Secrets of the Super Elements • 2017

Category: Physics

Forget oil, coal and gas - a new set of materials is shaping our world and they're so bizarre they may as well be alien technology. In the first BBC documentary to be filmed entirely on smartphones, materials scientist Prof Mark Miodownik reveals the super elements that underpin our high-tech world. We have become utterly dependent on them, but they are rare and they're already running out. The stuff that makes our smartphones work could be gone in a decade and our ability to feed the world depends mostly on a mineral found in just one country. Mark reveals the magical properties of these extraordinary materials and finds out what we can do to save them.

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James May rapidly and easily explains all you need to know about speed.

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Making Sound

At the Palace of Westminster, Helen teams up with scientists from the University of Leicester to carry out state-of-the-art measurements using lasers to reveal how the most famous bell in the world - Big Ben - vibrates to create pressure waves in the air at particular frequencies. This is how Big Ben produces its distinct sound. It's the first time that these laser measurements have been done on Big Ben. At the summit of Stromboli, one of Europe's most active volcanoes, Helen and volcanologist Dr Jeffrey Johnson use a special microphone to record the extraordinary deep tone produced by the volcano as it explodes. Finally, at the University of Cambridge's Institute of Astronomy, Helen meets a scientist who has discovered evidence of sound waves in space, created by a giant black hole. These sounds are one million billion times lower than the limit of human hearing

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The Pleasure of finding Things out

Richard Feynman was one of the most brilliant theoretical physicists and original thinkers of the 20th century. He rebuilt the theory of quantum electrodynamics, and it was for this work that he won the Nobel Prize in 1965. In 1981, he gave Horizon a candid interview, talking about many things close to his heart.

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Just how small is an atom?

Just how small are atoms? And what's inside them? The answers turn out to be astounding, even for those who think they know. This fast-paced animation uses spectacular metaphors (imagine a blueberry the size of a football stadium!) to give a visceral sense of the building blocks that make our world.


Particle Fever

Documentary which follows six brilliant scientists during the launch of the Large Hadron Collider, marking the start of the biggest and most expensive experiment in the history of the planet. Filmed over seven years, it is an emotionally charged journey with scientists attempting to push the edge of human innovation. For the first time, a documentary gives viewers a front row seat to a significant and inspiring scientific breakthrough as it happens. As they seek to unravel the mysteries of the universe, 10,000 scientists from over 100 countries join forces in pursuit of a single goal - to recreate conditions that existed just moments after the big bang and find the Higgs boson, potentially explaining the origin of all matter. Directed by a physicist-turned-filmmaker and masterfully edited by Walter Murch (The Godfather trilogy), Particle Fever is a celebration of discovery, revealing the human stories behind this epic machine.

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Conquest of Cold

his 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 1: Conquest of Cold Chronicles the major discoveries leading towards the mastery of cold, beginning with King James I's court magician, Cornelius Drebbel, who managed to air condition the largest interior space in the British Isles in 1620. Other stories will include the first "natural philosopher," Robert Boyle, a founder of the Royal Society in Great Britain; the Grand Duke Ferdinand II de Medici's involvement in the creation of the first thermometer; the establishment of the laws of thermodynamics by three young scientists, Sadi Carnot, James Joule and William Thomson; and Michael Faraday's critical achievement in liquefying several other gases which set the stage for the commercial application of cold to refrigeration and air conditioning.

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