Deep Freeze

The Universe
Season 6
14 episodes
See below for purchasing options
DVD & Blu-ray
"The Universe" episode no. 75 (DVD season 6)
  • written and directed by Colin Campbell
  • supervising writer Gabriel Rotello
  • edited by Kevin Browne
  • science consultant Alex Filippenko

  • narrated by Erik Thompson
  • Music by Eric Amdahl; Extreme Music Library Ltd.
  • Flight 33 Productions, (c) 2011/2012 A & E TV Networks
  • 1 documentary @ 44 minutes

Data Capsule Review

by Martin Izsak


This is a fairly good and entertaining episode of the sixth season, although perhaps it spent a little too much time with re-run topics instead of the specific depths that can make this show great.


Segment 1 begins by reminding us how much the early universe had to cool down just for matter to form. Much of the rest of the segment is taken up by touring the coldest places in the solar system, from Antarctica, to the eternally dark polar craters of our moon and Mercury, to the many worlds orbiting our outer gas giants. Europa and Enceladus get their usual expanded coverage, which is solidly good, but nothing that hasn't been covered in previous episodes. Kevin Grazier attempts to demonstrate how scientists identify geological activity on a world by using a Zamboni machine on a hockey rink, yet he seems to make the surface rougher instead of smoother, thus contradicting what he is saying. Oops. Perhaps he should have let a more experienced operator get onto the Zamboni.

Split between segments 1 and 2 is a bit about the launch of the New Horizon spacecraft heading for Pluto. Much is made of the fact that NASA would like to send it on to a second target, yet is asking for the public's help to sort through hundreds of images to first discover and select such an object from all the numerous Kuiper Belt possibilities.

Much more fascinating is the thoroughly unique section devoted to the recently discovered dwarf planet Sedna, with Alex Filippenko going into detail concerning its orbit and probable theories of its origins. Many different kinds of ice are then discussed, as is the concept of ice going directly into a gas as it heats up. Episode 53 - Liquid Universe makes a great companion documentary for investigating this phenomenon.

The third segment labeled "Icy Exoplanets" really only talks about one specific world, called "OGLE-2005-BLG-390L b". At about five times the size of Earth, it was one of the smallest of the 700 extrasolar planets discovered as of 2012, and theorized to be very cold. Much of the rest of the segment discusses rogue planets outside of any solar system, suggesting that we've found enough of them to believe they're twice as common in our galaxy as stars. (Are they including brown dwarfs in their count?). Earth is also discussed, both in terms of the ice ages we've already experienced, and which parts of our ecosystem might possibly survive should our home planet "go rogue".

Segment four continues to tour the coldest places in the universe, which include a Y-class brown dwarf at only 80 degrees Fahrenheit (for comparison our sun is around 10 000 degrees Fahrenheit), the shadow cloud Barnard 68, the bow-tie shaped Boomerang Nebula (5000 LY away) which, at 1 degree Kelvin or -458 degrees Fahrenheit, is thought to be the coldest known natural place in the universe. But in laboratories here on Earth, we have artificially topped that, creating temperatures of something like one half of a nano-Kelvin, at which point atoms exhibit "entrainment" behaviour turning into some very unusual forms of matter.

Participants include:

Kevin P. Grazier

Planetary Scientist
NASA / Jet Propulsion Laboratories

Pamela L. Gay

Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville

Alex Filippenko

Astronomer, supernova hunter
University of California, Berkeley

regular science consultant to
"The Universe" series.

Laura Danly

Curator of the
Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles

Lucianne Walkowicz

Princeton University



And the "Ask the Universe" question for this episode is:
"What's colder, a comet or an asteroid?"
-Travis S., Cedar Rapids, IA


Chapter List:

  • Coldest Corners
  • New Horizons Mission
  • Icy Exoplanets
  • More Frigid Places
  • Ultimate Deep Freeze


The final segment bookends the opening's big bang with the concept of the entire universe slowly winding down to a deep freeze. The point is made that the relatively recent discovery of dark energy and its expansive properties are critical to this theory, and since this force isn't truly understood yet, we don't know if it will change or reverse, inducing a heat death or, my own favourite theory, a regular cyclical big bang.

I'm left with an unfortunate confusion about the information presented here. If temperature is really a measure of the rate of vibration of molecules and atoms, and absolute zero (0 degrees Kelvin = -273.15 degrees Celcius = -459.67 degrees Fahrenheit) indicates the temperature at which molecules and atoms exhibit no movement whatsoever... then how can the empty vacuum of space have any temperature at all other than absolute zero? Yet the episode claims that space has a temperature of a few degrees Kelvin, and the Boomerang Nebula is colder. How does that work? Were they averaging the temperature of the entire universe, and using that average to represent space itself?


Overall, not a bad episode, but I think I'd prefer if they'd really go a little deeper to cover each topic better, and try not to cover too many subjects in one episode, especially when half of them have been done in previous episodes already.







This documentary has become available on DVD and Blu-ray as part of the season six box sets.
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The Universe
Season 6 Box Set
14 episodes
U.S.

Canada

U.K.

Blu-ray U.S.

Blu-ray Canada

Blu-ray U.K.


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Cross over to the series "How the Universe Works" for the episode: "[Extreme] Planets"



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