Professor Marcus du Sautoy tells the story of the metre and the second - how an astonishing journey across revolutionary France gave birth to the metre, and how scientists today are continuing to redefine the measurement of time and length, with extraordinary results.
2013 • Physics
Deep underground in a vault beneath Paris lives the most important lump of metal in the world - Le Grand K. Created in the 19th century, it's the world's master kilogramme, the weight on which every other weight is based. But there is a problem with Le Grand K - it is losing weight. Professor Marcus du Sautoy explores the history of this strange object and the astonishing modern day race to replace it.
2013 • Physics
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.
On July 4, 2012, scientists at the giant atom smashing facility at CERN announced the discovery of a subatomic particle that seems like a tantalizingly close match to the elusive Higgs Boson, thought to be responsible for giving all the stuff in the universe its mass. Since it was first proposed nearly fifty years ago, the Higgs has been the holy grail of particle physicists: in finding it they validate the “standard model” that underlies all of modern physics and open the door to new discoveries when CERN’s giant collider switches on at higher power in 2015.
Hannah is going the other way by asking whether everything could, in fact, be smaller. But going smaller turns out not to be much safer... First, we shrink the Earth to half its size - it starts well with lower gravity enabling us to do incredible acrobatics, but things gradually turn nasty as everyone gets altitude sickness - even at sea level. Then we visit Professor Daniel Lathrop's incredible laboratory, where he has built a model Earth that allows us to investigate the other effects of shrinking the planet to half size. The results aren't good - with a weaker magnetic field we would lose our atmosphere and eventually become a barren, lifeless rock like Mars. In our next thought experiment, we shrink people to find out what life is like if you are just 5mm tall. We find out why small creatures have superpowers that seem to defy the laws of physics, meet Jyoti Amge, the world's smallest woman, and with the help of Dr Diana Van Heemst and thousands of baseball players reveal why short people have longer lives. Lastly, the Sun gets as small as a sun can be. We visit the fusion reactor at the Joint European Torus to find out why stars have to be a minimum size or fusion won't happen. And if our Sun were that small? Plants would turn from green to black, and Earth would probably resemble a giant, frozen eyeball. Which all goes to show that size really does matter.
The crosshairs are lined up, a death ray is fired and a planet is vaporized. Sci fi fantasy? Not according to Dr Michio Kaku, who draws up blueprints to show how a real death star might work. The technology could be here sooner than you think!
Time travel is not forbidden by the laws of nature, but to build a time machine, we would need to understand more about those laws and how to subvert them than we do now. And every day, science does learn more. In this film Horizon meets the scientists working on the cutting edge of discovery - men and women who may discover how to build wormholes, manipulate entangled photons or build fully functioning time crystals. In short, these scientists may enable an engineer of the future to do what we have so far been only able to imagine - to build a machine that allows us travel back and forward in time at the touch of a button. It could be you! Science fiction?