Reviews of Horizon (1964) and related work

Horizon (1964Moving picture)

Review refers to just a few scattered programs.

Long-running BBC series of 50-minute programs on a broad range of scientific subjects.

References here: Nova (1974), Explained (2018).

moving picture non-fiction series

“Nice Guys Finish First” (1986Moving picture, 50 minutes)

Richard Dawkins (cast).

Good introductions to the prisoner’s dilemma (one-off and reiterated) and the tragedy of the commons to explain apparent altruism and why WW1 was so nice.

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“The 7/7 Bombers: A Psychological Investigation” (2005Moving picture, 49 minutes)

Good footage from the Milgram and Asch experiments.

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“Allergies: Modern Life and Me” (2014Moving picture, 50 minutes)

Seen in 2015.

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“First Britons” (2015Moving picture, 50 minutes)

Seen in 2018.

Doggerland, mesolithic climate change on the British Isles, early signs of animal husbandry and agriculture etc.

Overly dramatic, and set against a straw-man version of hunters and gatherers as passive inhabitants of unspoilt wilderness, but it is otherwise a pretty good summary.

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“10 Things You Need to Know About the Future” (2017Moving picture, 50 minutes)

Seen in 2019.

Rushed and tightly compressed.

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“Pluto: Back from the Dead” (2020Moving picture, 50 minutes)

Seen in 2020.

Seen with Swedish-language narration on SVT.

Analysis of New Horizons sensor data since the 2015 mission, particularly of the geology and atmosphere of Pluto.

I don’t know whether this is also true of the original narration, but the first act in the version I saw is a bad example of science communication through the injection of unneeded drama without approriate context. The experts relate how the New Horizons spacecraft rebooted and supposedly lost all its programming just days before arriving at Pluto, but nobody mentions that this is only a problem because Pluto is several light hours away, slowing down two-way radio exchanges. Apparently, this fairly basic fact was judged too alienating for the Horizons audience. Instead, the experts relate only how they fretted and worked long hours, to dramatic music.

The rest of the documentary is similarly scarred by attempts to dumb it down and keep the presentation “immediate”, but the actual content is good. I appreciate the systematic review of Pluto-system nomenclature from mythology.

References here: Faktafel på SVT Play.

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“Chris Packham: 7.7 Billion People and Counting” (2020Moving picture, 50 minutes)

Seen in 2020.

An essay on overpopulation. A good balance of simple examples, science, empathy and common sense. The hand-drawn graphs are awful though. Packham is clearly aware of the traditional association between anti-overpopulation movements and racism, but he doesn’t mention any such movements, nor forced sterilization or any other form of institutional birth control. Instead, he clearly demonstrates a working anti-racist understanding of the most central issues, in a friendly and accessible way.

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