Cosmic Apocalypse

The Universe
Season 2
18 episodes
See below for purchasing options
DVD & Blu-ray
"The Universe" episode no. 32 (season 2 finale)
  • written and produced by Savas Georgalis
  • directed by executive producer Douglas J. Cohen
  • edited by Kevin Browne
  • science consultant Alex Filippenko,
    with Jeff Larsen, Reggie Santiago, Pedro Azevedo, and Aron Ives

  • narrated by Erik Thompson
  • Original Music by Eric Amdahl
  • Flight 33 Productions, (c) 2008 A & E TV Networks
  • 1 documentary @ 44 minutes

Data Capsule Review

by Martin Izsak

Hang on for one of the most mind-bending and freaky rides that "The Universe" series has to offer, as it covers the obvious early on and then launches a very satisfying in-depth probe into the bizarre environments of the far, far future....

The first segment contrasts various theories concerning the end of our universe... although the sequencing of information remains a bit clumsy. (Laura Danly will later nail this so nicely in the season 4 finale...)

Nonetheless, it isn't long before the ideas are crystal clear here as well, and perhaps there are more of them this time around. We get the "fiery" theory of the Big Crunch, with mention of the additional idea that it may produce a cyclical life for the universe. We also get the "icy" theory of the Big Freeze, with universal expansion slowing down, but not enough that gravity can ever overpower it.

It is actually yet another theory that has the universal expansion accelerating, to produce "The Big Rip", where smaller and smaller objects cease to be able to hold themselves together. "The Big Rip" gets its most detailed and convincing presentation in the series in this episode here. However, the scientists don't quite seem to agree on which of these three major theories is most likely.

The second segment goes over the first two laws of thermodynamics, citing these as being fundamental supports for the Big Freeze theory. We learn how these dynamics play out within the life cycle of a star, and how each future generation of stars will be affected over long, long periods of time. What will the universe be like, after most of the fires have gone out for good?

The third segment really kickstarts the journey that is unique to this episode - an in-depth look at far future time. We begin with a review of essentially the same cosmic calendar as was made famous in Carl Sagan's Cosmos series, which compresses all time from the big bang until now into one year. Alex Filippenko then flips over into the next "year", to project how long the Earth and its solar system will last.

Greg Laughlin then explains why scientists needed an even bigger logarithmic scale to express the amount of time required for the details of the Big Freeze and Big Rip theories. Their answer? "Cosmological Decades", with each decade being ten times longer than all the time that had passed before it began. This is quite a mind-warping concept, made somewhat easier by the crude analogy of the staircase that Laughlin is seen to climb in the episode.

Our own cosmological decade, the tenth, has all the familiar bright stars, and planets that can lead to life. Laughlin proceeds upwards to the 20th and 30th decades, where the dead star universe of "The Degenerate Era" is described in great detail. And that just brings us to the end of the third segment of the episode.

The two final segments continue the ever-lengthening logarithmic climb into the future... Ideas explored include:

The Black Hole Era ( approximate Cosmological Decade: 60 )

  • protons won't exist therefore humans don't exist.
  • strange life.
  • speed of thought incredibly slow

The Dark Era ( approximate Cosmological Decade: 100 )

  • Where (When) Angels Fear to Tread
  • Everything (Atoms, black holes) has crumbled

The Quantum Possibility

  • How bubbles of alternate physics are likely to arise
  • Can life escape to continue in another universe?

Participants include:

Greg Laughlin

University of California, Santa Cruz

creates computer models of solar systems such as Alpha Centauri

Neil deGrasse Tyson

American Museum of Natural History

Michio Kaku

Theoretical Physicist
City University of New York

Author of "Parallel Worlds",
"Physics of the Impossible"

Alex Filippenko

Astronomer, supernova hunter
University of California, Berkeley

leads a team that has found over 600 supernovae in one decade through automated intergalactic scanning.
regular science consultant to
"The Universe" series.

Clifford Johnson

University of Southern California

Sean Carroll


from the disc sleeve:

Cosmic Apocalypse:
Whether it's a blazing cosmic fireball or a paralyzing galactic ice age, the universe as we know it will one day end, taking with it space, matter and even time. Peer into the crystal ball of the future as the harsh and hostile realities of the world we live in are revealed.

Chapter List:
  1. Introduction
  2. Fire and Ice
  3. When the Lights Go Out
  4. Dying Embers
  5. Angels Fear to Tread
  6. Bubble of Hope

Rankings for "The Universe" Season Two:

Favourite Episodes:

  1. Alien Planets (superlatively the BEST!)
  2. The Milky Way (surprisingly compelling)
  3. Nebulas (a feast for the mind, eye, and ear!)
  4. Alien Moons
  5. Wildest Weather in the Cosmos
  6. Cosmic Apocalypse (Far end of the Future)

  7. Colonizing Space (really Mars)
  8. Astrobiology
  9. Space Travel (propulsion to Mars and beyond)
  10. Biggest Things in Space

  11. Cosmic Collisions (Verklan highlights a good causal debate)
  12. Unexplained Mysteries (segments 3,4,5 good; segs 1-2 not so much,
    but it does elegantly solve the Grandfather Paradox.)
  13. Backyard Astronomer (DVD Bonus Feature)
  14. Dark Matter (interesting, fascinating, but not CONVINCING)

  15. Cosmic Holes (the incomplete science here may mislead
    [it can't even resolve the Grandfather Paradox],
    but this one does have many cool bits & production highlights)
  16. Constellations
  17. Supernovas (all this good detail makes me
    distrust Type 1a's as standard candles)
  18. Gravity
  19. Mysteries of the Moon

Best Writers / Directors / Etc...

  • Douglas J. Cohen (w/d - Alien Planets,
    director - Cosmic Apocalypse, Wildest Weather, Dark Matter)
  • Darryl Rehr (w/d - Nebulas)
  • Arthur Drooker (w/d - Colonizing Space)
  • Savas Georgalis (writer - Cosmic Apocalypse,
    writer/director - Space Travel)
  • Geoff Miller (writer - Alien Moons)
  • Laura Verklan Armstrong (w/d - Astrobiology,
    Biggest Things in Space, Cosmic Collisions, Cosmic Holes)
  • Rebecca Graham Forde (writer/producer -
    Wildest Weather in the Cosmos, Dark Matter/Dark Energy)
  • Andrew Holland (additional writing - Mysteries of the Moon)
  • Steve Zorn & Brittany Graham (writers - The Milky Way,
  • Louis C. Tarantino (director - Alien Moons, Constellations)
  • Kevin Barry (w/d - Unexplained Mysteries... of the Moon)
  • Andy Papadopoulos (w/d - Supernovas, Gravity)

Well, this is my favourite season of "The Universe" as it shows fresh exploration of a really wide variety of topics.
Even the episodes with clumsier presentations of certain ideas still have a lot of good data and visuals to offer,
and can surprise with many little excellent segments and valuable tidbits.

This season is very enjoyable and a lot of fun. If you only want one season of this show, I think this is the best one to buy.

Season Two with "Cosmic Apocalypse" has become available on DVD and Blu-ray.
Click on the amazon symbol for your area to open amazon's page in a new window and see additional product information before purchasing.

The Universe
Season 2 Box Set
18 episodes




Blu-ray U.S.

Blu-ray Canada

Blu-ray U.K.

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Read the data capsule review for another episode: "Parallel Universes"

Or, get an overview of all episodes of this series from our
Episode Guide Catalogue for "The Universe".

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