Einstein’s Universe

Einstein's Universe poster art

LENGTH: 118 min
YEAR: 1979
GENRE: Documentary
FORMATS: Coming Soon
DIRECTOR: Martin Freeth
CREW: Written by Nigel Calder, Narrated by Peter Ustinov with explanations of relativity from professors: Kenneth Brecher, Sidney Drell, Roger Penrose, Wallace Sargeant, Dennis Sciama, Irwin Shapiro, and John Archibald Wheeler.


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Based on Nigel Calder’s book Einstein’s Universe, this fascinating and rare film going by the same title has been re-mastered and digitally enhanced to bring Einstein fans a priceless experience. Narrated by the charismatic Peter Ustinov and hosted by Nigel Calder, the film was first broadcast on the centenary of Albert Einstein’s Birth; March 14th, 1979. Ustinov takes the viewer on a wonderful experience through the McDonald Observatory at the University of Texas-Austin where he is thoroughly enlightened on the great physicist’s theories, especially General Relativity, by a renowned team of scientists including Dennis Sciama, Roger Penrose, John Wheeler, Wallace Sergeant, Irwin Shapiro, Sidney Drell, and Ken Brecher.

Included in Ustinov’s experience at the McDonald Observatory are experiments to help understand gravity, warped space, how light responds to gravity, the “Doppler effect” and how radio waves, as used in police radar, are an unbeatable way of measuring speed. From these simpler experiments much larger concepts are drawn, such as the discovery of a Binary Pulsar, the nature of black holes and how they are created, and the ultimate theory of how the universe was formed. Other demonstrations measure the speed of light, how time passes more slowly for people traveling in an airplane, the incredible accuracy of the Atomic Clock in Washington, DC and how time itself would appear to stop at the surface of a black hole. The conclusion of the program portrays Einstein as a great humanitarian. Although known as the “father of the Atomic Bomb”, his greatest concern was for the potentially devastating effects splitting the atom could have on the future of mankind. His famous letter to President Franklin Roosevelt warned that although the splitting of the atom to detonate an atomic bomb could be used to end World War II, it could also potentially be used for far more deadly ends. This last thought is the subject of another Nigel Calder book, Nuclear Nightmares, and a second BBC program to explore this subject in more depth.