Documentaries, society

Wild Child: The Story of Feral Children

YEAR: 2002 | LENGTH: 1 part (43 minutes)

DESCRIPTION: A terrified three-year-old sits sobbing in an outdoor kennel, cuddled up to a dog for comfort. She has been thrown out of the house by a drunken parent for crying with hunger.

Another infant cries alone for hours in a dark room where she is left dirty and hungry. When her cries bring no comfort she turns and passively faces the wall. These are typical experiences in the extraordinary lives of Oxana, Edik and Genie, the children shown on the documentary “Wild Child”.

The following cases are covered:

– Oxana Malaya, Ukraine: For six years, Oxana Malaya spent her life living in a kennel with dogs. Totally abandoned by her alcoholic mother and father, she was discovered behaving more like an animal than a human child.

– In 1800 in France, villagers had talked of a wild child who lurked in the forest. News of the capture spread fast and sent shockwaves throughout Europe. The young boy was taken to Paris where he was named Victor. The general medical profession thought him little more than a savage.

– For 13 years, Genie spent her nights locked in wire do cage, her days strapped to her potty chair. Her father Clark ordered his son John and wife Irene never to talk to her. She lived in almost total isolation. Genies bedroom was at the back of the house with the window covered. The furnishings of the bedroom consisted of a cage with a chicken-wire lid, and a potty chair with some kind of home-made strapping device. – source unknown

Documentaries, technology

Lost At Sea: The Search For Longitude

YEAR: 1998 | LENGTH: 1 part (55 minutes)

DESCRIPTION: Welcome to the companion Web site to “Lost at Sea: The Search for Longitude,” originally broadcast on October 6, 1998. Based on the bestselling book Longitude by Dava Sobel, the program tells the story of how an unknown genius, John Harrison, discovered the key to navigating on the open seas and thus solved one of the thorniest problems of the 1700s. – source

Documentaries, maths / physics

Infinite Secrets of Archimedes

YEAR: 2003 | LENGTH: 1 part (50 minutes)

DESCRIPTION: This is the story of a book that could have changed the history of the World. To the untrained eye, it is nothing more than a small and unassuming Byzantine prayer book, yet it sold at Christies for over $2m. For faintly visible beneath the prayers on its pages are other, unique, writings – words that have been lost for nearly two thousand years.

A turbulent history

The text is the only record of work by one of the world’s greatest minds – the ancient Greek, Archimedes – a mathematical genius centuries ahead of his time. Hidden for a millennium in a middle eastern library, it has been written over, broken up, painted on, cut up and re-glued. But in the nick of time scientists have saved the precious, fragile document, and for the first time it is revealing just how revolutionary Archimedes’ ideas were. If it had been available to scholars during the Renaissance, we might have reached the Moon over a hundred years ago.

Nearly destroyed

The trail begins in the tenth century, when a scribe made a unique copy of the most important mathematics that Archimedes ever developed. For 200 years the document survived, but the mathematics in it was so complex that no one paid it any attention. So when one day a monk was looking for some new parchment – an expensive commodity at the time – to write a new prayer book, the answer seemed obvious. He used the Archimedes manuscript. He washed the Greek text off the pages, cut them in half, rebound them, and turned the Archimedes manuscript into an everyday prayer book. As he piously wrote out his prayers, he had no idea of the genius he was obliterating.

Rediscovering Archimedes’ ideas

Several hundred years later, the Renaissance was under way. Scientists were beginning to grapple with new concepts, working out how mathematics could be used to explain the World around them. Little did they know that many of the problems they were just encountering Archimedes had already solved more than a thousand years before. So, tragically, they had to do that research all over again, setting back the development of science and technology immeasurably.

Then in 1906, in Constantinople, the document mysteriously turned up in a monastic library. An opportunistic scholar called Johan Ludwig Heiberg identified the text as Archimedes’ writings. Although the Greek text was very faint, Heiberg was able to decipher some of it. What he found astonished him, and made the front page of the New York Times. He revealed that Archimedes’ manuscript contained something called ‘The Method’, which showed not only Archimedes’ final proofs, but for the first time revealed the process of how he went about making his discoveries.

Lost again

But then disaster struck again. World War One broke out and in its aftermath the Archimedes manuscript disappeared.

Scholars had given up any hope of seeing the manuscript again, but in the 1960s odd rumours began to surface that it was to be found in Paris. It took 30 more years, but in 1991 an expert from Christies found it in the hands of a French family. When it reached auction, it was sold to an anonymous millionaire, who has now loaned it to the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore for conservation.

Decoding the manuscript

Although the text is incredibly difficult to read, with state-of-the-art imaging equipment, they are gradually piecing together all of the writing for the very first time. And as the team in Baltimore peel back the glue, leather and centuries of dirt, dissolve the blue-tack and unfold the lines of Greek that are buried in the spine of the book, they are building up a picture of a man who was thousands of years ahead of his time. Not only was Archimedes coming to terms with the profound subject of infinity, he had taken the first crucial steps towards calculus, a branch of mathematics that had to be reinvented after the Renaissance, and which is today used to describe every physical phenomenon from the movement of the planets to the construction of a skyscraper. Who knows what human minds could have achieved if they had only known what Archimedes already knew? – source

Documentaries, medicine

Prof Regan’s Supermarket Secrets

YEAR: 2008 | LENGTH: 1 part (50 minutes)

DESCRIPTION: Friendly bacteria, superfoods, cholesterol busting spreads, 99% germ free, whiter than white…it’s almost impossible to find a product in the supermarket today that doesn’t come with impressive claims…scientific claims…with an inflated price tag to match. Are they oversold? Or are they worth the extra cash?

Prof Lesley Regan has already exploded some of the myths behind beauty products in a previous Horizon. Now she’s back, to see if the evidence behind these supermarket products stands up to her levels of scrutiny.

From organic farm produce to the billion dollar brands of the UK’s major manufacturers Prof Regan asks tough questions and gets surprising answers. And there’s no sitting on the fence: a product is either ‘in’ or ‘out’ of her scientifically backed supermarket trolley. – source