Hitchhike a ride – sitting and salivating, yes, but also virtual and via TV – through the galaxy with Stephen Hawking! That is the infotainment promise for the free-to-air documentary Stephen Hawking’s Universe.
The whole show is co-narrated by a regular narrator, let’s say. A guy who would be doing the voice over to advertise ice cream or cars, driven by unnaturally attractive housewife babes. This professional is ‘co’. The main narration is done by the one and only algorithm responsible for Stephen Hawking’s chatter. A guy who knows unnaturally attractive housewife babes only from advertisements for ice cream or cars.
Is it an authentic approach? Sure. But it’s incomprehensible. The Sultan of Oman could explain an entropy more clearly than the Spastic of Cambridge.
Gravity slows time down. I used to be able to wrap my head around this idea, but right now, I really can’t conjure up the fundamentals. No problem, Stephen is about to bail me out with an example. Here we go:
‘The Pyramids of Giza (rendered in 3D and now composited with video material of tourists and baksheesh scalpers) are so heavy, they slow down the time around them (the video footage is now warped to slow motion) and the further you move away from them, the faster time goes by (a camel vamooses strangely expeditious into the desert while the pyramids disappear in a cloud of sand),’ explains the main narrator.
Deluxe. This really made the whole phenomenon hit home – I’ve been to Egypt once.
After the ad break we’re on a train to the future.
Simple. The wheelchair-fixed gnome genius will explain the unfathomable in a way that even the Wiggle without a degree could establish a firm grip on this truth-key to our universe.
‘Inside the almost-lightspeed train a little girl in a dress is running through the carriage towards mum,’ Hawking unfolds benevolently, ‘Time slows down, because the little girl would otherwise be running faster than light.’ We also get to see the scientific formula to fully unravel this brainfart: Train + Girl > Lightspeed …. ‘This–is-im-possible-I’m-sorry.’ He says and smiles endearingly, or almost. And with that he cements this astrophysics farce for grain enthusiasts and yoga fascists forever with his face.
Another ad break. Even Citibank’s shonky grandpa, who’s just visiting a friendly branch around the corner to see if his flexible rates are steady, feels eloquent and uncannily attractive.
In the show’s last segment, Mr Hawking introduces me to a mad professor character. Another one? Yes. But this one wants to off himself via wormhole. Why? He can’t operate a handgun? Either way it’s irrelevant, because the stunty computer animation cancels itself out before Hawking’s Doppelgänger can throw himself into the singularity.
All good? No. But what if the mad professor was in a wheelchair rolling with almost-lightspeed, Mr Hawking?