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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The Science of Measurement
The Science of Measurement
Athena // Unrated // March 11, 2014
List Price: $34.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Nick Hartel | posted May 1, 2014 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
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THE PROGRAM

Being both an American and a science major, I find myself torn between two worlds There is the hyper logical world of scientific measurement, one where quantities are measured in a system based on multiples of ten and conversions largely rely on knowing the meaning of a prefix. Then there is the common world around me, based on such measurements as inches, feet and miles, all with conversion factors that are only common knowledge due to rote memorization; it's an often confusing and nonsensical system. A question remains: where did all these measurements come in the first place? Enter once again, esteemed mathematician Dr. Marcus du Sautoy, presenter of such educational programming as "The Story of Math" and "The Code." His offering to viewers is a three-part miniseries, consisting of one-hour episode focused specifically on units of measurements. "The Science of Measurement" (or "Precision: The Measure of All Things" as it was known in the United Kingdom) seeks to inform viewers of not just the origin of commonly used units of measure, but the scientific and sometimes ideological decisions behind their origin.

As he so succinctly did in "The Story of Math," Dr. Marcus du Sautoy instantly breaks down the barriers of heady subjects by adopting an inviting, inquisitive approach that quite frankly, draws a better comparison to the late great, Carl Sagan, than Sagan's spiritual successor, Neil de Grasse Tyson. Throughout "The Science of Measurement" du Sautoy never talks down to the audience, but on the same page, never fills his explanations with needlessly complex technical jargon. The cumulative result is a very breezy three-hour mini-series chock full of historical information and sound logical reasoning. Each of the three episodes focuses on three forms of distinct measurement, "Time and Distance," "Mass and Moles," and finally, "Heat, Light, and Electricity." The shows gradually ramp up the complexity of the measurements being discussed and I would not argue that the first episode, "Time and Distance" will have the most mass appeal, given the more "logical" genesis of our common units (keep in mind, when I say common units, I refer to SI or metric units), including their origins in royalty (i.e. a cubit based on the length of a ruler's forearm) that still persist to this day in the English system.

The remaining two episodes remain equally fascinating but due give the brain a workout, should this be a viewer's first exposure to these concepts. For instance the discussion of mass and moles, makes perfect sense to be, as I sport a chemistry background, but to the layperson, it takes some careful explanation to make the case for Avogadro's number or 6.02 x 1023 being completely logical, yet du Sautoy pulls it off and at the minimum leaves viewers with a greater appreciation of things we use in our everyday life, but otherwise take for granted. "The Science of Measurement" may have questionable replay value, compared to "The Story of Math," but it's yet another must see educational miniseries. Engaging, insightful and well produced, it quite admirably accomplishes its noble task of providing its viewers with a greater context and appreciation for the world we live in.





THE DVD

The Video

The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is perfectly acceptable for a documentary presentation. Detail is firmly average, while minor compression artifacts do little to interfere with one's viewing enjoyment. Colors are natural and there are no telltale signs of edge enhancement or DNR.

The Audio

The Dolby Digital English stereo audio track is equally serviceable with a sometimes aggressive mix overall, that doesn't sport a real dynamic range to it. Narration is natural sounding and never obnoxiously overpowering, nor suffers from distortion. English SDH subtitles are included.

The Extras

Extras include a text-based biography on du Sautoy as a well as a physical booklet highlighting key concepts from the program.

Final Thoughts

"The Science of Measurement," while originally produced for British viewers might very well serve as a nice primer to a whole new generation of American viewers still only encountering the metric system in science classrooms. Dr. Marcus du Sautoy hits another homerun in the field of science/mathematics education, offering a breezy three hours on a subject one may feel inclined to write off as dull. Recommended.

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