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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that some episodes of this fascinating, well-made educational series include brief footage of natural disasters (such as San Francisco's 1989 earthquake) when addressing how other planetary bodies interact with Earth. Some language tends toward the dramatic -- like describing the sun as "violent" -- which might worry very young or sensitive viewers. Issues like global warming and other environmental issues also come up occasionally, the implications of which could frighten some young kids.
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What's the story?
In THE UNIVERSE, scientists and historians offer an eye-opening look into the cosmos, revealing the secrets of planets, stars, and other cosmic elements. Using high-tech computer graphics along with everyday analogies, this educational series helps viewers of all ages understand complex ideas and gain a better understanding of the world around us. Each episode, focusing on a single planet or entity (like Mars or the sun), uses dramatizations, footage from scientific explorations, real-world activities, graphics, and commentary from teachers and explorers to demonstrate different cosmic phenomena. For example, in the sun episode, the series examines how our home star maintains its energy source for eons; one expert uses a log campfire -- which has to constantly be fed new fuel -- to demonstrate how the sun doesn't get its energy, while another expert uses billiard balls, along with a little help from computer graphics, to demonstrate how nuclear fusion (the way the sun does get its energy) works.
Is it any good?
The combination of real-world examples and beautiful shots -- both real and computerized -- makes this good educational viewing. But that's not to say that most kids, teens, and even adults will want to spend their Saturday night plopped in front of the tube to watch it. At 60 minutes each, episodes of The Universe can get a bit lost in the details and sometimes seem to drag on a little too long to maintain the average viewer's interest. But anyone with a particular interest in the planets and the cosmos (or with a school project about space) will find it fascinating viewing.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the appeal of shows like this one. Do they make education fun? Do you think they usually give an accurate representation of the facts? How could you find out more if you wanted to? Families can also discuss space exploration and extraterrestrial life. Do you think humans will ever live on other planets? Do you think we'll ever make contact with life beyond our planet?