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We all recognize the trademark hoots of the great horned owl. But how many of us have seen one up close? The great horned owl lives all over the Americas, from rural countryside to bustling cityscapes. Yet it’s rare to catch a glimpse of this elusive bird of prey. The Secret Life of Owls gives us a window into the life of this amazing species and introduces us to some passionate owl experts along the way. Through The Secret Life Of Owls, we will witness the power and wonder behind one of nature’s most fierce and formidable hunters.
2017 • Nature
Drinking alcohol on a cold day warms you up. Eating grilled meat can increase your risk of cancer. Mosquitoes prefer blondes… ah, women. We've all heard the claims, but are they true? From Winnipeg to Florida, from New York City to Vancouver, B.C, molecular biologist Dr. Jennifer Gardy goes in search of the answers. It's a journey through seldom-seen research that forces Dr. Gardy to become a real-life guinea pig to test these claims and discover, once and for all, whether they're science fact or science fiction. The surprising results are revealed in Myth or Science. , results that could change your life. Most of us just accept these myths as fact. But it is surprising to discover which are true and which aren't. It's not what you expect. And the answers can make a major difference to your daily life, and your health.
2011 • Science
Lyme disease, a mysterious tick-borne illness, is the fastest spreading vector-borne disease in the United States, and over the past decade, the tick that carries Lyme has been spreading across Canada with alarming speed. Ticked Off: The Mystery of Lyme Disease, is a fascinating and eye-opening documentary that explores a disease that has devastating effects, is often misdiagnosed and mistreated, and continues to be mired in a medical controversy. More than 30,000 cases are reported in the USA every year, but the real number could be as high as 300,000. And despite hard evidence that the Lyme-carrying, deer tick has already established populations across Canada, some people claim that patients here are still being told that they cannot contract Lyme in this country. Doctors agree that if it’s caught early Lyme disease can usually be cured with two to four weeks of antibiotics. There are others who believe that if it’s not caught early, the infection can develop into a debilitating condition they call Chronic Lyme. Yet unlike West Nile, Encephalitis or SARS, where the medical profession and scientists joined forces to find better treatments or a cure, many patients, who claim to have chronic Lyme, say that they are being denied treatment and left to suffer. So why is this happening?
2013 • Health
What if each of us could make the symptoms of an illness disappear? Cast a spell so powerful it would actually rid us of pain, help us walk, or breathe better? For centuries placebos have been thought of as fake medicine involving trickery and deceit, but Brain Magic: The Power of Placebo pulls back the curtains on the proof that placebos can have powerful – and real – effects on our mind and body. New research is proving that everything from sugar pills, to saline injections, to sham surgery, can have real healing power. Placebos won’t shrink tumours or cure diabetes, but they can be effective in subjective conditions – where self-appraisal plays a role. And, as we’ll discover in Brain Magic, neuroscience is revealing how our bodies’ response to treatment is heavily influenced by our expectations, prior experiences, our beliefs, and the social cues that surround us.
2015 • Brain
Untangling Alzheimer's is a dramatic and inspiring medical investigation driven by David Suzuki's journey to understand the science of Alzheimer's and the surprising new insights into its cause. David has a very personal interest in the disease because his mother, aunt and two uncles died of it. We join David on an intimate journey as he explores the newest breakthroughs in this devastating disease as well as his own chances of contracting the cruel condition. Alzheimer's today is the only leading cause of death that cannot be cured, prevented or even slowed. Worse, it's the only leading cause of death that is on the rise – and not simply because baby-boomers are getting older. Studies show that the increase is absolute across all age groups, and death rates continue to climb. With a new case developing every 69 seconds, scientists now speak of the Alzheimer's epidemic.
2013 • Astronomy
Where Am I? Is a new documentary about the skills we use to find our way around. Whether you are an Inuit hunter, a foraging insect, or just someone out for a stroll, your brain is performing one of its most fundamental services – it’s navigating. Why are some of us good at finding our way, while others are not? Good navigators are able to use both memory and imagination…remembering where they have been, and imagining where they’re going. Some researchers believe we build a cognitive or mental map when we navigate, a kind of bird’s eye view of our surroundings, a view that can be rotated and examined in our mind. There has been about sixty years of argument amongst scientists about whether humans and other mammals actually form these cognitive maps or not. The advent of GPS or Global Positioning Systems has changed the discussion about navigation. GPS triggers a simpler, more automatic navigational technique that does not involve building a mental map. With GPS, we simply respond to directions and may not truly understand where we are.
2013 • Physics
Hendrik Poinar is a bit of a mystery man – as in, he likes to solve them. And he’s part time traveller – as in, he likes to dig up the past. Think Doctor Who meets Indiana Jones. Poinar is an evolutionary biologist - which means he studies the nature of how we humans got here and where we’re going. He happily admits his childhood dream was to travel the world and travel back in time. “No-one imagines that there’s actually something still hidden within a bone that’s been buried for a few thousand years or 100,000 years, let alone the possibility of resurrecting it or bringing it back to life,” says Poinar. “I mean, that’s sort of completely bizarre. It’s like a time machine, yeah, it’s a kid’s dream.” Secrets in the Bones follows Poinar on an epic journey to Italy, Germany, Britain, and across the Unites States. His mission: solve one of the greatest mysteries of science, a mystery that has eluded researchers for more than six centuries: unlock the secrets of the fourteenth century killer disease that caused the Black Death and wiped out more than 50 million people.
2014 • History
Is it possible that plants are smarter than we think? They are among the world's oldest and most successful organisms and represent some of the strangest and longest living life forms on the planet. Stunningly diverse, plants have served us in many critical ways, from providing food, shelter and clothing to life-saving medicine. And yet we know very little about them. A luscious exploration of the natural world, Smarty Plants effortlessly integrates pioneering science with a light hearted look at how plants behave, revealing a world where plants are as busy, responsive and complex as we are. From the stunning heights of Utah's Great Basin Desert to the rainforests of Canada's west coast, Smarty Plants follows lead scientist and ecologist JC Cahill as he treks the green world and discovers that plants are a lot more like animals than we ever imagined. The world he reveals is one where plants eavesdrop on each other, talk to their enemies, call in insect allies to fight those enemies, recognize their relatives and nurture their young.
2012 • Nature
If you’ve been to a children’s birthday party lately, chances are at least one of the little guests had a portable needle loaded with epinephrine. Its standard equipment for a growing generation of highly allergic kids: more than three times as many children have food allergies now than twenty years ago. And one out of every three children is now allergic to foods, animals, or plants. Something puzzling, and frightening, is going on with our immune systems. The Allergy Fix travels across Canada and to the US, the UK and Germany to investigate why allergies are on the rise – and what’s being done about it.
2014 • Health
Join us as we explore the revolutionary science of "neuroplasticity" - a concept that expands not just our knowledge of how our brains work, but how we use them. For centuries the human brain has been thought of as incapable of fundamental change. People suffering from neurological defects, brain damage or strokes were usually written-off as hopeless cases. But recent and continuing research into the human brain is radically changing how we look at the potential for neurological recovery. The human brain, as we are now quickly learning, has a remarkable ability to change itself - in fact, even to rewire itself. The Brain that Changes Itself, based on the best-selling book by Toronto psychiatrist and researcher Dr. Norman Doidge, presents a strong case for reconsidering how we view the human mind.
2008 • Brain
The Great Butterfly Hunt tells the story of incredible journeys. The first is that of the remarkable Monarch migration, which is the longest insect migration on Earth, is. The second story is that of Fred Urquhart, the determined Canadian scientist who spent 40 years trying to discover exactly where the butterflies mysteriously disappeared when they flew south for the winter. The Great Butterfly Hunt is a beautiful and colourful one-hour program that combines the spectacular visuals from Flight of the Butterflies with the production’s behind-the-scenes look at how such films get made. On Thursday, January 2, when many Canadians will be groaning about the long grey winter ahead, The Great Butterfly Hunt will remind audiences of the promise of spring. And, at a time when the monarch population is in rapid decline, viewers will have an opportunity to watch one of Nature’s most dramatic feats unfold.
2014 • Nature
A journey through nature, commerce and adventure, The Fruit Hunters takes us from the dawn of humanity to the cutting of edge of modern agriculture — a series that will change not just the way we look at what we eat, but what it means to be human. The Fruit Hunters' first episode, "The Evolution of Desire," explores the origins of fruit's diversity and tells the story of humanity and fruit's intimate co-evolution. Every variety of fruit has a story, the story of the person who cultivated an individual plant, and then shared something wonderful with the world. To preserve this diversity is to retain this living memory. A passionate few, the fruit hunters, fight to preserve this diversity in a world increasingly dominated by economically driven monoculture.
2013 • Nature
Supermarkets are stocked with fruit year round in a global permanent summertime, but despite its accessibility, have we lost the diversity that makes it so special? The second episode of The Fruit Hunters will look at what happens when we abandon the Garden of Eden for an industrialized monoculture. In lush jungles of Borneo, Bala Tingang, an elder of one of the last hunter-gatherer tribes, lives of the wild fruits that are the key to his tribe's survival. And yet, all around the world, natural diversity is being replaced with monocultures, plantations of only one variety, bred for long shelf life and transportability rather than their taste or health properties. Not only is this lost of diversity impoverishing our taste buds, but it has catastrophic implications for our food security. In the vast uniform banana fields of Honduras, Juan Aguilar, a banana scientist, frantically tries to breed a banana resistant to a deadly fungus.
2013 • Nature
We like to believe we’re in control. But if what we’re discovering about parasites is anything to go by, who is really in control is a lot more complicated, and a lot more interesting, than we ever imagined. So let “The Nature of Things with David Suzuki” help you get over the ick factor, and explore the world of parasites. So let “The Nature of Things with David Suzuki” help you get over the ick factor, and explore the world of parasites. Scientists have collected hundreds of examples of parasites that brainwash their hosts. And now researchers are starting to untangle these parasites’ evolutionary tricks of the trade. In the coastal estuaries of California, Professor Kevin Lafferty of the United States Geological Survey introduces us to a flatworm that lives in three hosts - a snail, a fish and a bird. This parasite’s influence is so profound that it tips the balance of the local ecosystem
2013 • Brain
Are gay men actually born gay? If so, what causes this and how could homosexuality have survived the evolutionary process? Ever since openly gay filmmaker Bryce Sage came out of the closet, he has struggled to answer these fundamental questions. Bryce sets out on a cross-country and around the world journey to ferret out the answers. Along the way, he confronts his own homosexuality and family history, exploring the nature vs. nurture side of the issue. He’ll bombard his brainwaves with gay and straight erotica to determine just how fundamentally gay his brain really is and he’ll talk to animal biologists about their studies of homosexuality in other species. There is documented evidence of homosexuality in over two hundred. Bryce becomes an amateur detective, trying to crack the code of his genes. He discovers that in Samoa every family has a male member who is either gay or is encouraged to become more feminine to support familial needs.
2013 • People
This episode focuses on the Asia-Pacific side of The Pacific Rim of Fire, which stands as a living testament to the beauty and danger that powerful geologic forces can deliver. The Pacific Rim is home to half of the world's active volcanoes and ninety percent of the world's earthquakes, yet nearly 800 million people continue to live within its violent edge. Our journey begins in New Zealand, a land of volcanoes and earthquakes, where we find a 500-kilometre long slip-strike fault deep under the Pacific Ocean. Geologist Hamish Campbell will take us to the crater of White Island, the country’s most active volcano. Then we'll visit the country's southern island with John Youngson, to find out how New Zealand’s longest fault-line contributes to the gold industry. Finally in Japan, viewers will hike up to Mount Fuji – the iconic peak where science and legend converge, getting up-close and personal with a fault-line witnessing firsthand what it’s like to discover new ways of monitoring, and hopefully one day predicting, seismic activity onboard the world’s most advanced drilling vessels.
2010 • Environment
Welcome to the Collision Zone – the fiery unpredictability of Indonesia’s volcanoes at one end, the massive Himalayas at the other and millions of years of tectonic tension in between. The collision zone of the old world is about to be the hub of the new. India, the Himalayas and the island arc of Indonesia - these lands will form the centre of the world’s next supercontinent. A story unfolds—a tale of where the earth has been and what the earth shall be: a whole new world that we’ll barely recognize.
2010 • Environment
Planet Hunters follows the astrophysicists – many of them Canadian – at the forefront of the search for Earth's twin, and tells the little-known story of the two Canadians who invented the technique that made modern planet-hunting possible. Gordon Walker and Bruce Campbell also detected the first exoplanet ever discovered. But that's not what the history books say.
2012 • Astronomy
Elephant poaching worldwide has reached epidemic proportions. In Kenya, the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust provides a sanctuary for baby elephants who are its greatest victims, left to die without the nurture and protection of their matriarchal herds. In 2010 a baby elephant named Sities was rescued and brought to the Trust’s Nairobi Nursery to begin her rehabilitation. Her remarkable story was followed by audiences worldwide who watched her progress from day one. Now three years later we catch up with Sities, who has reached the age where she can be integrated into the wild elephant herds of Tsavo East National Park. HOW TO BE A WILD ELEPHANT observes the challenges Sities will face as she leaves the safety of the Nursery and moves on to the next phase of her journey back to freedom.
2014 • Nature
Part wolf, part coyote this new hybrid species is the subject of a startlingly beautiful new film called Meet the Coywolf. A documentary that will both shock and amaze you. Coywolves emerged from a thin strip of land at the southern end of Algonquin Park less than a hundred years ago. Their arrival on the scene marks a rare event, the creation of a brand new hybrid species. A formidable wild animal that has spread across North America at an unprecedented pace, returning a new top predator to territories once roamed by wolves. Zoologist Roland Kays of the New York State Museum has been tracking these new creatures and describes them as having "a coyote like skull with wolf like teeth".
2013 • Nature
As Shattered Ground reveals, some see fracking as a great opportunity for money and jobs, and one that provides cheap, clean fuel. But, for others, the possible human health costs of this new drilling technology have motivated a large and vociferous anti-fracking movement. The debate over fracking has been echoed in the Oscar-nominated documentary Gasland and in Promised Land, the new Gus van Sant's feature film starring Matt Damon. Fracking's critics consider the industry a potential environmental disaster, citing chemical contamination of air and water. With pipelines proposed, terminals for liquefied natural gas (LNG) requiring billions of dollars of investment, and huge shale beds lying underneath highly-populated areas of the Canada and the US (including southern Ontario and the GTA), fracking is an issue that could affect every one of us.
2013 • Environment
A Dog’s Life reveals how our best friends perceive the world - from the moment they take their first morning walk to the time they curl up at our feet to go to sleep. We accompany Daisy, a Jack Russell Terrier, through an average day and on the way discover that, while dogs are not miniature humans, they are amazingly well adapted to life with us. But how well do we know them? A Dog’s Life explores the widely assumed facts that may actually be based on faulty and out-dated research. Is your dog really like a wolf? Does she need you to be the “alpha” dog, so she knows where to fit into your pack? Do they really see in black and white? Is it true that dogs have an amazing sense of direction?
2013 • Nature
"Eighty percent of us now live in an urban setting, and I think that the solution to our environmental problems is not to say 'we've got break down cities and get everybody back to the land' – that would be disastrous – but we have to make cities our major habitat…we have to make them more in balance, I think, with the rest of the things that keep us alive." David Suzuki Cities are where most Canadians live. And, as we head into the future, how we adapt to the needs of expanding cities will have a huge impact on their livability. Food, land use, housing, energy, waste – how we tackle these issues will determine whether our cities evolve, or whether they decline. In a new instalment of Suzuki Diaries, David and his daughter, Sarika, set out to discover whether some of Canada's biggest cities are ready for the challenges of the future.
2012 • Environment
A fresh perspective on autism research with the developing "Bacterial Theory" of autism. The fastest-growing developmental disorder in the industrialized world, autism has increased an astounding 600 per cent over the last 20 years. Science cannot say why. Some say it's triggered by environmental factors and point to another intriguing statistic: 70 per cent of kids with autism also have severe gastrointestinal symptoms. Could autism actually begin in the gut? The Autism Enigma looks at the progress of an international group of scientists who are studying the gut's amazingly diverse and powerful microbial ecosystem for clues to the baffling disorder.
2011 • Health
The leatherback sea turtle is a magnificent creature that can be found in Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans. This ancient species swims faster, travels further, and dives deeper than any other reptile on the planet. In the Atlantic, they migrate every year from their nesting grounds in the Caribbean to the chilly waters off the east coast of Canada where they feast on jellyfish. This epic annual journey – at a staggering 12,000 km – is the longest for any reptile in the world.
2014 • Nature
We flail, we swat, we sweat. We spray, cover up, and hide. But still the tiny, fearsome mosquito penetrates our best defenses. ZAPPED: the buzz about mosquitoes is the story of our ongoing struggle to conquer a little insect that is both delicate and deadly. As the program reveals, this beautiful and versatile blood-sucker has always managed to stay one step ahead of us. As tortured as we are Zapped uncovers, in exquisite detail, how the mosquito goes about its handiwork. It's really only the females that are the problem – they need our blood to incubate their eggs. And, out of more than 3500 species, only 200 or so transmit disease.
2013 • Nature
In Episode 1: A Changing World, we see the changes that are upsetting the scientific predictions of the impact of climate change on the Arctic. Now, one sobering forecast is that the Arctic Ocean will be seasonally ice free by the summer of 2013. This possibility is what drives environmentalists to identify ways to minimize the changes affecting this snowy land. But for prospectors like Gordon McCreary, climate change brings new opportunities. He is part of the rush to claim the riches beneath the Arctic's ice: deposits of metals, gold, diamonds, and oil and gas.
2009 • Environment
We have a relationship with few things in nature the way we do with snow: we hate it, we love it, and we think we understand it. But we barely know the contradictory and beautiful components of snow’s character. But that’s something scientists are changing. From the formation of single flakes to the howling 70 km/h winds of lake effect snow storms to the destructive power of avalanches, intrepid researchers are bringing snow science into the 21st Century.
2014 • Science
The Birds do it. The bees do it. It seems we all do it. But we like to think we are different from other animals. So are we? Decoding Desire unravels the mysteries of sex and desire and explores how sexual diversity and the experience of pleasure itself may be the key to species survival. Traditionally, the common assumption has been that men are sexually dominant with strong desires, while females are more interested in security and monogamy. But is this really true? Scientists are increasingly looking at animals to reveal more about our own sexual behaviour.
2014 • People
When most of us hear "scientific research", it conjures the image of serious men and women in meticulous labs using carefully prescribed methods to achieve rather predictable outcomes. We have an expectation that science is calculated and controlled. Yet some of the most influential scientific discoveries have been made entirely by accident. Does chance work alone or are other phenomenons at play? Combining dramatic re-creation with cheeky animation and cleverly manipulated archival images, Gone Sideways illustrates three areas of exploration: medicine, technology and natural science.
2009 • Science
In an effort to outwit raccoons, are we pushing their brain development and perhaps even sending them down a new evolutionary path? Using high-definition, infrared cameras that turn pitch dark into daylight; we take viewers deep inside a world that was once shrouded in mystery – to gain new insights and understanding about a species that is far more elusive and wily than most people ever imagined. “There is a lot we don’t know, and the more we’ve looked at raccoons, the harder they are to understand.” — Stan Gehrt, Wildlife Biologist & Internationally recognized raccoon expert
2011 • Nature
Their habitat once stretched across the Prairies, but when humans wiped out the one thing they eat, the black-footed ferret disappeared. The only native North American ferret, this mysterious animal became the most endangered species in the world. For many years, they survived only in zoos. Now a fledgling project is attempting to bring the black-footed ferret back to Saskatchewan. This dramatic story of the ferrets’ reintroduction to the wild unfolds in Return of the Prairie Bandit, a new documentary by Kenton Vaughan set in the stunning prairie of southern Saskatchewan.
2011 • Nature
Stonehenge is an icon of prehistoric Britain, an enigma that has seduced archaeologists and tourists for centuries. Why is it here? What is its significance? And which forces inspired its creators? For the last four years, an international team has surveyed and mapped every monument, both visible and invisible, across 10 square kilometres of the sacred landscape to create a complete digital picture of Stonehenge and the surrounding area through time. Known monuments have yielded more data than ever before, revealing hidden structures within; and new finds are revolutionising the history of Stonehenge.
2014 • History
In the thick of the jungle of Rwanda's Volcanoes National Park, an infant mountain gorilla has been caught in a snare. If the rope is not removed quickly enough, the young gorilla could lose its hand. In order to remove the snare, a team of veterinarians will first need to sedate the infant's mother. But if the infant screams too much, the three 400-pound adult males that form part of this gorilla group will all attack. Everything must go perfectly, or there's no telling what could happen. And being jungle medicine, things rarely go perfectly. The pioneering group of vets performing this medical intervention is known as Gorilla Doctors. Led by Canadian Mike Cranfield, they work in Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda, where the world's last Mountain Gorillas can be found.
2014 • Nature
We live in a world where technology is constantly changing. Sadly you know as you leave the store, that your brand new SmartPhone is already out of date – somebody, somewhere has just upgraded it. Keeping up with the latest everything can be a challenge. We asked Dr. Jennifer Gardy to explore current scientific research that will impact us all in the future. Dr. Gardy is a Senior Scientist, Molecular Epidemiology at the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control. On this journey, Jennifer travels from Toronto to New York, Los Angeles, Tokyo, and Munich and back home to Vancouver – all in the name of science exploration.
2014 • Technology
The Cholesterol Question is a hard-hitting investigation into the heart of cholesterol’s controversial journey, from essential biological substance to Public Enemy Number One and possible rehab. It’s a villain that’s simple to understand, easy to implicate and, we thought, easy to medicate. But it’s a story almost stranger than fiction. At Stanford University, Dr. Christopher Gardner reveals the debatable science behind our assault on dietary fat and cholesterol – a massive intervention that many believe only made us fatter and sicker.
2014 • Health
For decades, scientists believed that humans were forced to wait until the end of the last Ice Age before they could enter the Americas. Evidence suggests that 11,000 years ago they crossed the Bering Land Bridge by foot, into what is now modern-day Alaska. Those peoples were called the Clovis, and their arrival and hunting practices were blamed for the sudden disappearance of many large mammals, from mastodons and woolly mammoths to giant ground sloths and sabre-toothed tigers. In recent years however, tantalizing – but often frustratingly inconclusive – evidence of an earlier human migration into the Americas has begun to emerge. It is an incredible revelation – to think that ancient humans could somehow have managed to get past a sheet of ice four kilometres thick. In this fascinating documentary, Canadian anthropologist and adventurer Niobe Thompson takes us inside the incredible scientific discoveries that are finally unraveling these mysteries
2011 • History
In the heart of a metropolitan city of 15 million people and among the construction of a new billion-dollar transportation network, an archaeological sensation has been discovered: the ancient harbour of Theodosious. Theodosious was the last ruler over both Eastern and Western portions of a unified Roman Empire; the harbour has been buried and shrouded in mystery for over 800 years…until now. Istanbul, Turkey, is situated exactly between Europe and Asia. It has, since prehistoric times, bridged the gap between these continents, their cultures and its people. Engineers are working to connect East to West through a spectacular 1.4 kilometer railway tunnel, 60 meters below the surface, but they've been stalled by the discovery of the Emperor's Lost Harbor.
2011 • History
As the first animal to be domesticated, pigeons have a story to tell. A drama filled, steeped-in-history, amazing story. Although they’ve faded into the background of city life, pigeons have made an incredible contribution to human history. For centuries, we relied on them for everything from food, to vital communications, to entertainment to modern day brain science. They deserve more respect! The ones you see on city streets today are the descendants of domestic birds. Their gritty urban lives are spent trying to evade all manner of perils…and… stay one step ahead of starvation, a constant threat. To survive where they’re not wanted, pigeons rely on a combination of charity from a few and their own incredible smarts…. In a series of fascinating experiments and carefully placed cameras, we take you inside their perilous world; in the air, on the street and in the nest. One of the first things to notice is just how incredibly smart they are.
2014 • Nature
Within the quiet confines of your home, wild things are afoot. The great struggle to survive, the drama of life and death, the cold calculation of the hunter and the anxiety of the hunted and it goes on all around you. In the Great Indoors, every corner is a potential lair, every carpet a dense forest, and the wide spaces of your kitchen, an open savannah where the food is abundant, but so is the danger. A number of creatures fly in and get trapped; others may enter to dine and dash, but some will be found nowhere else but safe and sound at home in your home. So when you trap that house spider and decide to set it free outside, you may in fact be dooming it to death in a world it's never known.
2017 • Nature
It’s the world’s first human body rig – two ordinary people are filmed going about their typical day while covered from head to toe in medical, monitoring equipment. What will they discover about how their lifestyle affects their health and what will the rest of us learn about how the human body works?
2017 • Health
In the early days of the space race, agency researchers in Russia and at NASA really weren't sure all what would happen to an astronaut in space. They didn't know if a human mind could handle actually seeing Earth or what would happen to the human body when exposed to long periods of weightlessness. Would their blood forget which way to pump? Would their eyeballs shift or their inner ears wig out? They sent up mice and monkeys and dogs, to see what happened, and in 1961, the Russians strapped a man to a rocket headed for orbit. Yuri Gagarin was the first person in space. The ultimate human guinea pig, he survived, becoming an international hero.