James Burke on the tubes
June 11, 2007 12:29 AM   Subscribe

James Burke does Youtube. A very conscientious fan has begun creating a wonderful collection of two of James Burke's shows on youtube. There are many episodes up and more to come of both Connections and The Day The Universe Changed. Catch them while you can.
posted by YoBananaBoy (45 comments total) 55 users marked this as a favorite
Connections was amazing. A real edge-of-your seat documentry.
posted by oh pollo! at 1:14 AM on June 11, 2007

James B. rulez!

Compared to all that Discovery and History Channel crap this guy really can explain things and make connections.

It is a shame that there is only one James Burke ... and one Adam Curtis and one Richard Attenbourogh and one Jacques Cousteau ...

Go and suck some pure Burke [torrents] here and here.
posted by homodigitalis at 1:48 AM on June 11, 2007 [2 favorites]

The day TLC stopped airing old repeats of Connections was the day TLC died. To think they used to show Friday night marathons of the good stuff back when I was a kid. I would've stayed up all night watching The Day The Universe Changed and then watched them again when they would repeat the run before the children's programming at 6am.

And now they show tattoo parlour reality shows and god knows what else. To think that I thought A Wedding Story was as bad as it got. Kick in the face to whoever made the fateful decision to sail TLC into the maelstrom of reality television.
posted by chrominance at 2:08 AM on June 11, 2007

I think I got taken to the cleaners for something on the order of $300 for the first season of Connections on DVD, a couple of years ago.

So I suspect these videos won't be on youtube long :-/
posted by -harlequin- at 2:15 AM on June 11, 2007

These programmes were crucial to my understanding of, well, everything and my intellectual development as a child. Had the books for the shows as well. A while back I saw some low budget, more recent version of 'Connections' (Connections '3') or something and shuddered when I realised that you do need some decent production values to be taken seriously today. I wonder if the fact these are not on DVD has something to do with rights issues and the copyright goons? Much like 'Eyes on the Prize'?
posted by The Salaryman at 2:28 AM on June 11, 2007

The three Connections series are avalible on DVD
posted by -harlequin- at 2:56 AM on June 11, 2007

Oh, this is wonderful! I've been wanting to introduce my daughter to Connections. Thanks YoBananaBoy.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 3:28 AM on June 11, 2007

In case you missed it, here's a review of the Connections videogame.
posted by Smart Dalek at 3:46 AM on June 11, 2007

Definitely a candidate for most intelligent television ever. Besides, Burke's leisure suits from the early years are awesome.
posted by well_balanced at 4:01 AM on June 11, 2007

"In 1420, we found a new way of painting that helped give us in the modern world the ability to navigate our ships to a precise landfall anywhere on earth - or on another planet."

love it! :)
posted by -harlequin- at 4:05 AM on June 11, 2007

"And later in our program James Burke will demonstrate a fantastic new power source, by sticking a solar cell down the back of his trousers..."
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 4:26 AM on June 11, 2007

Both shows used to be on Clickcaster.com as podcasts as well, but the links aren't working now. Good commute fodder! :)
posted by wehrlebyrd at 5:30 AM on June 11, 2007

A real inspiration for me as well. He brought amazing insight to the way people behave when faced with problems -- always with th understanding that inventions needed to solve problems at hand were usually more earth-shattering than "announced breakthroughs".
posted by boo_radley at 5:39 AM on June 11, 2007

Cheers, Harlequin! Now I wonder when The Day the Universe Changed will be on disc as well.
posted by The Salaryman at 5:52 AM on June 11, 2007

FYI: Simplest Youtube download link generator
posted by jmccw at 6:11 AM on June 11, 2007

This is great - thanks. Our grade 10 history teacher spent a semester just showing us Connections.
posted by magwich at 6:24 AM on June 11, 2007

The last episode of Connections is this all consuming overview of the philosophy of science which should be required watching by all.
posted by destro at 6:34 AM on June 11, 2007

Truly, the Best of the Best.
posted by Goofyy at 6:38 AM on June 11, 2007

Also on bittorrent.
posted by wfrgms at 6:40 AM on June 11, 2007

The Day the Universe Changed is one of the great bits of television, ever.

James Burke proves 1 + 1 = 3, and then he blows your mind!
posted by Chuckles at 7:15 AM on June 11, 2007

Oh my! Let me add my name to the list of folks whose understanding of history was completely altered by being exposed to Connections in my youth. Discovery Europe used to show amazing documentary series after I got home from school to about dinner time and I would camp out in front of the TV and soak it all in. So many of my intellectual loves stem from that block of programming. James Burke had a pretty great column in the back of Scientific American for some years.
posted by Kattullus at 7:31 AM on June 11, 2007

Thanks everyone - I really appreciate the kind words.
posted by taliaferro at 7:36 AM on June 11, 2007

!! I for one welcome James Burke to metafilter.
posted by acro at 7:39 AM on June 11, 2007

When I was working on my documentary about Bulletin Board Systems, I spent some time in pre-production asking friends and associates what kind of film they thought it should be or how it should be presented. One of my friends simply said "Make it like Connections". I hadn't seen Connections and asked what it was like, and he said "Go watch Connections and make it like that."

I tracked down a place where I could buy copies of the show on DVD for $100, and bought it. My two reactions were that it was totally fantastic, and that there was no way I could possibly do my film that way.

But out of that came my introduction to Connections, and that made it all worth it. Great, great stuff. And the DVDs I bought had performance rights attached! I can enlighten people to it forever! Come on by!
posted by jscott at 7:48 AM on June 11, 2007

I also don't write crime fiction about a Louisiana PI named Dave Robicheaux...sorry acro.
posted by taliaferro at 7:51 AM on June 11, 2007

Thanks for all the links everybody.
Burke gives careful attention to the role of accident in human history. In his opening pages, for instance, he writes of the invention of uniform coinage, an invention that hinged on some unknown Anatolian prospector's discovering that a fleck of gold rubbed against a piece of schist--a "touchstone"--would leave a mark indicating its quality. Just so, we owe the invention of modern printing to Johann Gutenberg's training as a goldsmith, for his knowledge of the properties of metals enabled him to develop a press whose letterforms would not easily wear down. With Gutenberg's invention, Burke notes, came a massive revolution in the European economy, for, as he writes, "the easier it is to communicate, the faster change happens." Amazon Audiobook Paperback
posted by acro at 7:53 AM on June 11, 2007

These two series changed my life in ways I can barely describe.

...and so, for the first time ever, I feel really really bad about ripping a video. Which sucks, because I really really really want to have these.

Well, I guess it gives me a gift I can ask for come Christmas!
posted by aramaic at 8:09 AM on June 11, 2007

Just on the strength of memories watching Universe in the mid-80s I spent $100++ for Connections 1 a couple of years back. Earlier this year I was very happy to see that netflix has Connections 2 & 3 (but not 1, oddly). . .

Funny story: taking my History of Technology class at college, the prof had this question in the intro lecture: "What technological development was the most significant?" Thanks to Burke I had watched the year before on PBS, I answered, "The steam engine." He then asked me which one. And again, thanks to Burke, I replied, "Watt's improved engine."
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 9:05 AM on June 11, 2007

posted by Chuckles at 9:19 AM on June 11, 2007

I learned more from these shows than from 12 years of public schooling. Thanks.
posted by tkchrist at 9:37 AM on June 11, 2007

Connections and Universe are among the all-time greats. If you haven't seen them, you truly have missed something special.

Thanks for the post!
posted by JWright at 10:43 AM on June 11, 2007

Huzzah! Let's see how long this stays up, though.

I grew up in the proverbially "bad home" and James Burke effectively became my babysitter. (Weekend marathons w00t!) So I owe a lot of my mental development and education to the fellow.

My favorite episode has to be the one that connected the Black Death to higher literacy, with the quinine episode running a close second.

PS. Why did TLC change their entire programming focus? As interesting as Alaskan crab fishing and the science of ninjas may be, I miss the old shows.
posted by ntartifex at 11:21 AM on June 11, 2007

All the nerds got broadband.
posted by acro at 11:25 AM on June 11, 2007

Oh my god, this is great. I have gone through the first season of Connections this winter and while I feel that the second season (much later, shorter episodes) pales by comparison, the whole thing has just made me into a huge fan. Thanks for this post.
posted by jessamyn at 12:07 PM on June 11, 2007

James Burke was responsible for me not closing my mind to history. He presents it in a way that is palatable and works with my logical mind. When I was teaching, I used sections of it for backdrop in a technology course.

Interestingly enough, Burke does not have a huge science background. He was primarily a Latin scholar, but like so many of the accidental boons in his series, someone thought he was right for the job. It also shows what a well-educated mind can do.

He was a keynote speaker at a PBS fundraiser in San Jose in the 90's. When the opportunity came up to attend, I was quite happy to hand the cash over to get tickets. Way better than a tote bag.
posted by plinth at 1:06 PM on June 11, 2007

I am oh so glad that my afternoon at work is slow. This is one of my all-time favorite shows.
posted by smich at 1:23 PM on June 11, 2007

Some of the connections are kinda reaching... "Chester Hoonhorn's invention was also used in France during the 16th century, and at the same time Joe Foonboon was working next door in Germany on something completely different..." And I think, if I may draw what may be an unnecessary dichotomy, that Cosmos has had more influence on me. But Burke's shows are still some of my favorites. I still dream of his drawings in chalk on barrel-bottoms to illustrate Kepler's laws.
posted by jiawen at 2:04 PM on June 11, 2007

Weren't these shows made by the BBC using taxpayer money? If so, they should be available online for free anyhow - at the very least, to people in the United Kingdom.
posted by sindark at 2:14 PM on June 11, 2007

It is a shame that there is only one James Burke ... and one Adam Curtis and one Richard Attenbourogh and one Jacques Cousteau ...

I think you mean David Attenborough.
posted by darksasami at 2:24 PM on June 11, 2007

tinyurl for the playlist page.
posted by acro at 3:58 PM on June 11, 2007

Has anyone else tried the James Burke Institute's Knowledge Web? I've bookmarked it for now, figuring I'll come back to it on a rainy day.
posted by pax digita at 4:00 PM on June 11, 2007

List of directors
posted by acro at 5:13 PM on June 11, 2007

Thank you for posting this.

Now if only The Ascent of Man was available online.
posted by munchingzombie at 7:30 PM on June 11, 2007

I'll be honest, I had never heard of this man or seen his programs. Now I am completely hooked, and I cannot stop watching. He seems like such a scientific badass! I mean, going up in a hot air balloon apparently by one's self?? Crazy.

Thank you so much for this post.
posted by lazaruslong at 3:06 PM on June 12, 2007

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