'Endless Horizon' an amusing historical narrative

By Michael Eilers

Arizona Daily Wildcat

With its stained-glass windows, high-domed ceiling, and collection of strange artifacts, the Flandrau Science Center is the campus' temple of science, a shrine to astronomy and all things scientific. If the planetarium is a chapel, the new show "The Endless Horizon" is the sermon, providing a worshipful view of science as the key to man's salvation.

While ignoring three-quarters of global history, the show focuses narrowly on the phenomenon of Western exploration by such historical figures as Vasco DeGama, Magellan, and the inevitable Christopher Columbus. Also celebrated are mathematicians and astronomers, including Copernicus, Galileo and Isaac Newton.

Narrated by the dour and dramatic-sounding Patrick Stewart (Star Trek: Generations), the show rumbles through 3,000 years of Western history in a scant 45 minutes, giving the Roman Empire brief mention and the venerable Charles Darwin a bit part.

Starting with what is assumed to be the first human question, "why?" and dashing on to culminate in the launching of the Voyager space probe, science and the human desire for conquest are celebrated as the primary reasons for, and purpose of, human development.

Calling mythological interpretations of the universe "primitive," the show sets about marking the progress of human intellect as a march away from silly religious beliefs toward the cold, hard facts of science. Obscure mathematicians and tinkerers are re-cast as global heroes, single-handedly responsible for our evolution as a species. Non-Western cultures are rarely acknowledged, referred to obliquely as "islanders," possessing "fierce customs."

It's more amusing than disturbing to find the show so culturally narrow. Perhaps "Endless Horizon" is just playing to its expected audience, presumably a homogeneous group of science enthusiasts. Political incorrectness aside, the show does present a remarkable synthesis of science, history, and nifty visual effects and the sum of human history in under an hour.

"The Endless Horizon" is showing at the Flandrau Planetarium Science Center through May 31. Call 621-STAR for prices and showtimes.

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