Cosmos: A Space-Time Odyssey: The Electric Boy
May 13, 2014 4:46 PM - Season 1, Episode 10 - Subscribe

Michael Faraday, with little formal education, makes incredible discoveries regarding electromagnetism.

He creates the first motor and the first generator; later in life, even with diminished mental capacity, he is able to demonstrate that light can be affected by magnetic fields.
posted by DevilsAdvocate (6 comments total)
I haven't watched the last few Cosmos but that episode was really well done. It reminded me of the old James Burke show Connections in how it wandered through history from one person to another.
posted by mathowie at 4:47 PM on May 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

I never realized that Faraday "couldn't do the math". Good thing James Clerk Maxwell came along.
posted by Rob Rockets at 8:26 PM on May 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

My favorite thing was the Christmas Lecture montage. And my biggest takeaway was that industrial revolution era London was *really* good for Science. A shame about all that colonialism though.
posted by DigDoug at 5:22 AM on May 14, 2014

It did have a strong Connections vibe. It's remarkable that the glass block souvenir he kept would lead to a new discovery. Stuff like that boggles the mind. It's a shame to see what pettiness led his punishment in the glass-making (snipe hunt) trade and to think that this sort of thing probably happens all the time. It's just amazing that in spite of his jealous boss, he gained something from that punishment.
posted by GrapeApiary at 6:33 AM on May 15, 2014

I'm a horrible person, but every time there was a Dramatic Pause in the narrative, I said, "Boom! AH MY EYES!"
posted by Etrigan at 2:09 PM on May 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm a horrible person too, but I pretty much hated this episode. There's always a lot of padding, but this one felt like ten or fifteen minutes of material stretched out to the limit with endless Beautiful Shots and pointless animation (those things work great for showing how someone discovers the effect of a prism, not so great when they're just people batting their eyes at each other and simpering). It kind of lost me right at the beginning when Tyson said (more or less) "If this man had never been born, humanity might still be living as it did in the seventeenth century." I shouted "BULLSHIT" before I even knew who he was talking about, because whatever discoveries he's talking about would have been made by others. And when it turned out to be Faraday, that added to the bullshit level, because his work was done in the nineteenth century; I'm not sure how his not being born is supposed to push mankind back a couple of centuries. (And yes, at some point Tyson admits that others would probably have discovered electromagnetism, motors, and generators, but that doesn't stop him from wasting a couple of minutes with an image of the Earth showing the lights slowly going out.) And it lost me for good when he was talking about how Faraday's main flaw was lack of mathematical training and how Maxwell came along and provided the equations and how important equations are, for instance the law of conservation of energy -- and then it illustrates that with that scene they show a million times of Tyson pushing a hanging weight away from him and waiting impassively for it to return and not quite touch his nose... and they don't show the equation! Then it shows a blurry little image of Maxwell's equations and how he supplied the missing bit to the last one, but it's so blurry you can't tell what's going on! It's obvious the producers are terrified of scaring people off with even an image of actual math, but then why are you bothering to do the show in the first place?

....OK, I feel better having gotten that off my chest. I'll keep watching the series for the good stuff, but I really wish they hadn't felt the need to dumb it down for the most ignorant, mathophobic imaginable viewer.
posted by languagehat at 10:51 AM on May 18, 2014

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