Horizon plunges down the biggest rabbit-hole in history in search of the smallest thing in the Universe. It is a journey where things don't just become smaller but also a whole lot weirder. Scientists hope to catch a glimpse of miniature black holes, multiple dimensions and even parallel Universes.
As the Pope ends his visit to Britain, historian Dr Thomas Dixon delves into the BBC's archive to explore the troubled relationship between religion and science. From the creationists of America to the physicists of the Large Hadron Collider, he traces the expansion of scientific knowledge and asks whether there is still room for God in the modern world.
New planets are now being discovered outside our solar system on a regular basis, and these strange new worlds are forcing scientists to rewrite the history of our own solar system. Far from a simple story of stable orbits, the creation of our solar system is a tale of hellfire, chaos and planetary pinball. It's a miracle our Earth is here at all.
Horizon travels to the South Pole to tell the inside story of the greatest scientific quest of our time. In March 2014, a team of astronomers stunned the scientific world when they announced that their BICEP2 telescope at the South Pole had possibly detected a signal of “gravitational waves” from the early universe. This is the inside story of the hunt for gravitational waves from the beginning of time.
Scientists genuinely don't know what most of our universe is made of. The atoms we're made from only make up four per cent. The rest is dark matter and dark energy (for 'dark', read 'don't know'). The Large Hadron Collider at CERN has been upgraded. When it's switched on in March 2015, its collisions will have twice the energy they did before. The hope is that scientists will discover the identity of dark matter in the debris. The stakes are high - because if dark matter fails to show itself, it might mean that physics itself needs a rethink.
How bad can our drinking pattern be for our health? Doctors and genetically identical twins Chris and Xand van Tulleken want to find out. With the current drinking guidelines under review, the twins embark on self-experimentation to see the effects of different drinking patterns on their health. With Chris drinking 21 units spread evenly across the week and Xand having his 21 in single weekly binges, how will their bodies differ after a month? Catching up with the latest research into alcohol drinking patterns, we ask if moderate drinking is genuinely good for us - and whether binge drinking is really that bad.
In 2014, the International Space Station had to move three times to avoid lethal chunks of space debris and there is an increasing problem of satellites mysteriously breaking down. With first-hand accounts from astronauts and experts, Horizon reveals the scale of the problem of space junk. Our planet is surrounded by hundreds of millions of pieces of junk moving at 17,000 miles per hour. Now the US government is investing a billion dollars to track them, and companies around the world are developing ways to clear up their mess - from robot arms to nets and harpoons. Horizon investigates the science behind the hit film Gravity and discovers the reality is far more worrying than the Hollywood fiction.
2015 • Astronomy
Michael Mosley puts himself through a battery of health tests available to people who feel perfectly well. From an expensive heart scan to a new national screening procedure to detect the earliest signs of bowel cancer, Mosley sets out to discover which if any of the tests are worth doing.
2015 • Health
Most of us think that Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is just over fussy tidying. But it's actually much more serious. Sophie has to check that she hasn't killed people, looking for dead bodies wherever she goes, Richard is terrified of touching the bin, and Nanda is about to have pioneering brain surgery to stop her worrying about components on her body - that her eyebrow might not be aligned or that she has bad breath. Professor Uta Frith meets the people living with OCD, looks at the therapy available and asks what neuroscience can offer by way of a cure.
2015 • Brain
Imagine a world where dinosaurs still walk the earth. A world where the Germans won World War II and you are president of the United States. Imagine a world where the laws of physics no longer apply and where infinite copies of you are playing out every storyline of your life. It sounds like a plot stolen straight from Hollywood, but far from it. This is the multiverse. Until very recently the whole idea of the multiverse was dismissed as a fantasy, but now this strangest of ideas is at the cutting edge of science. And for a growing number of scientists, the multiverse is the only way we will ever truly make sense of the world we are in. Horizon asks the question: Do multiple universes exist? And if so, which one are we actually in?
2015 • Astronomy
Forget the big bang. The real moment of creation was the Cosmic Dawn - the moment of first light. This is the scientific version of the story of Genesis. The big bang gets all the credit for creating our universe. But in fact, the universe it gave was dark and boring. There were no stars, no galaxies, just a vast, black fog of gas - the cosmic dark ages. But, after a hundred million years of nothing, came a dramatic moment of transformation - the Cosmic Dawn. It's the moment the first stars were born, the moment that lit up the Universe, and made the first structure and the first ingredients of life. This was the real moment of creation. Astronomers are now trying to witness the cosmic dawn. For the first time they have the tools to explore the very first stars of the universe and to tell the scientific story of our creation.
2015 • Astronomy
The video game industry is a global phenomenon. There are over 1.2 billion gamers across the planet, with sales projected soon to pass $100 billion per year. But their very popularity fuels the controversy that surrounds them. They frequently stand accused of corrupting the young - of causing violence and addiction. But is this true? Horizon reveals a scientific community deeply divided. Some are convinced that video games incite aggression. Others insist they have no effect whatsoever on real-world violence. But away from the controversy, there is a growing body of evidence that suggests video games may help keep the brain sharp, and could soon revolutionise how we combat mental decline as we age.
2015 • Lifehack
Could you have come up with Einstein's theory of relativity? If not - why not? This is what Marcus du Sautoy, professor of mathematics, wants to explore. Marcus readily admits that he is no genius, but wants to know if geniuses are just an extreme version of himself - or whether their brains are fundamentally different.
2010 • Brain
On the 15th Dec 2015, Tim Peake will launch into space to be Britain's first astronaut on board the International Space Station. For the past two years, Tim has been filming a video diary for Horizon showing the risks, pressures and rigorous training required to launch into space. Horizon also talks exclusively to his wife and two children as they prepare to wave him goodbye on his voyage to space. From training in the Soyuz capsule, centrifuges, space station mockups, virtual reality and a huge pool to replicate spacewalks, to dealing with the physical dangers of weightlessness, witnessing his first launch and spending time away from his wife Rebecca and his two sons, this is an intimate portrait and remarkable insight into the world of an astronaut.
2015 • Astronomy
The story of how one Russian internet millionaire is turning to cutting-edge science to try to unlock the secret of living forever. Dmitry Itskov recently brought together some of the world's leading neuroscientists, robot builders and consciousness researchers to try to devise a system that would allow him to escape his biological destiny. Entering Dmitry's seemingly sci-fi world, Horizon investigates the real science inspiring his bold plan to upload the human mind to a computer. There are doubters - like the major neuroscientist who tells us 'it's too stupid, it simply cannot be done'. But as we also meet the Japanese maker of Erica, one of the world's most human-like robots, who tells us the destiny of humans is to become robots to overcome the constraints of time, see how a quadriplegic Californian man is already controlling a robot arm with his thoughts, and explore the groundbreaking work of the scientist behind the world's largest neuroscience project - the $6 billion US Brain Initiative - who tells us the effort to map all the activity of the brain could be a crucial step towards mind uploading, Horizon asks is it really so crazy to think Dmitry Itskov could succeed in his goal of bringing about immortality for all of us within 30 years?
2016 • Health
The story of an extraordinary scientific adventure - the attempt to control gravity. For centuries, the precise workings of gravity have confounded the greatest scientific minds, and the idea of controlling gravity has been seen as little more than a fanciful dream. Yet in the mid 1990s, UK defence manufacturer BAE Systems began a groundbreaking project code-named Greenglow, which set about turning science fiction into reality. On the other side of the Atlantic, Nasa was simultaneously running its own Breakthrough Propulsion Physics Project. It was concerned with potential space applications of new physics, including concepts like 'faster-than-light travel' and 'warp drives'. Horizon explores science's long-standing obsession with the idea of gravity control. It looks at recent breakthroughs in the search for loopholes in conventional physics and examines how the groundwork carried out by Project Greenglow has helped change our understanding of the universe.
2016 • Physics
Horizon looks at dark energy - the mysterious force that is unexpectedly causing the universe's expansion to speed up. The effects of dark energy were discovered in 1998 but physicists still don't know what it is. Worse, its very existence calls into question Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity - the cornerstone of modern physics. The hunt for the identity of dark energy is on. Experiments on earth and in space generate data that might provide a clue, but there are also hopes that another Einstein might emerge - someone who can write a new theory explaining the mystery of the dark energy.
2016 • Physics
The oceans define the earth. They are crucial to life and we used to think that they were unique to our blue planet. But we were wrong. It has recently been discovered that there are oceans all over our solar system, and they are very similar to our own. And now scientists are going on an epic journey in search of new life in places that never seemed possible. Nasa is even planning to dive to the depths of a strange, distant ocean in a remarkable submarine. Horizon discovers that the hunt for oceans in space is marking the dawn of a new era in the search for alien life.
2016 • Astronomy
This is the story of how our solar system will be transformed by the aging sun before coming to a spectacular end in about eight billion years. Astronomers can peer into the far future to predict how it will happen by analysing distant galaxies, stars and even planets in their final moments. In this film, Horizon brings these predictions to life in a peaceful midwestern town that has a giant scale model of the solar system spread out all over the city. As it ages, the sun will bloat into a red giant star, swallowing planets... as well as half the town. The fate of the Earth itself hangs in the balance. How will the solar system end?
2016 • Astronomy
Liz Bonnin presents a controversial and provocative episode of Horizon, investigating how new scientific research is raising hard questions about zoos - the film explores how and why zoos keep animals, and whether they need to change to keep up with modern science, or ultimately be consigned to history. Should zoos cull their animals to manage populations? Liz travels to Copenhagen Zoo, who killed a giraffe and fed it to the lions, to witness their culling process first hand. They think it is a natural part of zoo keeping that is often swept under the carpet. Should some animals never be kept in captivity? In a world exclusive, Liz visits SeaWorld in Florida and asks if captivity drove one of their orcas to kill his trainer. But could zoos be the answer to conserving endangered species? Liz examines their record, from helping breed pandas for the wild to efforts to save the rhinos. She meets one of the last surviving northern white rhinos and discovers the future of this species now lies in a multimillion-dollar programme to engineer them for stem cells. Veteran conservation scientist Dr Sarah Bexell tells Liz the science of captive breeding is giving humanity false hope.
2016 • Nature
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.
2016 • Science
Horizon investigates a new era of Alzheimer's research, which is bringing hope to millions of sufferers across the world. New scanning and gene technology is allowing scientists to identify the disease at its earliest stages, often 15 years before symptoms appear and the brain cells are destroyed. A series of new drugs trials in Colombia, the USA and Europe are showing startling success in reducing beta amyloid, the protein which is a hallmark of the disease. It is also becoming clear that changes in lifestyle can prevent the development of the disease. A new system inside the brain has been discovered which clears amyloid when we are in deep sleep, but allows it to accumulate if we don't sleep well. The programme reveals that for sufferers in the early stages of the disease, brain connections, or synapses, can be strengthened and even replaced by absorbing enough of the right nutrients. A UK-wide trail helps sufferers in the early stages to concentrate on improving everyday tasks, and in the process not only make their lives easier, but helps to reactivate the planning and organisational parts of the brain. In an ageing world, where the biggest risk of developing Alzheimer's is old age, the scientific breakthroughs in Alzheimer's disease are bringing hope where once there was despair.
2016 • Health
Michael Mosley investigates the dramatic rise in e-cigarettes. They're everywhere these days, but what does the latest scientific research on them reveal? Michael reveals what e-cigarettes are really doing to your health. Are they really better for you than cigarettes? What is actually in them? Is passive vapour harmful? And can they really stop you from smoking? Michael meets some of the scientists around the world studying them, asks a group of volunteers to try to give up smoking regular cigarettes using them, and even takes up 'vaping' himself, smoking an e-cigarette every day for a month to see the effects on his own health - no easy task for such a committed non-smoker.
2016 • Health
Over 62 per cent of adults in the UK are currently overweight or obese and this figure is set to rise. A common attitude is that obese people should be ashamed - it is their fault, they have no will power and if they could just 'eat less and exercise more', the problem would soon be solved. Yet, despite millions of pounds being spent on this simple message, the UK is getting fatter every year. Cambridge geneticist Dr Giles Yeo believes that for many obese people, simply eating less is a lot harder than you might think - and he is taking a road trip around the UK and America to uncover why. He meets the real people behind some of the more shocking newspaper headlines and, through their stories, reveals surprising truths which dispel commonly held myths about obesity. He gains access to scientists and doctors trialling cutting-edge techniques to tackle the crisis - from a 'miracle' hormone injection to a transfusion of faecal matter, and even learns a thing or two about his own size and relationship with food.
2016 • Health
Liz Bonnin delves in to the world of invention, revealing the people and technologies set to transform all our lives. She examines the conditions that are promising to make the 21st century a golden age of innovation and meets some of the world's foremost visionaries, mavericks and dreamers. From the entrepreneurs that are driving a new space race, to the Nobel Prize wining scientist leading a nanotech revolution, this is a tour of the people and ideas delivering the world of tomorrow, today.
2013 • Technology
Engineer Jem Stansfield looks back through the Horizon archives to find out how scientists have come to understand and manipulate the materials that built the modern world. Whether it's uncovering new materials or finding fresh uses for those we've known about for centuries, each breakthrough offers a tantalising glimpse of the holy grail of materials science - a substance that's cheap to produce and has the potential to change our world. Jem explores how a series of extraordinary advances have done just that - from superconductors to the silicon revolution.
2012 • Physics
With exclusive behind-the-scenes access, Horizon follows the highs and lows of an extraordinary story in particle physics. In June 2015, teams at CERN started running the large hadron collider at the highest energy ever. Rumours quickly emerged that they were on the brink of a huge discovery. A mysterious bump in some data suggested a first glimpse of a brand new particle that could change our understanding of how the universe works. A new particle could hint at extra dimensions and help us understand the very beginning of the universe - but first the team has to find it. Horizon follows the scientists as they hunt for the elusive signals that would prove if there is a new particle or if it is just noise from their machine.
2016 • Physics
The acerbically witty and severely facially disfigured broadcaster Adam Pearson presents a personal film about genetics. He and his twin brother Neil are genetically identical and both share the same genetic disease, Neurofibromatosis 1 (Nf1) - yet they are completely different. Adam's face is covered with growths, whereas Neil has none. Neil has short term memory loss, whereas Adam is razor sharp. How can the same genetic disease affect identical twins so differently? Adam is on the cusp of a successful film and television career, but the disease has left tumours on his face that are growing out of control and he could lose his sight. For years, everyone thought Adam's brother Neil had escaped symptoms, but today his life is governed by epilepsy and a mysterious memory loss that suddenly came on during his teens. Determined to save their future, Adam tries to find out why the disease affects the twins so differently.
2016 • Health
Comedian Jimmy Carr takes over Horizon for this one-off special programme, produced as part of BBC2's sitcom season. Jimmy turns venerable documentary strand Horizon into a chat show, with eminent laughter scientists as guests and a studio audience to use as guinea pigs. Jimmy and his guests try to get to the bottom of what laughter is, why we enjoy it so much and what, if anything, it has to do with comedy. Between them, and with the help of contributions from other scientists on film, Jimmy and guests discover that laughter is much older than our species, and may well have contributed to making us human. With professors Sophie Scott, Robin Dunbar and Peter McGraw.
2016 • Science
Dr Xand Van Tulleken is single and looking for love. Mathematician Dr Hannah Fry wants to use him as her guinea pig to test whether the algorithms that dating sites use to match people actually work. While Hannah builds a dating site, Xand meets the scientists investigating online dating - and learns what pictures to use and what to write in his profile. He tries out a 'bot' that has automated a swiping app and has an MRI scan to find out whether his brain is equipped for love. 50 members of the public take part in some mini experiments at a date night - and Xand goes on various dates to test whether the algorithm is better than him choosing randomly.
2016 • Lifehack
Alice Roberts explores the latest discoveries in the study of human origins, revealing the transformation that has been brought about in this field by genetics. Traditional paleo-anthropology, based on fossils, is being transformed by advanced genome sequencing techniques. We now know that there were at least four other distinct species of human on the planet at the same time as us - some of them identified from astonishingly well-preserved DNA extracted from 50,000-year-old bones, others hinted at by archaic sections of DNA hidden in our modern genome. What's more, we now know that our ancestors met and interacted with these other humans, in ways that still have ramifications today. Alice uses these revelations to update our picture of the human family tree.
2016 • People
Scientists have started looking to the heavens and wondering what the weather might be like on other planets. Today, we are witnessing the birth of extra-terrestrial meteorology. They began with our solar system, sending spacecraft to explore its furthest reaches, and now the latest telescopes are enabling astronomers to study planets further afield. Our exploration of the universe is revealing alien worlds with gigantic storm systems that encircle entire planets, supersonic winds and extreme temperatures. On some planets, temperatures are so hot that the clouds and rain are believed to be made of liquid lava droplets, and on other planets it is thought to rain precious stones. We thought we had extreme weather on Earth, but it turns out that it is nothing compared to what's out there.
2016 • Astronomy
Imagine if the food you eat could 'clean' your body and make you feel well. Dr Giles Yeo investigates the latest diet craze and social media sensation - clean eating. In a television first, Giles cooks with Ella Mills, the Instagram entrepreneur behind Deliciously Ella, one of the most popular brands associated with clean eating, and examines how far her plant-based cooking is based on science. She tells him clean has lost its way: "Clean now implies dirty and that's negative. I haven't used it, but as far as I understood it when I first read the term, it meant natural, kind of unprocessed, and now it doesn't mean that at all. It means diet, it means fad". Giles sifts through the claims of the Hemsley sisters, who advocate not just gluten-free but grain-free cooking, and Natasha Corrett, who popularises alkaline eating through her Honestly Healthy brand. In America, Giles reveals the key alternative health figures whose food philosophies are influencing the new gurus of clean. He discovers that when it comes to their promises about food and our health, all is not always what it appears to be. Inside a Californian ranch where cancer patients have been treated with alkaline food, Giles sees for himself what can happen when pseudoscience is taken to a shocking extreme.
2017 • Health
Comedian and impressionist Rory Bremner is on a personal mission to uncover the science of ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), a condition which he has suspected he has. In this film, Rory learns about the science of ADHD, goes for a diagnosis and tries the drug methylphenidate (also known as Ritalin) for the first time - just before walking on stage. Around three per cent of the adult population suffer from ADHD (and five per cent of children), yet many people remain sceptical of its existence, blaming it on naughty children or bad parenting.
2017 • Brain
For hundreds of years, psychiatry has treated voices and hallucinations as an enemy - regarding them as 'insanity' or 'madness' and seeing them as something to be quashed and even frightened of. But today, new scientific and psychological insights into how the brain works are leading to a radical rethink on what such experiences are - and how they should be treated. Horizon follows three people living with voices, hallucinations and paranoia, to explore what causes this kind of phenomena. Providing a rare first-hand insight into these experiences, they reveal just what it is like to live with them day to day. They examine the impact of social, biological and environmental influences on conditions traditionally associated with insanity, such as schizophrenia and psychosis, and within the film they look at how new ways of understanding the brain are leading to a dramatic change in treatments and approaches, and examine whether targeting the root causes of psychosis can lead to recovery. Above all, they try to uncover why it happened to them - and whether it could happen to you.
2017 • Health
For decades some have suspected that there might be others out there, intelligent beings capable of communicating with us, even visiting our world. It might sound like science fiction, but today scientists from across the globe are scouring the universe for signals from extraterrestrials. Scientists have been searching the cosmos for strange signals like the Lorimer Burst for more than 50 years. The film ends with scientists' latest search for extraterrestial intelligence. Horizon obtained exclusive access to film researchers at the Green Bank Telescope searching for radio signals from Tabby's Star, a star so mysterious that some scientists believe it might be surrounded by a Dyson Sphere, a vast energy collector built by advanced aliens.
2017 • Astronomy
Volcanoes have long helped shape the Earth. But what is less well known is that there are volcanoes on other planets and moons that are even more extraordinary than those on our own home planet. Horizon follows an international team of volcanologists in Iceland as they draw fascinating parallels between the volcanoes on Earth and those elsewhere in the solar system. Through the team's research, we discover that the largest volcano in the solar system - Olympus Mons on Mars - has been formed in a similar way to those of Iceland, how a small moon of Jupiter - Io - has the most violent eruptions anywhere, and that a moon of Saturn called Enceladus erupts icy geysers from a hidden ocean. Computer graphics combined with original NASA material reveal the spectacular sights of these amazing volcanoes. Along the way, we learn that volcanoes are not just a destructive force, but have been essential to the formation of atmospheres and even life. And through these volcanoes of the solar system, scientists have discovered far more about our own planet, Earth - what it was like when Earth first formed, and even what will happen to our planet in the future.
2017 • Astronomy
Horizon looks at the issues that will change the way we live our lives in the future. Rather than relying on the minds of science fiction writers, mathematician Hannah Fry delves into the data we have today to provide an evidence-based vision of tomorrow. With the help of the BBC's science experts - and a few surprise guests - Hannah investigates the questions the British public want answered about the future. Hannah tries to discover whether we could ever live forever or if there will ever be a cure for cancer. She finds out how research into the human brain may one day help with mental health, and if it is possible to ever ditch fossil fuels. Hannah and her guests also discover the future of transport - and when, if ever, we really will see flying cars. She discovers whether a robot will take your job or if, as some believe, we will all one day actually become cyborgs. The programme predicts what the weather will be like and discovers if we are on the verge of another mass extinction. Hannah's tenth prediction is something she - and Horizon - are confident will definitely happen, and that is to expect the unexpected!
2017 • Technology
The car has shrunk the world, increased personal freedom and in so many ways expanded our horizons, but there is a flipside. Fumes from car exhausts have helped to destroy our environment, poisoned the air we breathe and killed us in far more straightforward ways. But all that is going to change. Horizon enters a world where cars can drive themselves, a world where we are simply passengers, ferried about by wholesome green compassionate technology which will never ever go wrong. And it is almost here. Horizon explores the artificial intelligence required to replace human drivers for cars themselves, peers into the future driverless world and discovers that, despite the glossy driverless PR (and assuming that they really can be made to work reliably), the reality is that it might not be all good news. From the ethics of driverless car crashes to the impact on jobs, it might be that cars are about to rise up against us in ways that none of us are expecting.
2017 • Technology
Is there any way to slow or even prevent the ravages of time? Veteran presenter Johnny Ball looks back over the 45 years that Horizon, and he, have been on air to find out what science has learned about how and why we grow old. Charting developments from macabre early claims of rejuvenation to the latest cutting-edge breakthroughs, Johnny discovers the sense of a personal mission that drives many scientists and asks whether we are really any closer to achieving the dream of immortality.
2014 • Health