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Does anybody else remember this....

Sometime back in the early 1980s, RTE broadcast the show Cosmos, made by Carl Sagan and others. I wouldn't go as far as to say that watching it is what lead me to be a physics teacher, but I would never have become a physics teacher without watching it.

One scene in particular left me spellbound at the time. In it, Carl Sagan attempts to explain the effects of time dilation not by the usual method of asking us to imagine we're on a space ship travelling at millions of metres per second - but instead asking us to imagine what it would be like if the speed of light was much slower - about 40 km/hr. We then follow an Italian teenager who leaves his friends and his little brother in the main square of their village and heads out into the countryside for a spin on his scooter - at 40km/hr (or close to it).

On the journey we see various interesting effects: length contraction and doppler shift among them. And then he gets back to the square a few minutes later to discover that all of his friends have grown up and left, and that his little brother is still waiting for him - only now he's eighty years old!

I've hunted high and low to find a clip with modern special effects that shows this effect so well and I've given up. Even the remake of Cosmos itself doesn't improve on it - and actually goes backwards a bit. So I show it to TY students every year and after a snigger or two about the dated effects and fashions they watch in silence. Fascinated and wanting to know more.

I've linked to the clip here: Videos clips and TV shows (

Also there are a selection of TV shows: personal favourites that I remember watching from the 80s, and other shows that have come and gone in the meantime but that deserve to be remembered.

Also there are links to the wonderful BBC series, Connections, with James Burke. I re-watched the first episode recently, talking about complexity and the dangers it brings along with the benefits - and it stands up well without having to factor in the years that have passed since it was made.

If anybody has any other suggestions for shows to link to there, let me know!

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