In this episode Brian uncovers how the stunning diversity of shapes in the natural world are shadows of the rules that govern the universe. In Spain he shows how an attempt by hundreds of people to build the highest human tower reveals the force that shapes our planet. In Nepal, honey hunters seek out giant beehives that cling to cliff walls. The perfect hexagonal honeycombs made by the bees to store their honey conceal a mathematical rule. Off the coast of Canada, Brian explains how some of the most irregular, dangerous shapes in nature - massive icebergs that surge down from Greenland and into shipping lanes of the Atlantic - emerge from a powerful yet infinitely small force of nature. Even the most delicate six-sided snowflake tells a story of the forces of nature that forged it.
The Arctic and Antarctic experience the most extreme seasons on Earth. Time-lapse cameras watch a colony of emperor penguins, transforming them into a singleorganism. The film reveals new science about the dynamics of emperor penguin behaviour. In the north, unique aerial images show a polar bear swimming more than 100km. Diving for up to two minutes at a time. The exhausted polar bear later attacks a herd of walrus in a true clash of the Titans.
Fish dominate the planet's waters through their astonishing variety of shape and behaviour. The beautiful weedy sea dragon looks like a creature from a fairytale, and the male protects their eggs by carrying them on his tail for months. The sarcastic fringehead, meanwhile, appears to turn its head inside out when it fights. Slow-motion cameras show the flying fish gliding through the air like a flock of birds and capture the world's fastest swimmer, the sailfish, plucking sardines from a shoal at 70 mph. And the tiny Hawaiian goby undertakes one of nature's most daunting journeys, climbing a massive waterfall to find safe pools for breeding.
Professor Richard Fortey investigates the remains of ancient volcanic lake in Germany where stunningly well-preserved fossils of early mammals, giant insects and even perhaps our oldest known ancestor have been found. Among the amazing finds are bats as advanced and sophisticated as anything living today, more than 50-million-years-later; dog-sized 'Dawn' horses, the ancestor of the modern horse; and giant ants as large as a hummingbird.
Oxygen – we all need it, we can't live without it. It's integral to life on this planet. And it's probable that, as you watch this film, you will be breathing in an oxygen atom that was also breathed by Genghis Khan – or by the first ever apes to stand upright on the plains of Africa. The oxygen that we breathe is made from two oxygen atoms joined together – O2. They were first joined more than 3 billion years ago by the earliest blue-green algae to evolve. The oxygen molecule first came from bacteria and was present in the fires that destroyed the dinosaurs and the chemical reactions in all human cells, and as ozone they protect the earth from radiation. Since then, both together and apart, they've had the most extraordinary adventures. Each of the two atoms in an oxygen molecule is virtually indestructible – so they have been first-hand players in some of the most dramatic events in the whole of Earth's history. It's often said that we are breathing the same oxygen that the cavemen did. The life of a single molecule of oxygen is traced on it's astonishing journey spanning millions of years, from its creation, into photosynthesis, through the age of the dinosaurs, early man, and on into today.
2008 • Nature