this in
a version that does not cost $750.00 USD. They know just how rampantly
popular almost anything they ship across the pond is devoured.
Incredibly thought provoking. Watching the original connections and TDTUC back to back will give you enough food for thought to pull a life sentence in solitary confinement.
I could almost call this a crime against society that TDTUC is not available at an affordable price.
Especially Amazing now that these series are, ahem...., a few years old to see just how prophetic they were.
I gladly join this small cult of those shocked that this Citizen Kane
of documentaries is not available readily on DVD. I had the rare
opportunity to catch this series around 1987 or so, and have never seen
anything so entertaining and enlightening since (including his
Connections series). James Burke intricately plots out the grand scheme
that reveals what's behind the world today. I remember being so
thrilled with his way of showing how an accident, or leap of
imagination, or curious side effect, spawned a major component of our
modern world. I couldn't wait for next week's episode.
My star rating of 10 is rare for me to give anything. It should be required viewing.
This popular award winning series is now available in North America for Home viewing from Documentary-Video.com and will be released on Amazon in the next few months. The Day the Univere Changed was the highest rated series on public television the year it aired. Other awards from: "Booklist Nonprint Editor's Choice", "National Educationlal Film & Video Festival" and "Chicago International Film Festival". Presented by veteran BBC historian and science reported this series explores influences of discoveries and shared knowledge on the perception of the Universe and man's place in it. This is my favorite educational series and I'm glad I can finally enjoy it at home.
James Burke gives us a similar take on scientific discovery and
technological breakthrough like he did in his excellent "Connections"
series a few years before with "The Day the Universe Changed". This is
a further examination of how science and technology have linear
relations that spark change through society that, although they may
feel like waves, are merely triggers or lynch pins that put other
discoveries and events into motion. And, once you know that, how are
you going to embrace the new society in the late 20th century and
welcome the coming changes in the 21st century.
The whole gist of the series is that once you have this perspective, and know that the world is what you make of it, then, in Burke's opinion, you should shape your world to your needs. And the the reason you should do that is to avoid the pitfalls and mistakes of the past, because he shows you how science and engineering brought society forward, but also how it pushed it back when things went wrong.
And that's the real gem of the series. He doesn't show us outstanding successes by themselves, and then tout the virtues of science, logic/reason and applications of those methods, but also what drives men forward, and how some men are blinded by ego or desire.
That's about all the series is, though it also serves as a primer for the world about to be "radically changed". He of course speaks of the internet going public, and not just confined to labs and universities (as well as military installations), but given to the general public en large. He poses to us, the viewing audience, what if our community were boundless, and was not restrained by the old political boundaries that had held mankind back in previous ages?
From prehistoric man, to the classical era, to medieval times, to the renaissance, to the age of reason and beyond, Burke examines points in history and how that changed our ancestor's view, and how it shaped our present perspective. And he warns and asks us that, knowing this, what will we do with the future tomorrow.
It is a very welcome series shot on the usual UK 16mm format for TV of the 80s and before. Burke's esogination and presentation, as well as the theatrical vignettes, drive home his observations and educated us on passing facts that underline his lessons.
Definitely worth viewing for those of us who came of age before the 90s. Younger audiences may see this series as an anachronism, and who can blame them, because a lot of what Burke foretold has come about. Even so, give it a chance, if for no other reason than to see how us older folks viewed the world that eventually came into being.
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