What was that awesome show about the history of physics in the late 80s?
April 18, 2012 9:36 PM   Subscribe

There was a great series about the history of physics on PBS in the late 80s. It featured a combination of very clear explanations of each of the fundamental equations in physics throughout history presented by a very calm, level voiced (almost reverent) narrator and accompanied by fantastic very BBS Hitchhiker's Guide style animation. What was this show? And where can I find it now?

In addition to the beautiful explanations of the equations there were historical recreations and stories of each scientist that discovered the fundamental law and derived the equation. The show routinely discussed the personal lives of those scientist and the impact those relationships likely had on how that scientist was impacted by their relationships and how it probably affected them and possibly connected to the scientist's discovery. The two I remember in such detail were Newton and Brahe.
posted by smallerdemon to Science & Nature (14 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Are you thinking of The Mechanical Universe? It definitely had some ahead-of-its-time animation, but it didn't focus as much on history as what you're describing.
posted by xil at 10:26 PM on April 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Cosmos comes close, but was early 80s, and didn't have Hitchhiker's TV show style animation.
posted by Yowser at 1:56 AM on April 19, 2012

Best answer: Actually, just checked minute 12:00 of my own link... pretty Hitchhiker's(y).
posted by Yowser at 1:59 AM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Mechanical Universe had both historical vignettes AND fantastic animation of equations. I don't know what "Hitchhiker's Guide style" is.
posted by DU at 5:11 AM on April 19, 2012

I am too young to remember if these aired on PBS, but James Burke's programs The Day the Universe Changed and Connections seem related.
posted by vkxmai at 5:30 AM on April 19, 2012

Best answer: It looks as though every episode of The Mechanical Universe is on YouTube.

I remember seeing both that and Cosmos when I was young.
posted by elsietheeel at 6:02 AM on April 19, 2012

Do you remember Brahe's shiny metal nose at a raucous dinner party (skip to 40 minutes) where Kepler sat looking indignant?

Or the very dramatic baking of an apple pie? You may be thinking of Cosmos, which fits your description very well other than the date (aired in 1980 on PBS).
posted by General Tonic at 6:59 AM on April 19, 2012

Response by poster: Yowser hit it on the first answer.
posted by smallerdemon at 8:22 AM on April 19, 2012

Response by poster: It looks like a lot of The Mechanical Universe is on Google Video.
posted by smallerdemon at 8:24 AM on April 19, 2012

Response by poster: DU - http://youtu.be/g5ITvG938Cs?t=3m3s for an example of the type of animation style I was refering to.
posted by smallerdemon at 8:47 AM on April 19, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks everyone. :)
posted by smallerdemon at 8:48 AM on April 19, 2012

So wait, I'm confused. Was it Cosmos or the Mechanical Universe?
posted by elsietheeel at 3:47 PM on April 19, 2012

Response by poster: It was The Mechanical Universe. :)
posted by smallerdemon at 6:02 PM on April 19, 2012

Response by poster: So, for clarification, xil got it first. :) Damned metafilter non-delete/non-edit function.
posted by smallerdemon at 8:46 AM on April 30, 2012

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