Satellites show us just how interconnected the planet truly is.
I was worried I wasn’t going to enjoy Earth From Space once I learned there were less satellite images from orbit and more computer-generated simulations comprising the program. I had been excited to see high-definition imagery, the absolute latest that the technology could give me, so I could feel like I was there, above this blue sphere we call home.
So when Jay O. Sanders (Person of Interest) informed me I was going to see the data captured from satellites transformed into scientifically accurate models I was bummed. And at first my fear appeared to be well-founded as the graphic representations of the satellites themselves were as basic as they come. But I was pleasantly surprised to find myself completely enthralled with Earth From Space and humbled by its content.
Many of us were first introduced to the thesis of Earth From Space when we first watched Jurassic Park over two decades ago. In a throwaway line, Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) talks about the butterfly effect, that a butterfly flapping its wings in Peking affects the weather in Central Park. And in short that reasoning is what this show is all about: understanding how the complex systems of our planet truly do affect one another. We’re just now starting to understand and appreciate to what degree this influence goes, thanks to the imagery provided by the fleet of satellites which look upon earth from space.
There aren’t as few true satellite images as I feared, and among the gems is a nice shot of “Earthrise,” probably the most famous of them all. But the technology has come a long way since then and the progress is truly breathtaking. The imagery we do get to see is marvelous. I only wish PBS had sent us the Blu-ray for review so I could truly revel in the beauty.
If you don’t believe in climate change or don’t feel that one region’s weather can impact another’s, you will after seeing Earth From Space. As I watched I wondered at how easily this could diverge into an environmental tale, yet Earth From Space isn’t about pointing fingers or shaking fists in rage, rather it relies on facts. The cool certainty of the evidence is far more convincing than any guilt trip ever could be. Why was 2005 such a hotbed of catastrophic storm activity? Why are we on target for hurricanes which will potentially dwarf Katrina in comparison? Well, the Earth’s chemical cycles have existed unchanged for millennia. What’s changed? Us. We’re the foreign entity introduced into a fragile ecosystem. It’s hard to argue when you can literally see how interconnected the systems of the planet truly are. It’s humbling and scary to imagine our species being responsible for mass destruction on a global scale.
Earth From Space has many chapters in its runtime of just about two hours. Yet everything flows and connects to what came before and what follows so well the minutes seem to fly by. Among the topics discussed are: water vapor, extreme cold, plankton, and lightning. If you have any interest in the nature of our world, in understanding some of the most complex processes there are, then you’d be hard-pressed to find a more suitable disc than this. Chalk another win up for the Nova team who produced this episode.
There is beautiful imagery from space, but the beauty doesn’t end there. The standard def 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer provides a crisp, rich palette. While I may have issues with the rudimentary nature of the satellite graphics, I have no such reservations about the simulations. There are some truly lovely graphical representations showcased, and their subtle natures tend to make them appear all the more realistic. I was very pleased with the video overall. As far as the Dolby 2.0 Stereo track goes, I wasn’t wowed, but it held up.
There are no bonus features.
I really enjoyed Earth From Space. Seeing the magnetosphere, learning about water evaporation, and watching developing hurricanes was fascinating to me. I heartily recommend a purchase (preferably Blu-ray), especially if you want to get someone to understand how our world works.