Thursday, June 27, 2013

NOVA: “Earth from Space” (PBS, 2013)

by Mark Gabrish Conlan • Copyright © 2013 by Mark Gabrish Conlan • All rights reserved

The show was a two-hour NOVA special called “Earth from Space,” whose promos made it sound a lot more interesting than it turned out to be: instead of a series of views of earth from space (which is what you’d expect from the title, wouldn’t you?) it was a lot of computer-simulated graphics supposedly showing what earth is like based on measurements taken from satellites of phenomena that because they don’t give off light waves in the visible spectrum (most of the information came from infrared or microwave spectra) are invisible either from earth or space. The ballyhoo was about how wind events, water flows (including ones under the ocean where heavy, briny water moves in waterfall-like patterns through lighter, fresher seawater), volcanic activity and the like can cross thousands of miles of earth and make an effect on weather and life across nearly half the earth’s circumference. It’s an interesting point but it made for some rather dull viewing, even though I was struck that one thing the show did do was demonstrate how interconnected all the earth’s biological processes are — including a nice segment on the Amazon rain forest and how important its output of oxygen is for the survival of all life worldwide even though most of the oxygen given off by plants in the Amazon is consumed there — and how the show was an unstated but unmistakable warning that attempts to muck around with the natural balance of things will often leave matters worse than they were before. There were some interesting personalities among the talking heads, including British scientist Emily Shuckburgh (whose lower-class accent was fascinating given her intellect — Henry Higgins would have had a field day with her!) and U.S. scientist Carl Feldman, who looked like the Richard Dreyfuss character from Jaws as he would have naturally aged, but for the most part this was a dull program on a subject that should have been really exciting and dynamic. I was amused that one of the PBS sponsors for it was the “David H. Koch Fund for Science” — ironic given that the political contributions funded by David Koch and his equally evil brother Charles could be called the “David H. Koch Fund Against Science,” since so much of the Kochs’ money goes to deniers of evolution and human-caused climate change!