The Day the Universe Changed

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Title card.

The Day the Universe Changed is a history documentary written and presented by James Burke on 1985-03-19. The miniseries is ten episodes, each focusing on a different major historical discovery that was so massive, it was as though the universe changed. The series was also turned into a book with the same title. The series was made between Connections and Connections 2.


After being very impressed with Connections, I checked online to see what else James Burke had done and saw this series. I found it on sale and bought it, however, I didn't find it as intriguing as Connections and only watched the first half or so. About ten years later, while I was reading the companion book, I re-watched it from the beginning and finished it.

I own the series on DVD and have watched it.


  1. The Way We Are: It Started with the Greeks
  2. In the Light of the Above: Medieval Conflict - Faith & Reason
  3. Point of View: Scientific Imagination in the Renaissance
  4. A Matter of Fact: Printing Transforms Knowledge
  5. Infinitely Reasonable: Science Revises the Heavens
  6. Credit Where It's Due: The Factory & Marketplace Revolution
  7. What the Doctor Ordered: Social Impacts of New Medical Knowledge
  8. Fit to Rule: Darwin's Revolution
  9. Making Waves: The New Physics - Newton Revised
  10. Worlds Without End: Changing Knowledge, Changing Reality


Although I liked the series, and found it informative, it meandered a lot, and didn't really set out to prove its thesis. Rather than show how a technological breakthrough changed the universe in a day, it showed a steady march of progress. Certainly not with a goal in mind, the increases were off in different directions all the time, but none of the breakthroughs occurred in a vacuum, they each had antecedents which helped spur them along. Also, the series focuses almost exclusively on Western progress, especially when invented by the British. Only in the final episode does Burke point out how Eastern thought is considerably different, but only glosses over all the contributions they made. Additional progress, from the pre-colonial Americas, Africa, and elsewhere is left out entirely. Also, I didn't find the final episode, which suggested that all perspectives are equally valid, to be very compelling.



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