Ice is one of the strangest, most beguiling and mesmerising substances in the world. Full of contradictions, it is transparent, yet it can glow with colour, it is powerful enough to shatter rock, but it can melt in the blink of an eye. It takes many shapes, from the fleeting beauty of a snowflake to the multimillion-tonne vastness of a glacier and the eeriness of the ice fountains of far-flung moons. Science writer Dr Gabrielle Walker has been obsessed with ice ever since she first set foot on Arctic sea ice. In this programme, she searches out some of the secrets hidden deep within the ice crystal to try to discover how something so ephemeral has the power to sculpt landscapes, to preserve our past and inform our future.
Visiting a hidden location buried beneath the hills of Scotland, Helen experiences some of the most extreme acoustics in the world. Here she learns just how much information can be carried by sound. She discovers how sound has driven the evolution of truly incredible biological systems and complex relationships between creatures that exploit sound for hunting - and escaping from predators. Helen demonstrates how sound waves diffract (bend around objects) and in doing so help us sense danger and locate it. Helen explains how we are not limited to passively detecting sound waves; we can also use them to actively probe the world.
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.
When you think about Einstein and physics, E=mc^2 is probably the first thing that comes to mind. But one of his greatest contributions to the field actually came in the form of an odd philosophical footnote in a 1935 paper he co-wrote -- which ended up being wrong.