Issues of genetics and DNA are constantly cropping up in the news from food production and health, to legal cases and ethics. We hear about DNA in movies like Jurassic Park and X-men, we learn bits and pieces about it from TV shows like Dexter and and CSI, but what exactly is DNA, and how does it work?
Biologists teach that all living things on Earth are related. Is there any solid evidence to back this claim? Join us as we explore the facts! We start with a close look at the origin of whales from land mammals, and then touch on the origins of several other critters, including our own species.
The Miller-Urey experiment was the first attempt to scientifically explore ideas about the origin of life. Stanley Miller simulated conditions thought be common on the ancient Earth. The purpose was to test the idea that the complex molecules of life (in this case, amino acids) could have arisen on our young planet through simple, natural chemical reactions.
2015 • Nature
Helen looks at the latest scientific insight into the aurora - dancing lights in the night sky that have fascinated cultures throughout our history. From the networks of cameras now capturing its vast scale, to novel experiments that probe the threat it poses to modern technology, Helen reveals the dramatic transformation in our understanding of the aurora, and the many mysteries that remain to be solved.
The next programme deals with flying insects. It begins in Central Europe, where the Körös River plays host to millions of giant mayflies as they rise from their larval skins to mate. — the climax of their lives. Mayflies and dragonflies were among the first to take to the air about 320 million years ago, and fossils reveal that some were similar in size to a seagull. Damselflies are also looked at in detail.
David Attenborough reveals that the animal inhabitants of this vast wilderness are every bit as extraordinary as they are bizarre. Unearthly calls of the notorious Tasmanian devil echo through the land, but following them over the course of a year reveals a surprisingly gentle side. In the dry east, rare white wallabies graze on the plains and jack jumper ants build huge nests – these venomous ants are amongst the most dangerous on earth. In the west, where it can rain nearly every day of the year, caves light up with the magical spectacle of thousands of glow-worms, and the trees are 100-metre towering monsters. Rivers are home to the peculiar platypus, and world’s largest freshwater invertebrate, the Tasmanian giant lobster. Miniature penguins come ashore to breed, and as winter approaches, the southern lights dance in the sky. Tasmania’s isolation and unique climate has created a world that is as weird as it is wonderful.
Plants' solutions to life's challenges are as ingenious and manipulative as any animal's. Innovative time-lapse photography opens up a parallel world where plants act like fly-paper, or spring-loaded traps, to catch insects. Vines develop suckers and claws to haul themselves into the rainforest canopy. Every peculiar shape proves to have a clever purpose. The dragon's blood tree is like an upturned umbrella to capture mist and shade its roots. The seed of a Bornean tree has wings so aerodynamic they inspired the design of early gliders. The barrel-shaped desert rose is full of water. The heliconia plant even enslaves a humming bird and turns it into an addict for its nectar.
Going down into these narrow flooded passageways is not for the faint-hearted but, with only an estimated one percent of the caves explored, it is an opportunity for the team to write themselves into cave diving history, by pushing further in than anyone has before. This is a challenge that tests even the most accomplished cave divers. Steve must face the terrors of being lost in an underwater silt cloud in a cave. But there is a bigger issue at stake. All life in the Yucatan depends on the fresh water in this network of caves, but it's being contaminated by human development. With every metre the team maps, it adds to the knowledge of the system, which, in turns, helps protect it for future generations.