Have you ever noticed how it is almost impossible to find documentaries made more than a few years ago? I was doing some reading on the Casimir effect this evening and came across the name of Julian Schwinger (1918-1994), the American theoretical physicist who shared the 1965 Nobel Prize in Physics with Richard Feynman (1918-1988) and Shin’ichirō Tomonaga (1906-1979). I remember, after all these years, that I had enjoyed watching a BBC documentary series that featured Schwinger (as well as George Abell) called Understanding Space and Time. It was broadcast in 1979 or 1980 and featured thirteen 28-minute episodes.
- Ground control to Mr. Galileo
- As Surely as Columbus Saw America
- Pushed to the Limit
- Conflict Brought to Light
- Marking Time
- E = mc2
- An Isolated Fact
- The Royal Road
- At the Frontier
- Shades of Black
- Measuring Shadows: The Universe Today
- A Note of Uncertainty: The Universe Tomorrow
- Vanished Brilliance: The Universe Yesterday
Granted, some of this material is now dated, but much of it is still relevant and certainly of historical interest. Why is it (and a host of other documentaries) not available on DVD or for downloading?
We really need a company to fill a different niche alongside The Great Courses, Curiosity Stream, and Netflix. That niche would be to uncover and rerelease past documentaries of merit1, often hosted or presented by historically important individuals. Documentaries such as Understanding Space and Time would be nice to own and watch again.
1One must certainly include many PBS documentaries and older episodes of documentary series—NOVA, for example—that are no longer available.