Extreme Energy

The Universe
Season 4
12 episodes
See below for purchasing options
DVD & Blu-ray
"The Universe" episode no. 56 (season 4)
  • written and directed by Laura Verklan Armstrong
  • produced by Samuel K. Dolan
  • researcher Pedro Azevedo
  • Technical Advisor Dr. Alex Filippenko
  • edited by Kevin Browne, Dan Wolfmeyer, Tom Ronca, R.L. Shontell, and Dion Labriola

  • narrated by Erik Thompson
  • Main Title Theme and Original Music by Eric Amdahl
  • Flight 33 Productions, (c) 2009 A & E TV Networks
  • 1 documentary @ 45 minutes

Data Capsule Review

by Martin Izsak

The fourth season of "The Universe" comes to its conclusion with one of its cleaner, more interesting, and more fun episodes here.

Kickstarting this in-depth look at the many inter-related forms of energy is a segment on its transformation from one form to another. Here, we end up getting a bit of a buffet, with all the many forms spread out before us, while the scientists give details about what it is that makes many of these forms different, and in what ways they are all the same. Einstein's E=mc� is brought in to give us the idea that matter itself is a form of energy, yet strangely this sits side by side with the old Newtonian concepts of kinetic and potential energy, while no one comments on how the calculation of such things had to be re-thought and overhauled to conform with relative frames of reference. It would also have been nice to note that, in E=mc�, the transformation is solely the acts of absorption/emission between matter and the energy of electromagnetic radiation. But then, even when some combinations don't sit too well with each other, this buffet has a bit of everything on offer.

Amy Mainzer:
"Power is equal to energy per unit time."

The next segment focuses on the various forms of energy and energy transformations involving stars, like our own sun. Topics include solar flares and charged particles as well as most of the common big changes that can occur during a star's life cycle. Curiously though, the segment begins with Amy Mainzer's demo of an electric sportscar, which is only cleanly sun-related when your house is also powered by solar panels. Those of us still on an electricity grid powered by coal or dirty nuclear fission might still be putting much pressure on the environment with an electric car.

And the "Ask the Universe" question for this episode is... "How can we harness energy from neutrinos emitted by the sun?"
- Alan K., Chicago, Illinois

The discussion naturally eases itself from stars and supernovae to supermassive black holes at the center of galaxies and some of the even higher energy transformations occurring there, including some far-fetched concepts for harnessing that energy. Some of the episode's most startling imagery is featured at this point. Much time is then spent on discussing the resulting cosmic rays, and their possible impacts on our technology.

The fascinating section on the Earth's geothermal energy and how we harness it nicely expands into a discussion of similar energies on the giant planets of our solar system and on Jupiter's moon Io. Winds on these planets and on Earth are also explained and discussed.

Finally the enigma of proposed dark energy gets its moment in the spotlight. Though this subject has been tackled before on "The Universe", and even got its own episode, the presentation here is actually the clearest, most watertight explanation of what it is, why we think it is there, and how it deeply affects the fundamental cosmology of our entire universe. Laura Danly is really on form in this segment. Very much worth checking out.

Overall, this is one of the better episodes of the fourth season, one which tackles a fascinating subject and draws some classic moments out of the regular scientists and onto film.

Participants include:

Travis S. Taylor


Holly Gilbert

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Amy Mainzer

NASA / Jet Propulsion Laboratories

Alex Filippenko

Astronomer, supernova hunter
University of California, Berkeley

regular science consultant to
"The Universe" series.

Clifford Johnson

University of Southern California

Laura Danly

Curator of the
Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles

from the disc sleeve:

Extreme Energy:
Ours is a universe of energy, from powerful jets ejected from black holes to the raw nuclear fury of the Sun. But the total amount of energy in the universe maintains perfect equilibrium; no more can be added or taken away. Because of this, there are enormous amounts of energy, from electric to thermal to kinetic, being transferred and creating awesome cosmic events and stellar displays.

Chapter List:

  1. Introduction
  2. Transformers
  3. Solar Power
  4. Supermassive Black Holes
  5. Geothermal Energy
  6. Dark Energy

Rankings for "The Universe" Season Four:

Favourite Episodes:

  1. Pulsars & Quasars (awesome, freaky, a tour de force)
  2. The Search for Cosmic Clusters (very unique, a definite must-see)
  3. The Hunt for Ringed Planets

  4. Liquid Universe
  5. Extreme Energy
    • Bonus Feature: Meteors
    • Bonus Feature: Comets

  6. The Day the Moon Was Gone (despite overhyping, it's got
    a good premise and structure, and strong interviews.
    Theia not named once)
  7. It Fell From Space (mix of great and -yawn-, a bit overhyped)

  8. Science Fiction, Science Fact (a decent commentary,
    but a tad too nearsighted to be quite so authoritative)
  9. Death Stars (negatively hyped ad nauseum)
  10. Biggest Blasts (exhausting, of intermittent interest,
    Theia named well)

  11. 10 Ways to Destroy the Earth (pointless & silly)
  12. Space Wars (mostly brainless, and unwise)

Best Writers / Directors / Etc...

  • Darryl Rehr (w/d - Pulsars & Quasars,
    The Search for Cosmic Clusters)
  • Frank Kosa (writer/producer - The Hunt for Ringed Planets)
  • Douglas J. Cohen (director - The Hunt for Ringed Planets)
  • Savas Georgalis (writer/producer - Liquid Universe)
  • Laura Verklan Armstrong (w/d - Extreme Energy,
    It Fell From Space)
  • Adrian Maher (writer/producer - The Day the Moon was Gone)

  • Louis C. Tarantino (director - Liquid Universe,
    10 Ways to Destroy the Earth)
  • Colin Campbell (w/d - Science Fiction/Fact)
  • Jim Hense (w/d - Death Stars)
  • Rob Beemer (director - The Day the Moon was Gone,
    w/d - Biggest Blasts, Space Wars)
  • Samuel K. Dolan (writer/producer - Space Wars)

Of all the seasons of "The Universe", this is the one that displays the widest range between good and bad episodes.
Excellent episodes from this season such as the ones by Darryl Rehr are among the very best that the show ever produced. But when this season's stinkers fixate on overhyping destruction, it can test your endurance. So you may want to pick your way around and spend more time on just the good bits, because this season is still well worth it for the good stuff.

Season Four with "Extreme Energy" 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 4 Box Set
12 episodes



Blu-ray U.S.

Blu-ray Canada

Blu-ray U.K.

DVD Bonus Features include:

  • Featurette: Meteors - Fire in the Sky (9 min.)
    • Segment 1 - Martian Life: ALH 84001
    • Segment 2 - Martian Life: Panspermia
    • Segment 3 - The Impact of Shoemaker-Levy 9 on Jupiter, interviewing two of its three discoverers Carolyn Shoemaker and David Levy.
  • Featurette: Comets - Prophets of Doom (3 min.)

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Read the data capsule review for the next episode: "7 Wonders of the Solar System"

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