TIME Recommends: The Fabric of the Cosmos

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Courtesy of WGBH

Physicist and acclaimed author Brian Greene in a scene from “The Fabric of the Cosmos”

You’d think Brian Greene already had plenty to keep him busy, what with his day job as a professor of theoretical physics at Columbia University and his hobby of writing bestselling science books on the side. But you’d be wrong: Greene also co-wrote and starred in NOVA’s award-winning 2003 series The Elegant Universe, based on his first book. He’s done it again. The Fabric of the Cosmos, now available on DVD, brings the boyish and only slightly nerdy Greene back to the screen to explain how the real universe, as understood by modern physics, is nothing like the world we encounter in our everyday lives. This worthy heir to the geeky throne of Carl Sagan tells you how empty space, stretches and squeezes and vibrates; subatomic particles teleport themselves like characters on Star Trek; ours may be just one of many universes; and time itself could be a sort of cosmic parlor trick.

There’s more, but just listing the crazy ides in Fabric hardly does justice to the journey Greene takes you on, zipping his way through a video landscape of computer-generated imagery that (usually) makes a minefield of brain-bursting concepts feel like a stroll through a country meadow — albeit a very strange one. My favorite scene: the quantum pool table, where balls are never where you think and every shot is a surprise. This being PBS, Fabric will doubtless return someday. But why wait? Treat yourself now, and let Brian Greene show why physics is a lot cooler than you ever imagined.

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