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Deeper, Deeper, Deeper Still

   2014    Science
This episodes the nature of the cosmos on the micro and atomic scales, using the Ship of the Imagination to explore these realms. Tyson describes some of the micro-organism that live within a dew drop, demonstrating parameciums and tardigrades. He proceeds to discuss how plants use photosynthesis via their chloroplasts to convert sunlight into chemical reactions that convert carbon dioxide and water into oxygen and energy-rich sugars. Tyson then discusses the nature of molecules and atoms and how they relate to the evolution of species. He uses the example set forth by Charles Darwin postulating the existence of the long-tongued Morgan's sphinx moth based on the nature of the comet orchid with pollen far within the flower. He further demonstrates that scents from flowers are used to trigger olfactory centers in the brain, stimulating the mind to threats as to aid in the survival of the species. Tyson narrates how Greek philosophers Thales and Democritus postulated that all matter was made up of combinations of atoms in a large number of configurations, and describes how carbon forms the basic building block for life on earth due to its unique chemical nature. Tyson explains on the basic atomic structure of protons, neutrons, and electrons, and the nature of nuclear fusion that occurs in most stars. He then discusses the existence of neutrinos that are created by these nuclear processes in stars, and that detecting such sub-atomic particles which normally pass through matter require subterranean facilities like the Super-Kamiokande that were used to detect neutrinos from the supernova SN 1987A in the Large Magellanic Cloud before light from the explosion were observed due to their ability to pass through matter of the dying sun. Tyson compares how neutrinos were postulated by Wolfgang Pauli to account for the conservation of energy from nuclear reactions in the same manner as Darwin's postulate on the long-tongued moth. Tyson concludes by noting that there are neutrinos from the Big Bang still existing in the universe but due to the nature of light, there is a "wall of infinity" that cannot be observed beyond.
Series: Cosmos 2014

Flowering

   1995    Nature
The third episode is devoted to the ways in which plants reproduce. Pollen and a stigma are the two components needed for fertilisation. Most plants carry both these within their flowers and rely on animals to transport the pollen from one to the stigma of another. To do this, they attract their couriers with colour, scent and nectar. It isn't just birds that help pollination: some mammals and reptiles also do so. However, it is mostly insects that are recruited to carry out the task. To ensure that pollen is not wasted by being delivered to the wrong flower, some species of plant have developed exclusive relationships with their visitors, and the gentian and its attendant carpenter bees is one example. Since pollen can be expensive to produce in terms of calories, some plants, such as orchids, ration it by means of pollinia and a strategically placed landing platform. Other orchids offer no reward for pollination, but instead mislead their guests by mimicking their markings and aroma, thus enticing males to 'mate' with them (Pseudocopulation). The most extreme fertilisation method is one of imprisonment, and one plant that uses it is the dead horse arum. It is often found near gull colonies, and mimics the appearance and smell of rotting flesh. Blow-flies are attracted to it, and are forced to stay the night before being allowed to depart in the morning, laden with pollen. Finally, Attenborough introduces the world's largest inflorescence: that of the titan arum.
Series: The Private Life of Plants

Intimate Relations

   2005    Nature
The world of invertebrates exists in a web of relationships with plants and other animals. Unique footage of the world's smallest insect (a fairy wasp only quarter of a millimetre long) shows it flying underwater to find the eggs of water beetles in which to lay its own brood. Some ants 'farm' the trees that give them shelter, creating areas known as 'Devil's gardens'. To make sure these grow without competition, they kill off other seedlings in the surrounding vegetation. The blister beetle's larvae huddle together on the end of a piece of grass and mimic a female bee. When a male bee tries to mate with the 'female', the larvae grab on to his belly. Confused, he flies away and searches for a real female. When he eventually finds her and mates with her, the beetle larvae hurriedly swap from his front on to her back, and hence get carried back to her nest where they eat her pollen supplies.
Series: Life in the Undergrowth
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