Best Documentaries about the Universe?
November 9, 2021 12:07 PM   Subscribe

I passed high school physics by the skin of my teeth and in general am not the best at grasping scientific concepts. But, I am also deeply fascinated by space, and I'd like to understand more about it. What documentary movies/series should I watch?

I am particularly interested in the history of the Universe (how did the big bang happen anyway?), string theory, and learning what the most recent discoveries/current areas of question and research are in this area. So, more recent documentaries are preferred, but not required.

Many moons ago I remember watching some documentary with Stephen Hawking that was great, but that's literally the extent of my memory (maybe it had to do with black holes?). In general I've always been a fan of his.

Strong preference for things streamable vs. having to track something down on DVD. Pretty visuals of space would be lovely. But most importantly, looking for things that break down the science to a level I can understand (so not like, space for toddlers, but space for a generally intelligent adult who got some liberal arts degrees and hasn't taken a science class in 20 years).

Podcast and audiobook suggestions are also welcomed! I tend to be more of a visual learner when it comes to the sciences, but I also spend a lot of time driving so I'm always happy for new things to listen to.

This question was inspired by an article I read about the Webb telescope and what it might allow us to observe about the history of the universe. Many thanks in advance!
posted by nancynickerson to Science & Nature (9 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Neil DeGrasse Tyson did an update to Carl Sagan's Cosmos miniseries, which seems a good place to start. It spawned a sequel, and there's another one supposedly in the works. There was also a miniseries adaptation of Brian Greene's book The Elegant Universe that might be fun.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:23 PM on November 9, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: NOVA Wonders What's the Universe Made Of?
posted by Dolley at 12:26 PM on November 9, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The current season of NOVA is exactly about this topic. Look for the episodes airing 10/27 and later...
posted by grateful at 12:31 PM on November 9, 2021 [2 favorites]

PBS has a youtube channel called Space time, which is heady, but I can grasp enough of it to enjoy and value (and I did worse in school than you're describing).
posted by furnace.heart at 12:46 PM on November 9, 2021 [1 favorite]

On BBC, Professor Brian Cox did a fascinating documentary series on The Planets in 2019, and is currently hosting a series called The Universe (which I haven't had a chance to check out yet).

Streamability probably depends on where you are in the world, but in the US The Planets might be available on discover+ or PBS Nova websites?
posted by Gortuk at 1:07 PM on November 9, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Two of my favored YouTube channels are called Astrum and SEA. Both have a wide range of short clips on different topics, so you can choose from a library of topics according to your interest. The narration is clear and sophisticated, the visual documentation is really beautiful. I would recommend beginning with the Laniakea Supercluster topic; it's so mind-blowing, and also our home.
posted by effluvia at 1:22 PM on November 9, 2021 [1 favorite]

You might like the Veritasium YouTube channel but only some of their videos focus on the universe and space. For instance:
What actually expands in an expanding universe?
Why gravity is NOT a force
Half the universe was missing, until now
posted by forthright at 4:21 PM on November 9, 2021 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: These are all such great suggestions! About to dive into the NOVA episodes recommended to start; thanks for helping me in my quest, and more suggestions super welcomed.
posted by nancynickerson at 5:18 PM on November 9, 2021

Check out the Astronomy Cast podcast. They have a huge archive, going back to 2006, covering most subjects. And still going strong.
posted by skaggig at 11:06 PM on November 14, 2021 [1 favorite]

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