________________ CM . . . . Volume VIII Number 15 . . . . March 29, 2002

cover The Cosmic Link.

Catherine Fol (Director). ric Michel (Producer).
Montreal, PQ: National Film Board of Canada, 2001.
51 min., 45 sec., VHS, $39.95.

Subject Headings:

Grades 11 and up / Ages 16 and up.

Review by Joanne Peters.

*** /4

The Cosmic Link begins with a view now familiar to those of us who have seen humans orbit the Earth and walk on the Moon: a view of our planet from space. Almost immediately, the perspective returns to earth, and we see herds of wild animals cross the African plains that are said to be amongst humankind's earliest home. The question is posed, "What do we know of our presence on Earth?" For a long time, the two commonly accepted answers have been those accepted by science - the doctrine of evolution - and those of faith, the doctrine of Biblical creation by a divine spark. However, this film suggests another possibility: the answer lies in nature, not just on this earth, but in the solar system. Given that all life on earth shares some of the same genetic code, and that the elements and organic compounds which are the substance of life -- hydrogen, water, nitrogen -- exist elsewhere in the cosmos, is it not possible that life on earth may have originated from a kind of organic cosmic dust? Did it form on earth, or elsewhere? And if it formed elsewhere, is it possible that life really does exist in other parts of the solar system, or in other solar systems?

     These are fundamental questions, philosophical, as well as scientific, and the video explores the possibilities through interviews with scientists from various disciplines, by presenting currently known facts about what constitutes a living/non-living organism, examining the branches of the tree of the species, and by posing or challenging a variety of theories. In the end, we are left still wondering about life in other solar systems: What form might it take? What directions has it taken? What is our cosmic link with it?

     The Cosmic Link is a beautifully-photographed, highly polished production. It certainly would be a useful supplementary resource for senior high biology classes, although its cross-disciplinary nature makes it challenging for some viewers. One really needs to have a solid general science background in order to completely assimilate all of the concepts presented. As well, in its attempts to link together so many scientific disciplines - biology, astronomy, paleontology, biochemistry - sometimes too much is presented. A possible instructional strategy would be for teachers to preview the film and then show it in segments, with recap/recall activities to help bring it together for students.

     One more caution: communities in which discussion of evolutionary theory is challenged might not be open to the premise of the video. Preview before purchase, and get a second opinion from the science teachers in your school.


Joanne Peters is a teacher-librarian at Kelvin High School in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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ISSN 1201-9364