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Documentaries, nature

Madagascar, a Treetop Odyssey

YEAR: 2007 | LENGTH: 1 part (50 minutes)  |  SOURCE: BBC

description:

Madagascar is home to one of the last untouched rainforests and some of the rarest plants and animals on earth. 75% are found nowhere else in the world. Much of this extraordinary diversity of life is found in the forest canopy, which up until now has been virtually inaccessible to scientists.

Situated off the coast of Africa, Madagascar has been cut off for 80 million years. This isolation has led to the evolution of unique animal and plant species. But the tropical rainforest, like many in the world, is under attack. Nearly 150,000km² of tropical forest is destroyed throughout the world every year, equivalent to the size of England and Wales combined. Even if it grows back, the diversity of the original forest is lost forever.

A team of 70 international scientists spent three months studying the rainforest in Mashoala Peninsula. Their mission was to document the forest’s extraordinary diversity and to identify new species before they are lost forever.

By exploring the economic potential of the rainforest and exploiting its compounds without damaging the forest, the team could discover commercial opportunities. Their mission is to reach the canopy and try to unlock the biochemical resources of the rainforest. If they can, it could be the key to its survival for generations to come. It’s a dangerous mission – and they’ve come up with some unusual ways to reach this unknown world including a giant inflatable raft and a habitable metal tree house.

Professor Francis Hallé, the expedition’s botanist from the University of Montpellier in France, is an expert on the tropical rainforest. He believes that the most diverse habitat of all is the canopy, which is over 40m above the ground. Many undiscovered species live only in the tree tops and never set foot on the forest floor.

As the team’s study of the forest progresses it becomes clear that the canopy is one of the most productive chemical laboratories on the planet. It contains raw materials for a wide range of industrial applications: flavourings, perfumes, medicinal substances and UV screens. Some of these molecules have already been exploited by man with remarkable results. The rosy periwinkle, a tropical rainforest plant, for example, produces anti-tumour agents that increase the survival rate of children with leukaemia from 20% to 80%.

Documentaries, medicine

Diet, A Horizon Guide

YEAR: 2010 | LENGTH: 1 part (50 minutes)  |  SOURCE: BBC

description:

Dr Susan Jebb takes a look through nearly fifty years of amazing BBC archive of mankind’s relationship with what we eat, charting the shift from the malnutrition of the past to today’s obesity epidemic.

This is the story of our attempt to control nature through the wholesale industrialisation of food production in our search for enough to eat, and the consequences of that massive shift in our diet on the shape of our bodies, and the diseases that kill us.
From the BBC’s original eccentric scientist Magnus Pyke comparing the virtues of artificial additives to a Beethoven sonata, to the tragic side effects of diet pills, Horizon and the BBC have covered it all.

On her journey through the decades, Dr Jebb explores how scientists have played a crucial role both in transforming the way our food is produced, but also in attempting to understand the biological mechanisms that determine why it is that some of us have become so large.

chemistry, Documentaries

Hunting the Elements

YEAR: 2012 | LENGTH: 1 part (120 minutes)  |  SOURCE: PBS

description:

Where do nature’s building blocks, called the elements, come from? They’re the hidden ingredients of everything in our world, from the carbon in our bodies to the metals in our smartphones. To unlock their secrets,

David Pogue, the lively host of NOVA’s popular “Making Stuff” series and technology correspondent of The New York Times, spins viewers through the world of weird, extreme chemistry: the strongest acids, the deadliest poisons, the universe’s most abundant elements, and the rarest of the rare—substances cooked up in atom smashers that flicker into existence for only fractions of a second.

Documentaries, medicine

Did Cooking Make Us Human?

YEAR: 2010 | LENGTH: 1 part (60 minutes)  |  SOURCE: BBC

description:

We are the only species on earth that cooks its food – and we are also the cleverest species on the planet. The question is: do we cook because we’re clever and imaginative, or are we clever and imaginative because our ancestors discovered cooking?

Horizon examines the evidence that our ancestors’ changing diet and their mastery of fire prompted anatomical and neurological changes that resulted in taking us out of the trees and into the kitchen.

archaeology / paleontology, Documentaries

Neanderthal

YEAR: 2004 | LENGTH: 1 part (50 minutes)  |  SOURCE: BBC

description:

This edition of Horizon does something that no one has done before. We have assembled the first ever complete Neanderthal skeleton, from parts gathered from all over the world, to reveal the most anatomically accurate representation of modern humanity’s closest relative. The aim is to use this skeleton to answer two of the great questions of human evolution. Was Neanderthal a thinking, feeling human being like us, or a primitive beast? And why is it that we are here today, and Neanderthal is extinct?

To answer these questions, we’ve brought together a team of leading experts to explore the skeleton for clues, and perform experiments to test out their ideas. Their findings allow us to use drama to bring Neanderthal to life with unrivalled accuracy. They reveal how Neanderthal hunted, thought – even spoke.

What emerges is a very different beast to the brute of legend. It seems Neanderthal was in many ways our equal and in some ways our superior. And the story of his extinction owed less to modern humans’ superiority than sheer luck.

Documentaries, society

How TV Ruined Your Life

YEAR: 2011 | LENGTH: 6 parts (30 minutes each)  |  SOURCE: BBC

description:

Comedy series in which Charlie Brooker uses a mix of sketches and jaw-dropping archive footage to explore the gulf between real life and television.

episodes:

From hysterical public information films to grisly crime dramas, terror spills out of almost every channel. As Charlie explores TV’s approach to fear, you won’t know whether to laugh or scream. Warning: contains traces of Michael Buerk and a semi-naked lady.

From kids shows to Countdown, TV has something to infuriate anyone of any age. Warning: this episode contains creepy dolls and the 1980s Oxo dad.

From Dallas to Grand Designs, television continually rubs desirable lifestyles in your face, making you feel inadequate in the process. Warning: contains Sophie Dahl and coffins.

Charlie Brooker argues that TV has warped our expectations of romance with a toxic combination of Blind Date and rom-coms. Do ‘soulmates’ even exist? Warning: this episode contains traces of Dirty Den and suggestive swimwear.

From the moon landings to Blake’s 7 to CSI: Miami, Charlie Brooker argues that television has warped our relationship with technology. Warning: this episode contains a computerised Simon Cowell and a lady in a silver catsuit.

Charlie Brooker traces how TV’s notion of knowledge has changed from bespectacled experts to celebrity presenter drivel. Warning: this episode contains an alien meeting with Danny Dyer and celebrity supernatural activity.

Documentaries, medicine

How Mad Are You

YEAR: 2008 | LENGTH: 2 parts (60 minutes each)  |  SOURCE: BBC

description:

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.

episodes:

No description available.

No description available.

biology, Documentaries

The Giant Claw

YEAR: 2003 | LENGTH: 1 part (30 minutes)  |  SOURCE: BBC

description:

The Giant Claw: A ‘Walking with Dinosaurs’ Special : Nigel Marven is on the trail of the dinosaur with the biggest claws of all time.

Zoologist and adventurer Nigel Marven takes us on a prehistoric safari in search of the mysterious owner of a gigantic, metre long claw. He has to negotiate his way through a range of dinosaurs that lived in the Gobi Desert of Mongolia 75 million years ago. Eventually he tracks down the Giant Claw – a dinosaur called Therizinosaurus. But will it turn out to be a herbivore or a carnivore?

archaeology / paleontology, Documentaries

Iceman Murder Mystery

YEAR: 2011 | LENGTH: 1 part (53 minutes)  |  SOURCE: PBS

description:

He’s been dead for more than 5,000 years and poked, prodded, and probed by scientists for the last 20. Yet Ötzi the Iceman, the famous mummified corpse pulled from a glacier in the Italian Alps, continues to keep many secrets.

Now, through an autopsy like none other, scientists will attempt to unravel mysteries about this ancient mummy, revealing not only the details of Ötzi’s death but also an entire way of life. How did people live during Ötzi’s time, the Copper Age? What did they eat? What diseases did they cope with? Join NOVA as we defrost the ultimate time capsule—the 5,000-year-old man.

biology, Documentaries

Ape Genius

YEAR: 2011 | LENGTH: 1 part (53 minutes)  |  SOURCE: PBS

description:

At a research site in Fongoli, Senegal, a female chimpanzee breaks off a branch, chews the end to make it sharp, and then uses this rudimentary spear to skewer a tasty bush baby hiding inside a hollow tree. It’s an astonishing breakthrough for primate researchers—the first time anyone has documented a chimpanzee wielding a carefully prepared, preplanned weapon. But it’s only the latest in a slew of extraordinary new findings about ape behavior.

The more researchers learn about the great apes—chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas, and orangutans—the more evidence they find of creative intelligence. What, then, is the essential difference between them and us? “Ape Genius,” a NOVA-National Geographic special, explores that provocative question and examines research that is illuminating the ape mind. Bit by bit, investigators are finding an explanation for why the non-human great apes never made the breakthrough into a human-style culture that builds on the achievements of previous generations.

Documentaries, medicine

Allergy Planet

YEAR: 2009 | LENGTH: 1 part (60 minutes)  |  SOURCE: BBC

description:

We are in the grip of an allergy epidemic. 50 years ago one in 30 were affected, but in Britain today it is closer to one in three. Why this should be is one of modern medicine’s greatest puzzles.

In search of answers, Horizon travels round the globe, from the remotest inhabited island to the polluted centres of California and the UK. We meet sufferers and the scientists who have dedicated their lives trying to answer the mystery of why we are becoming allergic to our world.