British mathematician Stephen Hawking, whose book A Brief
History of Time sold more than 7 million copies, is set to
mind-meld with a national TV audience.
And it promises to be a far-headier experience than time spent
aboard the Starship Enterprise with Capt. James T. Kirk and Mr.
Stephen Hawking's Universe, which begins a six-episode run on
PBS this week (9 p.m. Mondays), is an intellectual version of
Contact, this summer's blockbuster film about the first contact
between Earth and an alien civilization. Much more science than
pop culture, the PBS series is Hawking's views of time and the
Appearing via videotape to TV critics this summer, Hawking said
he wrote A Brief History of Time because of his fascination with
how the universe works. Surprised by its pop star success, the
scientist said he is eager to reach an even-wider audience on
Stephen Hawking's Universe, which is co-produced by the BBC,
will bring people to the frontier of physics, which is expanding
at an ever-increasing rate, he said.
"There is a public hunger for science, as shown by the interest
in the Mars landing and the Hubble space telescope pictures," he
said. "I hope this series will help to satisfy this demand. I
certainly enjoyed working on it."
Here's a preview of the six episodes of Stephen Hawking's
Tomorrow's first installment, Seeing is Believing, addresses
questions about the universe: Where did the universe come from?
Why is it the way it is? The episode traces the evolution of
ideas on those subjects from astronomer Ptolemy through Galileo
and Newton to Hubble and his telescope.
Today, we know that the universe is expanding, born in an
explosion of inconceivable magnitude.
Part 2's subject is the so-called big bang theory, the theory
that the universe originated in an explosion billions of years
ago and has been expanding ever since, and evidence that
supports the theory.
Cosmic Alchemy, Part 3, explores the question of where matter
The fourth episode, On the Dark Side, looks at the mysterious
"dark matter" that makes up most of the universe.
The next episode, Black Holes and Beyond, is of particular
interest to Hawking, since he gained prominence with his
descriptions of black holes or collapsed stars.
The series concludes with An Answer to Everything. While more
questions have been answered in the past 100 years than all
previous centuries combined, the one giant one remains: How did
the big bang begin? The big bang theory, concludes scientists,
should apply to the universe as a whole.
To illustrate such complexities as the big bang, black holes
and wormholes, the production utilizes stunning special effects.
Even so, some viewers may find it tough going.
Helping them along are scientists able to speak clearly about
such dense topics as theoretical physics.
One of Hawking's colleagues, Michio Kaku, is a pioneer in the
string theory that is a leading candidate for the so-called
"theory of everything. …