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"The Creation of the Universe" - A Film by Timothy Ferris

A fine documentary film talking about the birth of the Universe, that has public television written all over it.

Where the Universe started is still a never-ending fascination among scientists, physicists and astronomy buffs all over the world. In spite of our roles here on this planet, we all would like to know how and when it all began. That's where Timothy journeys to try and find possible answers for such question.

Using Manhattan, New York as an example of drifting back in time, you learn that before all the energy-draining buildings and lights were in place, was a time that was barren and unknown—a land yet unsettled and undiscovered way back during the Ice Age, and back in the time were US was still connected to Africa. (Take note as they use New York as an example, the World Trade Center—Twin Towers—was still standing in the illustrations.) You then go into a tour into some particle physics and learn the structure of an atom, parts of an atom and its role in the formation of the universe. Those atoms can be found inside us—our own human bodies. Interestingly enough, they used a baseball game between the New York Yankees versus the Los Angeles Dodgers, leading to the relation between the ball and the bat explaining the four forces: Electromagnetism, Weak Nuclear Force, Strong Force and Gravitation. Still in the sub-atomic level, you learn about the clashing of protons and anti-protons in the search for the Z particle, confirming the electroweak theory. During the learning, you get to see a class lectured by the great physicist Stephen Hawking, during the years when he had a translator do all the talking for him.

My favorite part was when Ferris enters into a lighthouse, used as a physical time machine, and one window at a time unveils the action of the particles during the birth of the universe—the Big Bang. He then reaches the last and final window where a theory is lacking to describe the nature of the sudden moment of the Big Bang. This then led to the question, "what caused Creation?"

"It may be the Universe did not have a beginning, and maybe that space-time forms a close surface without an edge, like the surface of the Earth." -Stephen Hawking

"Nothingness produced the Universe and space and time." -The ancient Chinese

Ferris then explains why science pays homage and much respects to religion, then beings reading a prayer written by Joannes Kepler during the seventeenth century. Apparently, science doesn't make you atheistic but it does give one an open mind and (maybe) a likely connection with the true god and the creation of everything. The following was my favorite say from Ferris:

"The churchmen of the Middle Ages built their cathedrals out of stone, but they built them to express ideas. Stone can only go so high, but ideas can reach across the Universe." -Timothy Ferris

After faith in connection with the birth of the universe and some inputs by scientists, Ferris then mentions an old riddle: "The most incomprehensible thing about the Universe, is that it's comprehensible."

It truly has been quite a long while since I dug into and kept up to date with science-related documentaries (I'd always record the shows on TV and/or purchase the DVDs if available). Keep in mind that because we've advanced technologically, and scientific ideas are still open for improvement, theoretical confirmation and/or rejection makes this utterly odd that one would still watch an old science film from 1985 where some questions being asked were already answered. However, you still learn something, and seeking the behavior of the universe's birth at the sub-atomic level is a rather unique approach. Unfortunately, that would inject a loss of attention for the layperson if s/he has had no learning experience in basic astronomy.

As for the cinematography, it's a typical yet well-edited piece you'd normally find on PBS. Being a 1985 film, it was remastered for DVD presenting old illustrations before CGI graphics. Nevertheless, it was well done and the camera angles were very good. I was also able to spot a bit of audio volume glitch around the 37-minute mark of the DVD. I'm not sure if it was my copy or the original film at the time of its remastering but thought I'd point that out. Oh, and as Ferris uses the telescope at the observatory, then draws the diagram in relation to space and time on a notepad, you do see him computing away on what looks like an old IBM Tandy computer. Those computers, depending on condition, ring up a chunk of money being one of the biggest collector's item, which was another fun thing I'd thought I'd mention.

Like I said, because this may be a bit heavy for the layperson, those with even a small knowledge of astronomy and physics will find this an excellent film to add to their science DVD collection. The quality is great and the audio is just right. This is also an excellent DVD for classroom presentation. On the DVD, under "Special Features," you do have the option to turn ON or OFF Ferris' commentaries throughout the film; no extras, extra interviews, deleted scenes, pictures and/or outtakes were available. The other option is the web address of PBS—www.pbs.org.

If you're like me and you'd rather stay in while the rest of the world is busy celebrating and getting together over some annual event, this is a perfect DVD to pop into the player, get cozy up onto your favorite chair/couch or bed, worry- and noise-free on a nice cold Friday night; the voiceover and editing portray that kind of tranquil evening. Come to think of it, you're learning something as well! And that's always a good thing.





  • Well-documented covering the theoretical phenomenon to when the Universe was born.
  • Includes a short interview from a young Stephen Hawking.
  • A great classic documentary perfect for classroom presentation.
  • More features could've been added on DVD.
  • Bit of a audio glitch around the 37:00 mark.
95% (A)
Fan Rating
Title The Creation of the Universe
Description This is the ultimate detective story—the creation of the universe. Award-winning journalist Timothy Ferris takes viewers on a cosmic ride, from the Big Bang 15 billion years ago, to the frontiers of science today. Dazzling special effects and colorful computer graphics make the mysteries of the universe highly visual and understandable. Accompanied by an entertaining musical score from the popular composer Brian Eno, THE CREATION OF THE UNIVERSE never fails to stimulate and surprise.

It takes viewers around the world as well, to visit with today's great thinkers, including foremost physicist Stephen Hawking and Nobel Prize winners Murray Gell-Mann and Steven Weinberg. From quarks to quasars, the scientists explore a host of provocative ideas, like:

• What happened in the first fraction of the first second of the universe?
• What do galaxies of stars have in common with tiny atoms?
• Why do some scientists believe the universe is expanding?
• Was every atom inside the human body once inside a star?

THE CREATION OF THE UNIVERSE interprets the work of astronomers and physicists expertly and simply, igniting a sense of wonder about the universe which all people share.
ISBN / Bar Code number 1-4157-0228-4
Video Format 1.33:1 (4:3) / Full screen
Audio Format Stereo
Disc Count One (1)
Language(s) English
Genre Documentary / Education
Subtitles None
Rated Not Rated
Region Region 1 - NTSC
Specification Color
Features Play Movie, Scene Selection, Special Features, PBS Online
Production North Star Productions
Company PBS
Item / Product Number #COTU601
Closed Captioning Yes
DVD Release September 07, 2004
Run Time 175 minutes
Copyright Approx. 91 minutes (Splash screen - 00:08, Peter Pan/Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause/Cars/Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior/Twitches ad - 07:25, Menu screen - 00:30, Disney DVD graphic - 00:16, All four episodes - 01:31:28, [EPISODE SELECTION]: Episode Selection Menu Screen - 00:30, [BONUS FEATURES]: Bonus Features Menu Screen - 00:30, Music video - 03:35, Miley On Following Your Dreams - 04:55, Miley's Audition Tapes - 05:25, [SET UP]: Set Up Menu Screen - 00:30, Register Your DVD - 00:30, [SNEAK PEAKS]: Sneak Peak Transition - 00:06, Combined total for Twitches/The Fox And The Hound 2/Girl Next/Hannah Montana/Cinderella III: A Twist In Time/Peter Pan: Special Edition/Santa Claus 3/Cars/Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior - 10:44. Total DVD time: 02:06:32)
Other Formats © NorthStar Associates 1985. © 2009 PBS Distribution
Quoted Reviews --
Other --
A Science Special by
Timothy Ferris

Music by
Brian Eno

Directed and Produced by
Geoff Haines-Stiles

Written and Presented by
Timothy Ferris

Produced and Directed by
Geoffrey Haines-Stiles

Erna Akuginow

Visual Consultant
Production Associate

Carolyn Zecca

Director of Photography
Francis Kenny

Edited by
Bob Estrin
Lisa Day

Title Theme
Additional Music by

Brian Eno

Baseball Announcers
Bob Elliot
Ray Goulding

Computer Graphics &
Special Visual Effects

Omnibus Computer
Graphics, Inc.

Additional Visual Effects
from the films of

Jordan Belson

Unit Production Manager/
First Assistant Director

Erna Akuginow

Second Assistant Director/
New York

Jay Tobias

Production Coodinator
Eric Rasmussen

Assistant to the Producers/
Post-Production Coordinator

Barbara Ostrowiecki

Assistant to Timothy Ferris
Michele Harrah

Additional Cinematography
Chris O'Dell
H.J. Brown
Mitch Dubin

Bruce Litecky
John Clifton

On-Line Editor
Russell Srole

Assistant Cameramen
Mitch Dubin
Mark Trottenberg
Martin Shepard

WASCAM Camera Operator
Gary Childs

Assistant Editors
Sandra Adair
Lori Mozilo

Audio Producer For
Bob and Ray Segment

Larry Josephson

Computer Effects Sequences
Designed by

Timothy Ferris
Nick Warner

Graphic Design
Adolph Schaller

Physics History Tower by
Diane Best

New York City Geology Sequence
Designed and Animated by

Al Jarnow

Margaret Burbidge
Murray Gell-Mann
Sheldon Glashow
Stephen Hawking
Heinz Pagels
Abdus Salam
Allan Sandage
Steven Weinberg
John Archibald Wheeler

Science Consultant
Nick Warner

Titles Design
Lilli Cristin
Robin Weiss

OMNIBUS Computer Graphics, Inc.

Technical Producer
Dan Krech

Creative Directors
Keith Ballinger
Art Durinski
Floyd Gillis

Senior Animator
Robert Marinic

Production Manager
Dan Jex

Project Coordinator
Mori Biener

Stills Animation

Matte Paintings
David Stipes Productions

Stage Facilities/Lighthouse

Effects Manager
William T. Conway

Rear Projections
Steve Caldwell
Juniko Moody

Set Decorator
Dan Smith

Lighthouse Designed by
Michael Novotny

Key Grip
Scott Spencer

Kevin Kelly

Production Assistant
George Parra

Production Coordinators
Bill Jackson (N.Y.C.)
Christopher Hamilton
Guido Salsulli (Venice)

Crane Operator
Doug Wood

Audio Post-Production
Kent Gibson Soundesign

Audio Assistants
Don Gooch
Ned Hall

Synthesizer Sound Effects
John Allison

Physics Tower Voices
Pacific Video

System by

Eagle Eye Film Services

Audio Facilities
Rudy Records
Pacific Video

Time-Lapse Photography
The Time-Lapse Company

Special Thanks To
American Science
and Engineering, Inc.

BBC/Open University
Andrew Crilly

Bell Laboratories
Robert Wilson

Bronx High School of Science
Milton Kopelman
Sidney Schonberg

Cathedral of Beauvais
Andre Senn

California Institute
of Technology
Dennis Meredith
Maarten Schimdt
Beverly Oak

Palomar Observatory
Robert Brucato
Larry Blackee
Bob Thicksten
Merle Sweet

Harald Bungarten, Hans Hoffman
Anne Kernan, Eifionydd Jones,
Terry Heaton, Tom Erickson,
James Rolph, Carlo Rubbia,
Antoine Leclerc, Martyn Corden

William Andrews
Clarke Library
University of California,
Los Angeles

Department of East Asian
Studies, Princeton

Dover Publications

Einstein Stills and Films:
American Friends of
Hebrew University

American Institute of Physics
(Niels Bohr Library)

Bildsarchiv Preussicher

Black Star

California Institute of Technology

National Archives and Reference Administration

Allan W. Richards

Sherman Grinberg Film
and Videotape Library

Fred Stein

Eno Music Courtesy of
E.G. Music, Inc.

Fermilab National Accelerator
Leon Lederman
Margaret Pearson, Tom Warkins
Fred Ullrich

Freer Gallery of Art
Smithsonian Institution,
Washington, D.C.

Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton
Harry Woolf
Arno Beurling

Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory

Major League Baseball Productions

The Minneapolis Institute
of Arts

Johnson Space Center
Mike Gentry
Jet Propulsion Laboratory

National Optical Astronomy Observatories


San Marino High School

University of Southern California
Irwin Leib, Robert Wagner,
Joe Saltzman, Bryce Nelson

The Stanford University Libraries

University of Texas, Austin

U.S. Naval Observatory

U.S. Coast Guard

Zemaslski Muzej Sarajevo

Francesco Bertola

Stillman Drake

Rod Dyer

Jean Baird Ferris

Paolo Giano

Owen Gingerich

J. Richard Gott III

Patrick Griffin

Michael Jones

Georges and Alexandra Leclere

Wally MacGalliard

Nelson Max

James Metcalf

Sidney Ornstein

Abraham Pais

Signore Savago Raggi

Lou and Sylvia Reed

Jean-Paul Revel

Marco Semenzato

Carol Summer

Kip S. Thorne

Jerry Wallace

Unit Stills Photographer
Eric Rasmussen

Film Laboratory and
Telecine Transfers


Telecine Timer
Gary Burdick

Executive Producer
Larry F. Botto

A production of
NorthStar Associates

In cooperation with
Asahi Broadcasting Co.
Osaka, Japan

© NorthStar Associates 1985


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