The Universe Visualized

When I was around eight years old, my father disabled the TV so it couldn’t receive channels,  leaving us with just a VCR and educational tapes – the TV equivalent of methadone to wean us off our addiction. Among these were a bunch of astronomy documentaries.

One of the challenges of teaching astronomy is allowing people to get a sense of scale – e.g. the earth’s place in the universe, the sizes of galaxies, etc. – since humans tend to have a hard time conceiving of really big things – be they dimensions, numbers, or probabilities.

The following two videos, made decades apart, attempt to do it.  I’m not sure the latest one is much of an improvement on the older one, despite the great CGI (astronomy documentaries were early adopters of computer generated images to portray outer space).

For both, however, I personally lost the sense of scale about a third of the way – which shows the limits of even the best visual comms.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A2cmlhfdxuY

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=17jymDn0W6U&feature=player_embedded



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