Humanity is under threat - from storms that seem to get ever fiercer, earthquakes that seem ever more deadly, and killer viruses that are engulfing the globe. Some scientists think it's time for us to fight back. Can we - should we -hack the planet?
In this episode of NOVA scienceNOW, journey back in time to the birth of our solar system to examine whether the key to our planet's existence might have been the explosive shockwave of an ancient supernova. Meet a chemist who has yielded a new kind of "recipe" for natural processes to assemble and create the building blocks of life. And see how the head louse, a creepy critter that's been sucking our blood for millions of years, is offering clues about our evolution. Finally, meet neuroscientist André Fenton, who is looking into erasing painful memories with an injection.
Antarctica is the last great wilderness. It's the coldest, windiest, driest and most isolated place on Earth. And every winter, for over three months of the year, the sun never rises. But it's also home to the British Antarctic Survey's Halley Research Station. A veteran of living and working at Halley in the early eighties, BBC weatherman Peter Gibbs makes an emotional return to the place he once called home. A place that, during his time, was key to the discovery of the ozone hole. The journey starts with an arduous 12-day, 3000-mile voyage onboard the RRS Ernest Shackleton. Once on the ice shelf, Peter is delighted to finally arrive at the futuristic research station and marvels at the cutting edge science being done at Halley today. From vital discoveries about how our lives are vulnerable to the sun's activities, to studying interplanetary travel and the threat of man-made climate change. But Peter's journey is also something of a rescue mission. The research station's home is a floating ice shelf that constantly moves and cracks, and the ice shelf has developed a chasm that could cast Halley adrift on a massive iceberg.
Dr Alice Roberts asks one of the great questions about our species: are we still evolving? There's no doubt that we're a product of millions of years of evolution. But thanks to modern technology and medicine, did we escape Darwin's law of the survival of the fittest? Alice follows a trail of clues from ancient human bones to studies of remarkable people living in the most inhospitable parts of the planet and the frontiers of genetic research, to discover if we are still evolving - and where we might be heading.
In a powerful conclusion, Brian pieces together this story of creation that started with what Einstein called the 'happiest thought of his life' - the moment that he realised that gravity was far stranger than anyone had imagined. In an incredible experiment inside the largest vacuum chamber, Brian reveals how Einstein formulated a new theory of gravity, which ultimately took us back to the big bang. And how in doing so, we humans found our true place in space and time.