Life in the universe • 2015 The Economist

Category: Astronomy

Does life exist anywhere else in the universe? And how did it get started? Scientists are seeking the answers in the cosmos, our solar system and right here on planet Earth.

The Economist • 2015 - 2017 • 9 episodes •

What caused the Cambrian explosion?

For most of the Earth's history, life consisted of the simplest organisms; but then something happened that would give rise to staggering diversity, and, ultimately, life as complex as that which we see today. Scientists are still struggling to figure out just what that was.

2015 • Nature

Do we live in a multiverse?

It has long been thought that our universe is all there is, but it is possible we may live in just one of many.

2015 • Astronomy

What is consciousness?

Understanding what consciousness is, and why and how it evolved, is perhaps the greatest mystery known to science.

2015 • Brain

Why does time pass?

The equations of physics suggest time should be able to go backwards as well as forwards. Experience suggests, though, that it cannot. Why? And is time travel really possible?

2015 • Physics

Life in the universe

Does life exist anywhere else in the universe? And how did it get started? Scientists are seeking the answers in the cosmos, our solar system and right here on planet Earth.

2015 • Astronomy

What is the universe made of?

The Earth, the sun, the stars, and everything we can see, only comprise five percent of the universe. But what about the other 95 percent? Scientists are puzzling over dark matter and dark energy, the mysterious components that make up the rest.

2015 • Astronomy

Why are women paid less than men?

The gender pay gap is not caused by women earning less than men for the same job. It is largely because women choose different careers and suffer a “motherhood penalty”’.

2017 • Economics

Transforming cities with technology

Cities are growing faster than at any time in history, straining services and infrastructure. Technology-driven advances are at the forefront of solving this age-old problem

2017 • Technology

Which trends will affect our lives in the future

A futurist, a demographer and a museum curator spot trends that will affect the way people live and work.

2015 • Technology

You might also like

Hunting for Martian Life the Perseverance Rover

Meet Perseverance, NASA's latest rover, as it heads to Mars to answer one question: did life exist on the red planet? On the way, it will lay the foundation for human exploration of our closest neighbour.

Breakthrough • 2020 • Astronomy

Alien Planets

NASA’s next-generation space telescope TESS (Exoplanet Survey Satellite) has begun its search for Earth-like planets belonging to other star systems. How many of these ‘exoplanets’ can host life, and what kind of lifeforms can evolve in these environments?

1/2Space Phenomena • 2020 • Astronomy

Jupiter Revealed

'To send a spacecraft there is a little bit insane,' says Scott Bolton when talking about Jupiter, the largest planet in the solar system. But that is exactly what he has done, because Scott is head of Juno, the Nasa mission designed to peer through Jupiter's swirling clouds and reveal the wonders within. But this is no ordinary world. This documentary, narrated by Toby Jones, journeys with the scientists into the heart of a giant. Professor Kaitlin Kratter shows us how extreme Jupiter is. She has come to a quarry to measure out each planet's mass with rocks, starting with the smallest. Mercury is a single kilogram, and the Earth is 17. But Jupiter is on another scale entirely. It is seven tonnes - that is two and a half times the mass of all the other planets combined. On Kaitlin's scale it is not a pile of rocks, it is the truck delivering them. With extreme size comes extreme radiation. Juno is in the most extreme environment Nasa has visited. By projecting a 70-foot-wide, life-size Juno on a Houston rooftop, Scott shows us how its fragile electronics are encased in 200kg of titanium. As Scott puts it, 'we had to build an armoured tank to go there.' The team's efforts have been worthwhile. Professor Andrew Ingersoll, Juno's space weatherman, reveals they have seen lightning inside Jupiter, perhaps a thousand times more powerful than Earth's lightning. This might be evidence for huge quantities of water inside Jupiter. Prof Ingersoll also tells us that the Great Red Spot, a vast hurricane-like storm that could swallow the Earth whole, goes down as far as they can see - 'it could go down 1,000s of kilometres'. Deeper into the planet and things get stranger still. At the National Ignition facility in northern California, Dr Marius Millot is using powerful lasers normally used for nuclear fusion for an astonishing experiment. He uses '500 times the power that is used for the entire United States at a given moment' to crush hydrogen to the pressures inside Jupiter. Under these extreme conditions, hydrogen becomes a liquid metal. Juno is finding out how much liquid metallic hydrogen is inside Jupiter, and scientists hope to better understand how this flowing metal produces the most powerful aurora in the Solar System. But what is at Jupiter's heart? In Nice, Prof Tristan Guillot explains how Juno uses gravity to map the planet's centre. This can take scientists back to the earliest days of the solar system, because Jupiter is the oldest planet and it should contain clues to its own creation. By chalking out an outline of the Jupiter, Tristan reveals there is a huge rocky core - perhaps ten times the mass of Earth. It is now thought Jupiter started as a small rocky world. But there is a surprise, because Juno's findings suggest this core might be 'fuzzy'. Tristan thinks the planet was bombarded with something akin to shooting stars. As he puts it, 'Jupiter is quite unlike we thought'.

Horizon • 2018 • Astronomy

Hubble: The Wonders of Space

To celebrate the 30th anniversary of its launch, this film tells the remarkable story of how Hubble revealed the awe and wonder of our universe and how a team of daring astronauts risked their lives to keep it working.

Horizon • 2020 • Astronomy

The Farthest: Voyager's Interstellar Journey

Twelve billion miles away a tiny spaceship is leaving our solar system and entering the void of deep space. It is the first human-made object ever to do so. Slowly dying within its heart is a plutonium generator that will beat for perhaps another decade before the lights on Voyager finally go out. But this little craft will travel on for millions of years, carrying a Golden Record bearing recordings and images of life on Earth. The story of Voyager is an epic of human achievement, personal drama and almost miraculous success. Launched 16 days apart in 1977, the twin Voyager space probes have defied all the odds, survived countless near misses and almost 40 years later continue to beam revolutionary information across unimaginable distances. With less computing power than a modern hearing aid, they have unlocked the stunning secrets of our solar system. This film tells the story of these magnificent machines, the men and women who built them and the vision that propelled them farther than anyone could ever have hoped.

Storyville • 2017 • Astronomy


Ants, scorpions and fireflies provide clues for biologists to conjecture about life on exoplanet Janus, including highly adaptable pentapods.

S1E2Alien Worlds • 2020 • Astronomy