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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Stephen Hawking shows us a Brave New World

Sir Stephen Hawking may be the most intelligent living mind mankind has. A groundbreaking theoretical physicist, he first came on my radar after reading his book, A Brief History of Time, which explains quantum physics, black holes, and what makes up the universe to the lay person in an easily understandable, highly readable way. He is not only able to comprehend what the vast majority, if not all, of us can't, but he can also communicate this to everyone else without using his natural voice, having to speak through a computer because of a debilitating disease. Our time's Einstein, this makes him an amazing man, as well as a great scientist.

Lately, the British Doctor Hawking has taken his work to the television, translating his talent for relating to others flawlessly to a new medium, hosting a variety of specials to engage the minds of the populace, expanding what we know and how well we know it. Into the Universe With Stephen Hawking explored the cosmos, while last year, Hawking sought to disprove the existence of god using science. Now, a five part documentary called Brave New World is available on DVD in the United States from Acorn Media.

Brave New World turns the focus away from the universe around us, and looks at people themselves. We have come a very long way with our technological breakthroughs thus far, since living in caves and using simple rock tools, and Hawking examines what we might achieve tomorrow, given our current trends. He looks at what has already been done, and expounds on it in a logical way. Can we cure cancer? How will the cars of the future drive, or the cities of the future be built? What kind of power does an atom hold, and can we harness it for our benefit? These are just a few of the many questions addressed in Brave New World.

The format of the DVD is simple, broken down into five parts: "Machines, "Health," "Technology," "Environment," and "Biology." Sure, there is some overlap between the areas, but basically each of the five hours concentrates on one arena, and Hawking does his very best to give us a peek at what may be coming next in each of those fields. To say the least, the results are fascinating!

Hawking is not left to do this alone, joined by a number of experts on the various topics that he covers. From David Attenborough, the naturalist and frequent narrator of BBC nature specials, to Richard Dawkins, who knows a thing or two about evolutionary biology, to Robert Winston, a man who works with reproductive medicine, to Kathy Sykes, a renowned physicist, Hawkins has some of the leading minds of this generation, further giving weight to the theories covered. Biographies of some presenters are included on disc two as an extra.

Stephen Hawking Brave New World also comes with a sixteen page viewer's guide. This gives outlines of some of the technology discussed in the series, and provides a nice companion to the DVDs for quick reference of certain concepts.

For those interested in research and the next advances of the human race, Brave New World should prove an invaluable resource, opening up doors to new thoughts and ideas. If you are not naturally inclined to ponder such things, give Brave New World a try anyway, and confronted with the genius mind of Stephen Hawking, you may just find yourself getting excited, in spite of your reservations.

Stephen Hawking Brave New World is available now on DVD.

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