Gravity and Me: The Force that Shapes Our Lives • 2017

Category: Physics

Jim Al-Khalili investigates the amazing science of gravity, recreating groundbreaking experiments, including the moment when Galileo first worked out how to measure it. He investigates gravity waves, finds out from astronauts what it's like to live without gravity, sets out to find where in Britain gravity is weakest and so where we weigh the least, and helps design a smartphone app that volunteers use to demonstrate how gravity affects time and makes us age at slightly different rates.

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This two-part scientific detective tale tells the story of a remarkable group of pioneers who wanted to reach the ultimate extreme: absolute zero, a place so cold that the physical world as we know it doesn't exist, electricity flows without resistance, fluids defy gravity and the speed of light can be reduced to 38 miles per hour. Each film features a strange cast of eccentric characters, including: Clarence Birds Eye; Frederic 'Ice King' Tudor, who founded an empire harvesting ice; and James Dewar, who almost drove himself crazy by trying to liquefy hydrogen. Absolute zero became the Holy Grail of temperature physicists and is considered the gateway to many new technologies, such as nano-construction, neurological networks and quantum computing. The possibilities, it seems, are limitless. Part 2: Race for Absolute Zero Focuses on the fierce rivalry that took place in the laboratories in Britain, Holland, France and Poland as they sought the ultimate extreme of cold. The program will follow the extraordinary discoveries of superconductivity and superfluidity and the attempt to produce a new form of matter that Albert Einstein predicted would exist within a few billionths of degrees above absolute zero.

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Over 100 years ago, Albert Einstein grappled with the implications of his revolutionary special theory of relativity and came to a startling conclusion: mass and energy are one, related by the formula E = mc2. In "Einstein's Big Idea," NOVA dramatizes the remarkable story behind this equation. E = mc2 was just one of several extraordinary breakthroughs that Einstein made in 1905, including the completion of his special theory of relativity, his identification of proof that atoms exist, and his explanation of the nature of light, which would win him the Nobel Prize in Physics. Among Einstein's ideas, E = mc2 is by far the most famous. Yet how many people know what it really means? In a thought-provoking and engrossing docudrama, NOVA illuminates this deceptively simple formula by unraveling the story of how it came to be.

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In episode one, Helen ventures to the bottom of the temperature scale, revealing how cold has shaped the world around us and why frozen doesn't mean what you might think. She meets the scientists pushing temperature to the very limits of cold, where the normal laws of physics break down and a new world of scientific possibility begins. The extraordinary behaviour of matter at temperatures close to absolute zero is driving the advance of technology, from superconductors to quantum computing.

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Dancing in the Dark: The End of Physics?

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.


Why Isn't "Zero G" the Same as "Zero Gravity"?

This Quick Question explains the difference between gravity and g-force, and how you can experience zero-g in space even when it’s not zero gravity!