If you're going to do a television series about the deepest concepts of the universe -- time travel, aliens, the future of mankind -- it makes sense to turn to the smartest man in the universe for help.
That's what the Discovery Channel did with "Into the Universe with Stephen Hawking
," a four-part special series that debuts Sunday at 9 p.m. EST.
And even though the 68-year-old British theoretical physicist is Brainiac #1 on our planet, he went into this project with the idea of making some very highbrow ideas accessible to as broad an audience as possible.
Consider the opening episode, "Aliens," a warm-up. Hawking delves into the concept of life on other planets, how feasible it might be (very), and what it might be like (who knows?).
Keep reading to find out more about Hawking's thoughts on aliens and time travel.
There are no epiphanies in "Aliens." But Hawking presents a bongful of theories -- maybe there are beings living at the center of stars, or entities made of gas dwelling in the cosmic dust -- and concludes, "'Star Trek' and 'Star Wars' may be closer to reality than we think."
The series kicks into gear in episode two, "Time Travel."
"If I had a time machine," Hawking proclaims, "my first stop would be to visit Marilyn Monroe in her prime ... or Galileo."
From that launchpad, Hawking explores the topic of time travel in a pleasantly mind-numbing whirl of concepts, facts and maybes.
He explains that wormholes
, portals that theoretically make time travel of some sort possible, "are all around us ... and actually link two different places and two different times" -- but they're tiny. Nothing, it seems, is actually flat or even solid. A pool ball, for instance, feels ultra-smooth, but at the quantum level, it's covered with tiny crevices, wrinkles and voids. It's in that quantum firmament that wormholes exist.
We won't reveal Hawking's ultimate pronouncements on the feasibility of time travel, but we will succumb to the urge to say, Holy crap, we were right!
Overall, "Into the Universe" is a visual treat. Chocolate-drop landscapes dripping with Nickelodeon-style slime and inhabited by video game aliens pop from the screen in a mushroom-trippy Day-Glo palette.
Our only complaint with "Into the Universe" is it's just too short. The topic seems a bit advanced to cover in four parts -- the first two that we've covered here, which both debut Sunday, and a two-hour wrap-up titled "The Life and Death of The Universe."
As Hawking himself says in the first few minutes of "Aliens..."
"The universe is big -- really big ... so big some days I find it hard to comprehend."
If he can't, we can't. Might as well just relax and enjoy the show.