Citizen Staff Writer
Talk about a mind trip! The next time you need to escape the usual video offerings of gory horror, action-packed digital effects and downright rude comedies, try this brain-stretcher.
“Stephen Hawking and the Theory of Everything” is out in a remastered DVD version, originally broadcast on cable as “Master of the Universe.”
The visual heart of the DVD is galactic graphics explaining some of Hawking’s concepts about black holes, supernovas, dark matter and the equally mysterious subatomic world of quarks and stuff. Brilliantly projected in crisp images, these remarkable illustrations can suck you right out of that reclining sofa and straight into outer space.
Then the filmmakers brilliantly jump to shots of Hawking the physics genius, crumpled up in his wheelchair facing the camera to chart for us his efforts to unite the theories of relativity and quantum mechanics. Who can resist the contrast of this man trapped in a failing body because of ALS while his mind is free to soar far beyond the eagles, reaching to the very edges of our ever-expanding universe.
With a running time of some 90 minutes, the content feels like it is two-thirds cosmic theory and one-third Hawking’s biography.
We see old photos and film clips of Hawking, the British student at Cambridge, walking around campus and having fun, looking oh so collegiate in his school blazer. Then watch sadly, as subsequent clips details his body’s failing.
But Hawking, hating sympathy, rides his sense of humor like a surfboard. Remembering how the pope threw Galileo into prison? Hawking hopes he won’t meet the same fate for wanting to “know the mind of God.”
There is a short sequence of a student associate describing how Hawking’s first voice box simulator from the 1980s has become an obsolete piece of junk.
But the scientist insists on continuing to use it because that is the artificial voice known world-wide as belonging to Stephen Hawking. Presumably, he could be talking in dulcet, soothing, cultured British tones provided by modern technology but he stubbornly insists on keeping the same sputtering sound everyone remembers.
As for the science, it is a populist’s dream. Just about anybody can feel a little smarter by following along the logic of these theories as they are pushed beyond logic into the land of multiple universes and concepts such as our entire galaxy collapsed into a space the size of a billiard ball.
We remember how Hawking’s book “A Brief History of Time” landed on millions of coffee tables in the 1980s. His explanations of theoretical physics caught the public’s fancy, even if few people actually read the book and fewer still understood it.
But the popularity of that book gave a nudge to hippie physicists who saw in the submicroscopic world of quantum physics the possibility of a scientific explanation for spiritual values that became the popular films “What the (bleep) Do We Know” and “The Secret.”
There is a tantalizing touch of that controversial connection. Hawking’s theories would allow for atoms to communicate with each other under certain conditions, but he doesn’t dwell on it. The real science of his life’s work is to come up with the elusive theory of Everything that applies equally to the black holes in outer space and the subatomic particles spinning like crazy inside the tip of your finger.
It’s not as easy as it sounds.
The explanation comes in two parts. The logic of the first part sets up the second part, venturing into the possibility of dimensions beyond the three we can see, along with other arcane descriptions of scientific forces we can’t see.
But the film can be enjoyed without understanding all the science. You can always back up and replay the most difficult parts. More important is to appreciate how wonderfully complex the world is beneath its surfaces.
Anyway, people who still feel confused can always fall back on the seductive claim that just about everything we know to be true today will turn out to be false tomorrow.
Hawking’s brilliant ‘Everything’ DVD remastered