Saturday, January 31, 2009

Fermat's Last Theorem

Simon Singh and John Lynch's film tells the enthralling and emotional story of Andrew Wiles. A quiet English mathematician, he was drawn into maths by Fermat's puzzle, but at Cambridge in the '70s, FLT was considered a joke, so he set it aside. Then, in 1986, an extraordinary idea linked this irritating problem with one of the most profound ideas of modern mathematics: the Taniyama-Shimura Conjecture, named after a young Japanese mathematician who tragically committed suicide.

The link meant that if Taniyama was true then so must be FLT. When he heard, Wiles went after his childhood dream again. "I knew that the course of my life was changing." For seven years, he worked in his attic study at Princeton, telling no one but his family. "My wife has only known me while I was working on Fermat", says Andrew.

In June 1993 he reached his goal. At a three-day lecture at Cambridge, he outlined a proof of Taniyama - and with it Fermat's Last Theorem. Wiles' retiring life-style was shattered. Mathematics hit the front pages of the world's press. Then disaster struck. His colleague, Dr Nick Katz, made a tiny request for clarification. It turned into a gaping hole in the proof. As Andrew struggled to repair the damage, pressure mounted for him to release the manuscript - to give up his dream. So Andrew Wiles retired back to his attic. He shut out everything, but Fermat.

A year later, at the point of defeat, he had a revelation. "It was the most important moment in my working life. Nothing I ever do again will be the same." The very flaw was the key to a strategy he had abandoned years before. In an instant Fermat was proved; a life's ambition achieved; the greatest puzzle of maths was no more.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Galileo's Battle for the Heavens

In this two-hour special, we celebrate the story of the father of modern science and his struggle to get Church authorities to accept the truth of his astonishing discoveries. The program is based on Dava Sobel's bestselling book, Galileo's Daughter, which reveals a new side to the famously stubborn scientist—that his closest confidante was his illegitimate daughter, Sister Maria Celeste, a cloistered nun.

The actor Simon Callow plays Galileo in dramatic reenactments of key moments from his life: his pioneering telescopic observations of the Moon and planets, his revolutionary experiments with falling objects, and his fateful trial before the Inquisition for heresy.

Born in 1564, Galileo lived a generation after Nicolas Copernicus published his controversial theory that the Earth was not the center of the universe around which the heavens revolved. Galileo supported the idea that the Earth turned on its axis and that it, along with the planets, revolved around the sun. The view was considered absurd by most scholars since it contradicted certain passages in the Bible and challenged the commonsense experience of the Earth as a solid, unmoving object.

But Galileo found merit in the idea, especially after he aimed a newly invented instrument called the telescope at the night sky and saw that the Moon and planets were far from the perfect realms accepted by the Catholic Church. His discovery of moons orbiting Jupiter and phases in the appearance of Venus, analogous to the phases of the Moon, supported the Copernican view.

The Church insisted that Galileo couch his speculations in hypothetical terms only. But he stepped over the line in 1632 when he published his Dialogue on the Two Chief World Systems, in which a simpleton mouths the views of the then-reigning pope, Urban VIII. This was too much for the Pope, and Galileo was hauled before the Inquisition, which had tortured and burned to death malefactors for far less.

Galileo's clash with the Vatican put Sister Maria Celeste in an awkward position, but she continued to correspond and meet with her father and even served as his editor.

Though his life was spared, Galileo was put under house arrest, and the Dialogue was banned. But it was a Pyrrhic victory for the Church. Galileo's arguments eventually "won the war" for the Copernican theory, making it intellectually respectable to believe that the Earth in fact moves, says Harvard professor Owen Gingerich.

Part One

Part Two

Previously an obscure branch of philosophy, science was now on the road to becoming the preeminent method for discovering how the world works—thanks to Galileo.

Visit the official site here.

Get this documentary on DVD...

Bloody Cartoons

What do Danish cartoons tell us about contemporary democracy?

A lot it seems. Freedom of expression has always been a core principle of democracy. Imagining one without the other is unthinkable to most people. But what happens when one democratic right infringes on the rights of others? Is democracy itself shaped by religion? Are religions democratic? More importantly, is God democratic?

Bloody Cartoons is a documentary about how and why 12 drawings in a Danish provincial paper could whirl a small country into a confrontation with Muslims all over the world. He asks whether respect for Islam combined with the heated response to the cartoons is now leading us towards self-censorship. How tolerant should we be, he wonders, of the intolerant. And what limits should there be, if any, to freedom of speech in a democracy.

The director films in Lebanon, Iran, Syria, Qatar, France, Turkey and Denmark, talking to some of the people that played key roles during the cartoon crisis.

Get this important documentary on DVD today...

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Biggest Things in Space

We cannot compare anything on earth to the largest things known in space. The Lymann Alpha blob is a bubble-like structure containing countless galaxies, perhaps the biggest object in the entire universe.

Regions of radio-emitting gas, called radio lobes, could be even bigger. Then there are super galaxy clusters, which are hundreds of galaxies merged together due to cosmic collisions.

In this documentary we discover which is the largest planet, star, star cluster, constellation, black hole, void, volcano, galaxy, explosion, moon, storm and impact crater in space.

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Space Tourists

BBC Space - with Sam Neil

The Elegant Universe

Stephen Hawking's Universe

Most of the Universe is Missing

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

In Search of the Trojan War

This is, without a doubt, one of the best historical documentaries ever made. In Search of the Trojan War combines archaeological adventure, historical investigation and a charming presentation by historian Michael Wood to bring to life one of the best known Greek legends: the Trojan War.

Sifting through vast sources of information, from the ancient to the contemporary, visiting fabled cities, and walking on the footsteps of the people of times past Michael Wood discards speculation to present an objective view on the history of the city of Troy.

Made in 1987 by PBS and the BBC, this six-part documentary is still the most complete and vivid depiction of Troy ever presented in television. Each one of the original episodes deals with a particular topic regarding Troy and the Trojan War.

The Age of Heroes
This episode presents the many legends and myths of the ancient Greeks, where they came from, the ways they influenced everyday life, and how life ordinarily went on in the Greek world during this historical period.

The Legend Under Siege
Here we look at the pioneering men, both believers and skeptics, who followed Greek myths into their historical past, discovering legendary cities, awe-inspiring treasures and important cultural facts, and, in the process, creating the science of archaeology.

The Singer of Tales
This part is as detailed a biography on Homer as the information about him permits - including a pleasant and entertaining look at the very old and almost unchanged art of the bard poets - and a detailed analysis of his epic: The Iliad.

The Women of Troy
Here we trace the evidence that places Trojan women on Greek mainland as the probable result of their abduction by victorious Greeks after the War, giving strong historical support to Homer's tale.

The Empire of Hittites
What were the commercial and political connections between the Trojans and the Hittites as recorded in Hittite clay tablets and other historical records? Does this further validate Homer's account of the Trojan War.

The Fall of Troy
This concluding episode drawns from the historical facts about the reality of the Trojan War, its legend and its heroes.

More documentaries like this...

The Life of Buddha

The Story of One

An Islamic History of Europe

The Vanished City of the Pharaoh

Get this amazing documentary series on DVD today...

Monday, January 26, 2009

Silk - The Thread Connecting East and West

Beautiful, smooth, soft, delicate, strong, and precious: silk. This amazing fabric has captivated human imagination for over 2000 years. Throughout history, it has clothed the rich and powerful. But more than this, it has been a form of currency, a tool of diplomacy, a badge of rank, and a fabric of the divine. And silk, above all other treasures, has been the thread connecting East and West. It is an artifact that has truly shaped history.

The discovery of silk is said to have taken place in China almost two and a half thousand years ago by the wife of the "yellow emperor", Huang Di. Legend has it that the lady H'si Ling made her discovery when a silk moth cocoon fell from a mulberry tree into her hot tea where it began to unravel.

The empress has been revered ever since as "the lady of silk" who taught the Chinese to cultivate mulberry trees and raise silk worms. Her discovery of the secret of silk would profoundly influence the history of China and the world

More documentaries like this...

China from the Inside

Mysteries of Asia

Tibet's Hidden Kingdom

The Seven Wonders of the Muslim World

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Ape Man - Adventures in Human Evolution

This landmark documentary series looks at the evolution of man and answers these fundamental questions...

Who were our ancestors? When did they first walk the earth? Why did man survive when other species became extinct? These questions have inspired scientists throughout the ages to piece together the fragmentary clues the early humans left behind.

This direct and involving story of their detective work in search of the truth about our evolution takes us through the breakthroughs and setbacks in the epic journey towards the truth about our shared past, and we discover that our early ancestors were, in many ways, people like us. At the heart of this series are stunning dramatic recreations which bring into focus the lives of the early humans.

PART ONE - Contact

PART TWO - First Born


I was unable to locate this espisode anywhere on the will be posted when it becomes available.


PART FIVE - Exodus

PART SIX - Human

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Evolution - Darwin's Dangerous Idea

The Ape That Took Over The World

Why Are We Here - Richard Dawkins

Richard Dawkins - The Enemies of Reason

Richard Dawkins - The Blind Watch Maker

Friday, January 23, 2009

Infinite Secrets - The Genius of Archimedes

In 1991, a small Medieval prayer book was sold at auction. Miraculously, some original writings of Archimedes, the brilliant Greek mathematician, were discovered hidden beneath the religious text. Through scholarly detective work with the help of modern technology, this book now reveals Archimedes’ stunningly original concepts, ideas, and theories—revelations that, if known sooner, might have reshaped our world.

Many historic figures have been hailed as ahead of their time. Few—if any—are said to be centuries ahead of their time. The Einstein of his era, Archimedes had a sophisticated understanding of mathematics, and designed marvelous war machines for his native Syracuse to use against the invading Romans. Many of Archimedes’ works disappeared during the Middle Ages, but some survived to help inspire the scientific revolution in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

One document that seemed irretrievably lost was his final treatise The Method, which reputedly explained how he achieved his brilliant results—secrets he revealed nowhere else. Now, over 2200 years later, the discovery of The Method has experts and scientists dreaming of what might have been if Renaissance thinkers and other great minds had known of his ideas and been able to build on them

This documentary explores Archimedes’ rare writings, as well as the book’s mysterious beginnings, tumultuous history and amazing discovery. As the ancient text comes back from the dead, it unlocks its revolutionary contents—the infinite secrets of one of history’s greatest thinkers.

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Newton - The Dark Heretic

Get this amazing documentary on DVD now...

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Human, All Too Human

This three part documentary series looks at the lives and thoughts of three of the most important philosophical thinkers of the contemporary period - Friedrich Nietzsche, Martin Heidegger and Jean-Paul Sartre.

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche
Nietzsche was a nineteenth-century German philosopher and classical philologist. He wrote critical texts on religion, morality, contemporary culture, philosophy, and science, using a distinctive German language style and displaying a fondness for metaphor and aphorism. Nietzsche's influence remains substantial within and beyond philosophy, notably in existentialism and postmodernism.

His style and radical questioning of the value and objectivity of truth raise considerable problems of interpretation, generating an extensive secondary literature in both continental and analytic philosophy. Nevertheless, some of his key ideas include interpreting tragedy as an affirmation of life, an eternal recurrence (which numerous commentators have re-interpreted), a rejection of Platonism, and a repudiation of both Christianity and Egalitarianism (especially in the form of Democracy and Socialism).

Nietzsche began his career as a classical philologist before turning to philosophy. At the age of 24 he was appointed to the Chair of Classical Philology at the University of Basel (the youngest individual ever to have held this position), but resigned in 1879 because of health problems, which would plague him for most of his life. In 1889 he exhibited symptoms of insanity, living out his remaining years in the care of his mother and sister until his death in 1900.

Martin Heidegger
Heidegger claimed that Western philosophy has, since Plato, misunderstood what it means for something "to be," tending to approach this question in terms of a being, rather than asking about being itself. In other words, Heidegger believed all investigations of being have historically focused on particular entities and their properties, or have treated being itself as an entity, or substance, with properties.

A more authentic analysis of being would, for Heidegger, investigate "that on the basis of which beings are already understood," or that which underlies all particular entities and allows them to show up as entities in the first place. But since philosophers and scientists have overlooked the more basic, pre-theoretical ways of being from which their theories derive, and since they have incorrectly applied those theories universally, they have confused our understanding of being and human existence. To avoid these deep-rooted misconceptions, Heidegger believed philosophical inquiry must be conducted in a new way, through a process of retracing the steps of the history of philosophy.

Heidegger argued that this misunderstanding, commencing from Plato, has left its traces in every stage of Western thought. All that we understand, from the way we speak to our notions of "common sense," is susceptible to error, to fundamental mistakes about the nature of being. These mistakes filter into the terms through which being is articulated in the history of philosophy—reality, logic, God, consciousness, presence, et cetera. In his later philosophy, Heidegger argues that this profoundly affects the way in which human beings relate to modern technology.

Jean-Paul Charles Aymard Sartre
Jean-Paul Sartre was born in Paris to Jean-Baptiste Sartre, an officer of the French Navy, and Anne-Marie Schweitzer. His mother was of Alsatian origin, and was a cousin of German Nobel prize laureate Albert Schweitzer.

When Sartre was 15 months old, his father died of a fever. Anne-Marie raised him with help from her father, Charles Schweitzer, a high school professor of German, who taught Sartre mathematics and introduced him to classical literature at a very early age. As a teenager in the 1920s, Sartre became attracted to philosophy upon reading Henri Bergson's Essay on the Immediate Data of Consciousness.

He studied and earned a doctorate in philosophy in Paris at the elite École Normale Supérieure, an institution of higher education which was the alma mater for several prominent French thinkers and intellectuals. Sartre was influenced by many aspects of Western philosophy, absorbing ideas from Immanuel Kant, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger among others. In 1929 at the École Normale, he met Simone de Beauvoir, who studied at the Sorbonne and later went on to become a noted philosopher, writer, and feminist. The two, it is documented, became inseparable and lifelong companions, initiating a romantic relationship, though they were not monogamous. Sartre served as a conscript in the French Army from 1929 to 1931 though he later argued in 1959 that each French person was responsible for the collective crimes during the Algerian War of Independence.

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Philosophy: A Guide to Happiness

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Burden of Time

This documentary takes us on a journey to meet the indigenous population of Central America. We visit the ruins at Teotihuacan and the Aztec temple of Quetzalcoatl in Mexico City, and discusses the Mayans' concept of time and the Aztec custom of human sacrifice.

Isolated from the rest of the world, the Mayans and Aztecs created sophisticated civilizations that in many ways paralleled ancient Mediterranean empires. God-like kings and a priestly ruling class dominated splendid cities of temples and pyramids.

I apologise...this film's audio goes somewhat out of sinc with the video. It is such a great documentary, however, that it is worth putting up with.

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The Kogi - From the Heart of the World

The Curse of Oil

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Guns, Germs and Steel

Sunday, January 18, 2009

How Mad Are You?

Take ten volunteers, half have psychiatric disorders, the other half don't - but who is who?

Over five days the group are put through a series of challenges - from performing stand-up comedy to mucking out cows. The events are designed to explore the character traits of mental illness and ask whether the symptoms might be within all of us.

Three leading experts in mental health attempt to spot which volunteers have been diagnosed with a mental health condition. But will the individuals who have suffered from mental illness reveal themselves?

First of a two-part special. Ten volunteers have come together for an extraordinary test. Five are 'normal' and the other five have been officially diagnosed as mentally ill. Horizon asks if you can tell who is who, and considers where the line between sanity and madness lies.

Second part of the special documentary considering where the line between sanity and madness lies as ten volunteers come together for an extraordinary test. With five 'normal' volunteers and five who have been officially diagnosed as mentally ill, Horizon asks if you can tell who is who.

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The Human Mind

My Brilliant Brain - Born Genius

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Saturday, January 17, 2009

Derek Tastes of Ear Wax

This documentary looks at the fact that perhaps one in every hundred people experiences a blending of the senses.

Imagine if every time you saw someone called Derek you got a strong taste of earwax in your mouth. It happens to James Wannerton, who runs a pub. Derek is one of his regulars. Another regular's name gives him the taste of wet nappies. For some puzzling reason, James's sense of sound and taste are intermingled.

Dorothy Latham sees words as colours. Whenever she reads a black and white text, she sees each letter tinged in the shade of her own multi-coloured alphabet - even though she knows the reality of the text is black and white. Spoken words have an even stranger effect. She sees them, spelled out letter by letter, on a colourful tickertape in front of her head.

Both James and Dorothy have a mysterious condition called synaesthesia, in which their senses have become linked. For years scientists dismissed it, putting it in the same category as séances and spoon-bending. But now, synaesthesia is sparking a revolution in our understanding of the human mind.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Egypt's Golden Empire

Over 3,500 years ago, Rome was no more than a soggy marsh and the Acropolis was just an empty rock, but Egypt was on the brink of its greatest age - the New Kingdom.

PART ONE - The Warrior Pharaohs

In 1560 BC, Egypt was divided into two. Its very existence was threatened from both north and south. But one family was determined to restore Egypt to its former glory. One by one, the King of Thebes and his two sons, Kamose and Ahmose, fought the Hyksos, who occupied northern Egypt. Both the King and Kamose died trying.

Ahmose was more successful, driving the Hyksos out of the north before attacking the Nubians to the south. By the time he died, he had united Egypt and created the beginnings of a new empire. In 1479 BC, around 50 years after Ahmose's death, Egypt was again in turmoil. Against all Egyptian traditions and beliefs, the pharaoh was a woman. Hatshepsut was stepmother to the rightful king, Tuthmosis III, but had stolen his throne and was ruling in his place.

Hatshepsut needed to use all her cunning to secure her position. She used images on temple walls to claim that her father had publicly appointed her as pharaoh. Later on, she sent the army - now led by Tuthmosis III - on a trade expedition to Punt, the first in over 500 years.

The success of the mission and the exotic riches it brought back to Egypt cemented her reputation. Her throne was safe. After waiting more than 20 years, Tuthmosis III finally gained the throne. He was keen to expand Egypt's borders and build an empire.

A daring victory at Megiddo brought him fame and enormous riches. These were increased greatly by control of the Nubian gold mines. By the end of his reign, Egypt controlled a vast empire of enormous wealth.

PART TWO - Pharaohs of the Sun

When Amenhotep III became pharaoh in 1390 BC, Egypt controlled a vast empire and was rich, respected and free. But it faced the challenge of powerful new rivals. Rather than fighting these rivals, as his predecessors had done, Amenhotep III talked to them. The Amarna letters were small stone tablets - correspondence between the pharaoh and the leaders of rival nations. Instead of war, Egypt was now using diplomacy.

In its diplomacy, Egypt had one huge advantage. Its enormous quantities of gold made it the most valuable ally in the ancient world. Foreign kings often asked Amenhotep for gold. The pharaoh was clever: although he gave them gold, he always left them wanting more. Amenhotep also used this wealth to start an extensive building program, which included enormous temples dedicated to himself and his chief queen, Tiy.

However, he was also growing tired of the power of the priests, particularly those of the chief god, Amen-Re. To keep the priests in their place, he began to pay attention to a minor god, Aten. When he died, his son became pharaoh and took this religious change to extremes. He declared that Egypt would worship only one god, Aten, and closed down all the temples to Amen-Re.

The pharaoh then changed his name to Akenhaten and ordered a brand new capital city to be built at Amarna. Once completed, he packed up the city of Thebes and moved out. After the death of his beloved wife, Nefertiti, Akenhaten ordered the destruction of all references to Amen-Re. He also lost touch with the outside world, ignoring the pleas of his people and allies and almost destroying Egypt's empire.

When Akenhaten died, his heir inherited an empire on the brink of disaster. Tutankhamen, the new pharaoh, was just nine years old, so priests and courtiers ruled behind the scenes. They reinstated Egypt's traditional gods and acted as if Akenhaten had never ruled. When Tutankhamen turned 19, he was old enough to rule for himself. The same year, he suddenly died in mysterious circumstances and was buried with the heretical remains of his father's reign.

PART THREE - The Last Great Pharaoh

The reign of Ramesses II - known also as Ramesses the Great - marked the high point of the New Kingdom and the high point of Egyptian culture. But like any highpoint, it was all downhill as the New Kingdom gradually fell into ruin.

When Ramesses came to the throne, Egypt was threatened by the Hittites. They soon invaded and took the town of Kadesh. Ramesses had no option but to fight. Tall and red-headed, Ramesses was a distinctive and powerful figure. He was lucky to win the Battle of Kadesh, but wanted his victory to seem more impressive. He carved stories on temple walls that told his people how, single-handed, he had defeated the enemy. Throughout his reign he would use propaganda to build up his reputation.

Ramesses also used Egypt's wealth to expand or rebuild its temples, including those at Luxor and Karnak. He also constructed a brand new capital, built in his honor - Per Ramesses. But his greatest buildings were two enormous temples, carved out of the mountains of Abu Simbel in southern Egypt. The first was for his dead wife, Nefertari, while the other was for him.

Ramesses had a huge number of children - possibly around 80 sons and 60 daughters. He outlived almost all of his children, reigning for a remarkable 67 years and only dying at the grand old age of 93. As most subjects had been born within the lifetime of this worshipped pharaoh many thought his death marked the end of Egypt. In some ways, they were right. The New Kingdom would never again see the glory days of Ramesses the Great. Within 150 years the golden age of Egypt was over for good.

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The Vanished City of the Pharaoh

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Get the whole 'Empires' box set on DVD...

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The World According to Monsanto

Monsanto is a world leader in industrial agriculture, providing the seeds for 90 percent of the world's genetically modified crops. Once a chemical company based in the US, Monsanto has transformed into an international life sciences company, aiming to solve world hunger and protect the environment.

Filmmaker Marie-Monique Robin, however, exposes the company's troubling past, in her recent film, The World According to Monsanto. In an interview with The Real News Network, she discusses Monsanto's controversial practices from a producer of PCBs and Agent Orange to genetically modified seeds and related herbicides.

Starting from the Internet over a period of three years Robin has collected material for her documentary, going on to numerous interviews with people of very different backgrounds. She traveled widely, from Latin America, to Asia, through Europe and the United States, to personally interview farmers and people in influential positions.

As an example of pro-Monsanto interviews, she talked at length with Michael Taylor who has worked as a lawyer for Monsanto and also for the Federal Drug Administration (FDA), where he had great influence on the legalization of the genetically modified bovine growth hormone (BGH). It also became FDA policy during Taylor's tenure that GM seeds are declared to be "substantially equivalent to non-GM seeds, hence proclaiming proof of the harmlessness of GMs to be unnecessary. Michael Taylor is a typical example of technocrats employed via 'the revolving door policy'. He is now head of the Washington, D.C. office of Monsanto Corporation.

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Get this documentary on DVD...

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Nikola Tesla - Genius Who Lit the World

This program reveals the discoveries of a forgotten genius, many of which went virtually unnoticed for nearly a century. Nikola Tesla is considered the father of our modern technological age and one of the most mysterious and controversial scientists in history. How did this obscure visionary from what is now Yugoslavia lay the foundation for modern communications and energy research?

Nikola Tesla’s contributions to science and technology include the invention of radio, television, radio-astronomy, remote control and robotics, radar, medical x-ray and the wireless transmission of electricity. Many of Nikola Tesla’s inventions were and in some cases still are considered a little too revolutionary by government agencies and the power brokers of the time and are discussed in detail in this program.

Encyclopedia Britannica lists Nikola Tesla as one of the top ten most fascinating people in history. So why is he virtually unknown to the general public? This program is a penetrating study of the life and mind of a "scientific superman" who, against all odds, dedicated his life to the task of designing and improving technology for the service and advancement of humanity.

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In It's Image

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Buy this documentary on DVD now...

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Who Built Stonehenge?

Stonehenge, located on the Salisbury Plain in Southern England, has long been associated with Druids, a group of wise men present in England more than 2000 years ago. Still today at Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year, Druid celebrations are held at Stonehenge. But were they the actual designers?

Excavations underneath the stones have revealed artifacts, like antler horns, carbon dated at 4000 years ago. Bodies found buried nearby are of the same age. This rules out the Druids, as well as the Romans who followed them. This even pre-dates immigrant settlers from Europe. That leaves a primative people known as Ancient Britons, who lived at the start of the bronze age. Great precision was used in assembling the 15,000 tons of rock into circles. Did they have the know-how?

Examining the stones, the large ones come from just 20 miles away and could have been dragged there by the Ancient Britons. But what of the smaller Bluestones? Investigation shows that they are found 200 miles away in S.W. Wales. Did they have the ability to carry these stones over water for that distance? The recent discovery of an ancient boat made from a log carrying quarried stones, points to the answer. Several of these boats lashed together and covered with a platform could transport the Bluestones. Investigators using manpower and simple wooden scaffolding have shown they had the technology at the time to erect Stonehenge.

The big remaining question is why did they build it? People who study architecture say it was probably a place of worship. Towering over the people as it did, it inspired a sense of something larger than themselves.

The closing segment investigated a mass grave of skeletons found in the area. Using tests on the enamel of the teeth, scientists are able to determine where these people grew up. It was in Wales, the location of the Bluestones.

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Monday, January 12, 2009

My Brilliant Brain - Make Me A Genius

Susan Polgar is the world's first female chess grandmaster. But she wasn't born with her brilliant brain - it was created by the unique experiment that dominated her childhood. From the age of four her father trained her for up to six hours a day at chess alone.

Growing up in the early 1970s, no woman had ever held the title of chess grandmaster. It was widely believed that female brains weren't wired with adequate spatial awareness for the game. Nowadays, memory and pattern recognition are recognised as they key areas used by experts in all fields - everyone from waiters to fire-fighters.

Neither of these however, has the trained memory of a chess grandmaster. Able to recreate a chess game glimpsed only on the side of a passing van, Susan's true genius is revealed when she plays an entire chess match over a mobile phone. Her opponent can see the board but she can't, instead using her memory to imagine the game.

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God on the Brain

The Human Mind

How to Build a Human

We are at the dawn of the Age of Biology...

Scientists have already decoded the entire human genome, a magnificent achievement in itself, but how can the human race expect to benefit from this important milestone? Genetic screening is already being used to eliminate disease and scientists are well down the road to successfully repairing DNA. But will we stop at repair or could we go on to improve on our species, to redesign the perfect human? This groundbreaking series explores the limits of a remarkable science.

The 21st century will be shaped by a revolution in biology, which will enable us to read the genetic code of life as we would read a book. The new age will give us an almost god-like ability to manipulate and build humans at will. We have gained the power to control the destiny of our species. This series will give you a glimpse of the future of humankind.

PART ONE - Creation
The ability to genetically engineer human beings will change the human race forever. The secrets of DNA, the genetic code for life, are being unraveled. How are scientists learning to manipulate it to create new human beings – or parts of human beings?

This film has access to the creation of the first cloned human embryo, and the people behind it. It gives us a glimpse of a future in which we will be able to bump into younger versions of ourselves in the street, replace every damaged organ with a new one that contains 99% of our own DNA, and nurture our offspring in artificial wombs.

PART TWO - The Predictor
More and more we are finding that the unique characteristics that make each one of us an individual, from our basic physical attributes to the complexities of our personality, can be traced back to the subtle mix of genes we received at the moment of conception.

But how much do these genes actually predict our destiny? And how much can that destiny be changed throughout our lives? Is it nature or nurture that builds us? The genetic age has opened up a huge realm of possibilities. Will we be able to read our own lives before we live them, predict our deaths and rewrite the story that is written in our genes?


PART THREE - The Secret of Sex
Before science put it under the microscope, sex was a simple, uncomplicated thing. You couldn’t build humans without it. All you needed was a man, a woman, a liberal sprinkling of lust and Mother Nature did the rest. But is that now a terribly old-fashioned way of making new humans?

In the future we’ll be able to build humans in tanks, make copies of ourselves in labs and even have the power to change the course of our genetic destiny by turning women into men.

If kissing is nothing more than a way of sniffing out compatible genes, what is the point of sex, and will it ever be the same again?

PART FOUR - Forever Young
Imagine yourself 150 years old, pregnant and still going strong. Is this scenario the stuff of science fiction? Scientists predict that in fifty years time every organ in the body, except the brain, will be replaceable. Even the heart can be renovated.

The future won’t just be a healthier short life. The search for eternal life is now being taken seriously. A number of tantalising and remarkable discoveries indicating how to stop the human body ageing are about to turn science fiction into reality. The key lies inside every cell in our body. Scientists now believe they will be able to extend the human life span to 150 years. Is this the first step to immortality?

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Secret of El Dorado

In 1542, the Spanish Conquistador, Francisco de Orellana ventured along the Rio Negro, one of the Amazon Basin's great rivers. Hunting a hidden city of gold, his expedition found a network of farms, villages and even huge walled cities. At least that is what he told an eager audience on his return to Spain.

The prospect of gold drew others to explore the region, but none could find the people of whom the first Conquistadors had spoken. The missionaries who followed a century later reported finding just isolated tribes of hunter-gatherers. Orellana's story seemed to be no more than a fanciful myth.

When scientists came to weigh up the credibility of Orellana's words, they reached the same conclusion. As productive as the rainforest may appear, the soil it stands in is unsuited to farming. It is established belief that all early civilisations have agriculture at their hearts.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Strange Days on Planet Earth

Around the globe, experts are racing to solve a series of mysteries: how could a one-degree rise in average temperature have profound effects around the globe? How could crumbling houses in New Orleans be linked to voracious creatures from southern China?

Hosted by actor-writer-director Edward Norton, this award-winning series uses state-of-the-art graphics and globe-spanning investigations to understand how our environment is changing and why.

Part One - Invaders

More and more plants and animals are turning up where they don't belong. The global system of transportation is carrying them around the world. Alarmingly alien species have the potential to cause damage to the health and wellbeing of our communities and need to be kept in check.

At the end of World War II, American soldiers in the Pacific used wooden crates to ship equipment back to the United States. Little did they know that they were also transporting an aggressive breed of termite. They might be small but in large numbers they are destructive, bringing down the timber homes that dominate New Orleans.

In Uganda it took only a few years for water hyacinth, not native to the area, to rapidly spread around Lake Victoria, choking the banks. Diseases such as malaria and dysentery have been on the rise, and the prevalence of the plant has made it harder for fishermen to make a living. Can a small insect, the weevil, bring the water hyacinth under control?

In the forests of Hawaii, a plant introduced in the 1960s, has become a new source of erosion. The invasive plant with its destabilising root system has caused an increasing number of landslides. Not only devastating to species in the forests, soils being dumped in the oceans are also damaging sea-life.

Part Two - The One Degree Factor

Dust clouds are building high over the Atlantic. An entire population of caribou is declining, while other species are pushed to the limits of their physical survival in the oceans. A respiratory illness, once uncommon among children in Trinidad, is now widespread. Amazingly, many scientists now believe these disparate phenomena may be linked to global climate change.

With the constant burning of carbon fuels, scientists have concluded that the Earth's temperature has increased at least one degree. The first episode in the series explores some of the consequences of the temperature increase.

Discover how, after successfully breeding and migrating for thousands of years, the caribou populations in Alaska are now under threat, as the environment around them warms up; how the drought in Africa is responsible for both an increase in children's asthma and a disease in coral plants in the Caribbean; and why zooplankton, the most basic food source in the ocean, is continually fluctuating in population, putting entire communities of animals at risk.

Part Three - Predators

This episode shows how an entire ecosystem can change when its top predators disappear.

In Venezuela the damming of a river created a man-made lake and a number of small islands. The predators that once dominated the ecosystem have gone and the remaining wildlife, including iguana and howler monkeys, battle for survival on the small islands. Without the predators, the changes in animal behaviour and the vegetation are undeniable.

At Yellowstone National Park, Aspen trees and willow bush are disappearing from the landscape at an alarming rate. Could the demise of wolves in the park over the past century provide the answer? The bold move to re-introduce wolves back into the park, may have outraged some of the locals living nearby, but it only takes a couple of years to see the difference their presence makes.

Part Four - Troubled Waters

For decades, efforts have been made around the world to clean up our waterways and in some cases it appears to be working. But are our water systems really as clean as we think they are?

Across America, leopard frog species have been diminishing in large numbers. Scientists have discovered that an increasing number of male species are actually hermaphrodites. Scientists are on a quest to prove whether a herbicide used in corn farming, which is also found in the breeding grounds of the frogs, is actually responsible for the genetic anomalies.

Scientists in Canada have discovered that colonies of beluga whales have high cancer rates. The bodies washed up on shore are so toxic that they are considered hazardous waste. But where are the toxins coming from and how can scientists help save the whale colonies?

Click here for the official website.

More documentaries like this...

The Kogi - From the Heart of the World

Life After People

Global Dimming

The Human Footprint

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Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Pagan Christ

There are 2.1 billion Christians on the planet – roughly one third of the entire human population. At the heart of their religion is the New Testament and the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. To Christianity, the written word is the glue that binds the faith of its followers.

So, what if it could be proven that Jesus never existed? What if there was evidence that every word of the New Testament – the cornerstone of Christianity – is based on myth and metaphor?

Based on Tom Harpur’s national bestseller, The Pagan Christ examines these very questions. During his research, Harpur discovered that the New Testament is wholly based on Egyptian mythology, that Jesus Christ never lived, and that – indeed – the text was always meant to be read allegorically. It was the founders of the Church who duped the world into taking a literal approach to the scriptures. And, according to Harpur, this was their fatal error – and the very reason Christianity is struggling today.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Secrets of the Kabbalah

Once exclusively reserved for study by ultra-religious male scholars of Judaism, Kabbalah has recently become known as a multi-million dollar, celebrity-endorsed phenomenon.

Secrets of the Kabbalah strips away the hype and demystifies the writings that have been studied by Jewish scholars for thousands of years. Is the Kabbalah of the stars the same Kabbalah that Jewish scholars have studied for generations?

Even as more and more people are seen wearing the red string bracelets associated with Kabbalah, the original teachings behind this seemingly new fad are in fact understood by precious few.

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Sunday, January 4, 2009

638 Ways to Kill Castro

638 Ways to Kill Castro is a Channel 4 documentary film, broadcast in the United Kingdom on 28 November 2006, which tells the story of some of the numerous attempts to kill Cuba's leader Fidel Castro.

The film reveals multiple methods of assassination, from exploding cigars to femmes fatales; a radio station rigged with noxious gas to a poison syringe posing as an innocuous ballpoint pen. Fabian Escalante, the former head of Cuban Intelligence, the man who has had the job of protecting Castro for many of the 49 years he’s been in power, alleges that there were over 600 plots and conspiracies known to Cuban agents, all dreamt up to end the life of the “red menace”. Some were perpetrated by the CIA, especially during the first half of the 1960s. From the seventies onwards, the attempts were most often made by Cuban exiles who had been trained by the CIA shortly after Castro took power in 1959.

On the trail of Castro’s would-be killers, the filmmakers meet a series of would-be assassins – several are also accused terrorists, still living in America. Orlando Bosch, accused by many of being the greatest terrorist in the hemisphere, is found living peacefully in his Miami home, surrounded by an adoring family. Curiously, both Bosch and his companion in arms and fellow accused terrorist Luis Posada Carriles turn out to be keen amateur landscape painters.

The film also contains extensive material shot with Antonio Veciana, the Cuban exile who got close to killing Castro on three occasions, spanning 17 years. He is found running a marine supplies store in Miami. All these men, the film reveals, were supported and funded by the United States. At one point, staggeringly, the CIA even sought the help of the Mafia in the hope they would be able to succeed where so many others had failed. Other characters are Félix Rodríguez, the CIA operative who took part in three planned assassination attempts against Castro, and gave the order for Che Guevara's execution in 1967 in Bolivia, and Enrique Ovares, possibly the first man to make an attempt on Castro's life after he took power. Robert Maheu is interviewed, the Hughes associate who served as liaison between the CIA and mobsters "Johnny" Roselli and Sam "Momo" Giancana, in another plot to kill Castro, this time using poison pills.

Unfortunately the person that uploaded this film has not cut the ads out and the film doesn't begin until the 2:40 minute mark. Also there is the tail end of a program that has explicit swearing right as the video begins. Do not play this film if there are little ears about!


In 2006, the documentary was the centre of a controversy surrounding US Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. In it the Miami Republican, who had been recently tapped to become the top Republican on the House International Relations Committee, states “I welcome the opportunity of having anyone assassinate Fidel Castro and any leader who is oppressing the people.” A clip of her statement made its way to the popular website YouTube where the newsmedia quickly picked up the story. There was a subsequent public questioning of Ros-Lehtinen's morals and suitability for her job. She responded by asserting that the clip was spliced together and that it was taken out of context; but after her account was contested by the film's director, she eventually released a statement, on Christmas Eve, accepting that she had made the remark.


Click here to visit the official site.

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