The University of Arizona and the UA Mount Lemmon SkyCenter are featured in this week's first episode of the six-part science series "Genius by Stephen Hawking."
In each of the six episodes, Hawking, a theoretical physicist, presents three people with a series of physical and mental challenges to show them how to think like a genius.
Through the use of large-scale experiments and demonstrations, the program decodes the mysteries of evolutionary biology, astrophysics and quantum mechanics.
"Genius" will air on PBS in the United States on Wednesdays, from May 18 through June 1 and internationally on the National Geographic Channel. The first two episodes will air locally on PBS 6 from 9-11 p.m. MT on May 18.
The first episode, filmed at the UA and the UA's Mount Lemmon SkyCenter, asks whether time travel is possible and explores how time is warped by the extreme gravitational pull around black holes.
Last January on a chilly afternoon, a sense of mystery surrounded the sudden appearance of an enormous black sphere resting on the UA Mall. The air-filled orb shifted slightly in the breeze despite being anchored by four sandbags. Meanwhile, eight white clocks stood nearby. The sphere represented a black hole, the invisible kind found far from Earth.
How did the UA Mall come to merit a black hole — or, more precisely, a representation of one?
"You've got all these mountains nearby," says Jane Sayers, the episode's director.
"So, we thought Tucson. Then it was a question of where we were going to set all these challenges, and the University of Arizona seemed like a real obvious place to try and do it," Sayers says. "And to be able to use the Mall, this fantastic space, and have all the students everywhere, and get that sense of spectacle, has been brilliant."
"Genius" is narrated by Hawking and was commissioned by PBS and National Geographic. The series is produced by London-based Bigger Bang.