Thanks to a recent remarkable discovery in the BBC's film vaults, the best of David Attenborough's early Zoo Quest adventures can now be seen as never before, in colour, and with it the remarkable story of how this pioneering television series was made. First broadcast in December 1954, Zoo Quest was one of the most popular television series of its time and launched the career of the young David Attenborough as a wildlife presenter. It completely changed how viewers saw the world, revealing wildlife and tribal communities that had never been filmed or even seen before. Broadcast ten years before colour television was seen in the UK, Zoo Quest was thought to have been filmed in black and white, until now. Using this extraordinary new-found colour film, together with new behind-the-scenes stories from David Attenborough and cameraman Charles Lagus, this special showcases the very best of Zoo Quest to West Africa, Zoo Quest to Guiana and Zoo Quest for a Dragon in stunning HD colour for the very first time.
2016 • Nature
Nearly 80 years after her death, Marie Curie remains by far the best known female scientist. In her lifetime, she became that rare thing: a celebrity scientist, attracting the attention of the news cameras and tabloid gossip. They were fascinated because she was the first woman to win the Nobel Prize and is still the only person to have won two Nobels in two different sciences. But while the bare bones of her scientific life, the obstacles she had to overcome, the years of painstaking research, and the penalty she ultimately paid for her discovery of radium have become one of the iconic stories of scientific heroism, there is another side to Marie Curie: her human story. This multi-layered film reveals the real Marie Curie, an extraordinary woman who fell in love three times, had to survive the pain of loss, and the public humiliation of a doomed love affair. It is a riveting portrait of a tenacious mother and scientist, who opened the door on a whole new realm of physics, which she discovered and named: radioactivity. Full title - The Genius of Marie Curie: The Woman Who Lit Up the World
2013 • People
Could a machine replace your doctor? Dr Hannah Fry explores the incredible ways AI is revolutionising healthcare - and what this means for all of us. This film chronicles the inside story of the AI health revolution, as one company, Babylon Health, prepare for a man vs machine showdown. Can Babylon succeed in their quest to prove their AI can outperform human doctors at safe triage and accurate diagnosis?
Taking a ferry across the Strait of Gibraltar, Simon's first stop is Ceuta, a Spanish exclave surrounded by Morocco. This is one of the few land borders between Africa and the European Union. Simon joins the Spanish border police who check engines and even dashboards for stowaways trying to reach Europe. Migrant and refugees attempting to cross Ceuta's fortress border have quadrupled in the last year. Undaunted by Morocco's failure to issue a filming permit, Simon crosses the border as a tourist, tracking down a group of young migrants hiding out in a forest close to Ceuta. They have travelled thousands of miles, crossing the Sahara to get this far, and now they are just a 20-foot, razor wire fence away from their European dream. Crossing the Med to Spain, one the busiest shipping lanes in the world, Simon discovers huge numbers of dolphins and even giant whales surviving by dodging the ferries, container ships and oil tankers. Travelling along the arid southern Spanish coast, Simon takes to air to witness the sea of plastic that form over a hundred square miles of greenhouses. It is where much of our supermarket fruit and veg are grown, but as Simon discovers it is a massive industry built on the back of a low paid, migrant workforce. Following in the footsteps of four million Brits who make the journey every year, Simon travels to the Costa Blanca and its most famous resort, Benidorm. Derided by many, Simon is surprised to learn that high-rise Benidorm is now being hailed by experts as a model of sustainable tourism. The Mediterranean region attracts a third of world tourism and visitor numbers are predicted to rise to half a billion a year by the end of the next decade. Simon travels to a western corner of Corsica, a nature reserve that must be one of the most heavily protected bits of sea on earth, and one of the few places where tourists are actively discouraged from visiting. Lying on the beach, hiking in the mountains and watersport activities are all banned. The park's manager shows Simon the results, taking him for a dive in the fishiest place in the Med. In a sea where over ninety percent of fish stocks are over exploited, it is a beacon of hope in what is otherwise an uncertain future for the Mediterranean.
He begins in Libya - a country well off the tourist trail and torn apart by revolution, insurgents from the so-called Islamic State and western air strikes. Simon visits the Mediterranean city of Sirte, which has been the scene of heavy fighting. Here Simon witnesses some of the worst destruction he has ever seen, with entire neighbourhoods of the city completely flattened. He also visits the remains of Leptis Magna - one of the world's best-preserved Roman cities which many feared could fall into the hands of IS - and meets the young volunteers who risked their lives to protect it. Travelling west along north Africa's Mediterranean coast, Simon arrives in Tunisia, a country that - unlike its neighbour - has long been a tourist destination. He travels to the spectacular fortress village of Chenini, where houses were carved into the mountain by the Amazigh - better known as the Berbers. Today Berbers are a small minority in Tunisia, but Simon finds one man who is keeping the traditions alive by harnessing camel power to make olive oil and excavating rock by hand to build new Berber homes. From Tunisia, Simon boards the overnight ferry to the island famous as home to the mafia, Sicily. In recent years, a government crackdown and public rebellion has substantially weakened the mafia's grip on the island, but in the countryside there are worrying signs of a comeback. The mafia is trying to take advantage of rural Sicily's population decline, but Simon soon discovers that migrants and refugees who have traveled across the Mediterranean to Europe are finding new homes in Italy's emptying villages. Simon meets three inspiring sisters who - despite constant intimidation, including the skinning of their much-loved dog - are making a defiant stand against the mafia.
Setting off from a snowy mountain ski resort in Cyprus, Simon finds an island and a capital city still deeply divided between Turkish Cypriots in the north and Greek Cypriots in the south. Simon joins the UN troops who patrol the line that separates the two sides, one of the world's longest-running peacekeeping missions. From Cyprus, Simon heads to the Middle East, a region of the Mediterranean that's also no stranger to conflict and division. In Lebanon, Simon explores a country of breathtaking landscapes, with spectacular coastline, soaring mountains and a sacred valley known as the Qadisha, a holy site for Lebanese Christians. Staying overnight in an abandoned monastery carved into the rock face, Simon learns that in a Muslim-dominated Middle East, Christians are facing persecution and numbers are collapsing. Travelling south, Simon's next stop is Israel, a country that perhaps more than any other depends on the Mediterranean for its survival. With few friends in the region, Israel has to transport most of its goods by sea. Simon joins the Israeli Navy who patrol the coast and protect the country's offshore oil reserves using the latest military weaponry and technology, including unmanned, combat-ready drone boats. From Israel Simon crosses one of the world's most heavily fortified borders to reach the Gaza Strip. Palestinians and Israelis have endured a seemingly endless cycle of violence and in Gaza the result has been devastating destruction. Many building materials are restricted by an Israeli blockade on Gaza, but Simon meets an inspiring young woman who has helped reconstruction efforts by inventing an ingenious method of making bricks from ash. It's a rare ray of hope in one of the most troubled regions of the Mediterranean.
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.
David Attenborough employs the latest technologies to explore the violence, rivalries and deadly weaponry existing within the world of bugs. This first episode examines the survival tactics of its terrifying residents including killer ants, trap-setting spiders and beetles with the ability to shoot boiling chemicals at their enemies.
To survive, animals need somewhere to live, a place that provides the necessities of life, shelter from the elements and a refuge from enemies. Good homes are rare and competition can be intense – finding a home is one thing, but defending it is quite another.
Cities are growing at a faster rate than any other habitat on Earth. They may seem an unlikely place for animals to thrive, but they can be a world of surprising opportunity. Leopards prowl the streets of Mumbai, peregrine falcons hunt amongst New York's skyscrapers, and a million starlings perform spectacular aerial dances over Rome. In Jodhpur, langurs are revered as religious deities and in Harar, locals live in harmony with wild hyenas. Many animals, however, struggle to cope in the urban jungle. As the architects of this environment, can humans choose to build cities that are homes for both them and wildlife?
This episode continues the study of mammals, and particularly those whose young gestate inside their bodies. Attenborough asks why these have become so varied and tries to discover the common theme that links them. Examples of primitive mammals that are still alive today include the treeshrew, the desman and the star-nosed mole. Insect eaters vary enormously from the aardvark, giant anteater and pangolin to those to which much of this programme is devoted: the bats, of which there are nearly 1,000 different species. These took to flying at night, and its possible that they evolved from treeshrews that jumped from tree to tree, in much the same way as a flying squirrel.
David uses the latest 3D technology to explore a world beyond the confines of our human senses. He begins with the secret world of plant movement and uses sinister carnivorous plants to show just how active plants can be. Bladderwort utricularia is a pond-dweller that is among the fastest known, its traps snapping shut in less than a millisecond. As the seasons change, David demonstrates how plants operate on a different time scale to us; how they modify their lives according to the time of year. We discover insects' hidden links with plants, both as pests and ...
Imagine if you could plug your brain into a machine that would bring you ultimate pleasure for the rest of your life. The only catch? You have to permanently leave reality behind. Hayley Levitt and Bethany Rickwald explore Robert Nozick’s thought experiment that he called the Experience Machine.
Brains and nervous systems do a lot of things, but overall their purpose seems to be to allow cells to communicate and behave together. But because gene's generally code for things that help reproduction, you can start to see harsh patterns in behavior.
We all like to think we are in control of our lives - of what we feel and what we think. But scientists are now discovering this is often simply an illusion. Surprising experiments are revealing that what you think you do and what you actually do can be very different. Your unconscious mind is often calling the shots, influencing the decisions you make, from what you eat to who you fall in love with. If you think you are really in control of your life, you may have to think again.
Predictions underlie nearly every aspect of our lives, from sports, politics, and medical decisions to the morning commute. With the explosion of digital technology, the internet, and “big data,” the science of forecasting is flourishing. But why do some predictions succeed spectacularly while others fail abysmally? And how can we find meaningful patterns amidst chaos and uncertainty? From the glitz of casinos and TV game shows to the life-and-death stakes of storm forecasts and the flaws of opinion polls that can swing an election, “Prediction by the Numbers” explores stories of statistics in action. Yet advances in machine learning and big data models that increasingly rule our lives are also posing big, disturbing questions. How much should we trust predictions made by algorithms when we don’t understand how they arrive at them? And how far ahead can we really forecast?
Without us noticing, modern life has been taken over. Algorithms run everything from search engines on the internet to satnavs and credit card data security - they even help us travel the world, find love and save lives. Professor Marcus du Sautoy demystifies the hidden world of algorithms. By showing us some of the algorithms most essential to our lives, he reveals where these 2,000-year-old problem solvers came from, how they work, what they have achieved and how they are now so advanced they can even programme themselves.
2015 • Math
An algorithm is a method of solving problems both big and small. Though computers run algorithms constantly, humans can also solve problems with algorithms. David J. Malan explains how algorithms can be used in seemingly simple situations and also complex ones.
One hundred green-eyed logicians have been imprisoned on an island by a mad dictator. Their only hope for freedom lies in the answer to one famously difficult logic puzzle. Can you solve it? Alex Gendler walks us through this green-eyed riddle.
Marcus du Sautoy continues his exploration of the hidden numerical code that underpins all nature. This time it's the strange world of what happens next. Professor du Sautoy's odyssey starts with the lunar eclipse - once thought supernatural, now routinely predicted through the power of the code. But more intriguing is what the code can say about our future.
Giles Coren and Monica Galetti experience the warm embrace of Fogo Island Inn on a rocky, sea-sprayed outpost of remote Fogo Island in Newfoundland. White, angular and perched atop zig-zagged stilts like the local fishermen's houses.
Dr Helen Czerski looks at the anatomy of an avalanche. From shocking eyewitness footage from within an avalanche, to detailed CT scans showing the microscopic changes that cause them, we can now capture exactly what happens as snow transforms into a deadly and unpredictable danger.
In this episode, Iolo investigates the courtship and nesting behaviour of birds, including the amazing courtship display of great crested grebes at a reservoir near Pontypool, the impressive sky dance of hen harriers in the dramatic Cambrian Mountains, how nuthatch use mud like cement to prepare their nest in a woodland near Harlech, and why long-tailed tits near Newtown are exceptional nest builders. On the Lleyn Peninsula near Trefor, he looks at why one colony of shags nest earlier than any others in Wales, and in Pembrokeshire he finds out where house martins nested before they used our buildings. Iolo also looks at the variety of places birds like to nest, from little ringed plovers on shingle banks along the River Tywi to puffins underground on Skomer.
About 8,000 BC, in a few select places some people begin to experiment with a new way of harvesting energy. They’re growing their own crops. An act so simple, it’s hard to believe it will kick start a revolution. But it will. These are the first seeds, literally, of the rise of civilization.
Finding alien life on a distant planet would be amazing news - or would it? If we are not the only intelligent life in the universe, this probably means our days are numbered and doom is certain.