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Life: Primates

   2009    Nature
Intelligence and adaptability allow primates to tackle the many challenges of life, and this is what makes our closest relatives so successful. This resourcefulness has enabled primates to conquer an incredible diversity of habitat. Hamadryas baboons live on the open plains of Ethiopia in groups up to 400 strong. Strength in numbers gives them some protection from potential predators. But, should their path cross with other baboon troops, it can lead to all-out battle, as males try to steal females from one another, and even settle old scores. Japanese macaques are the most northerly-dwelling primates and they experience completely different challenges. Some beat the freezing conditions by having access to a thermal spa in the middle of winter. But this privilege is only for those born of the right female bloodline. For western lowland gorillas, it's the male silverback that leads his family group in the rich forests of the Congo basin. He advertises his status to all with a powerful chest-beating display. Most primates are forest dwellers, and one of the strangest is the tarsier – the only purely carnivorous primate. As it hunts for insects the tarsier leaps from tree to tree in the dead of night, using its huge forward-facing eyes to safely judge each jump. Good communication is essential for success in primate society.
Series: Life

Heaven and Hell

   1980    Science
Sagan discusses comets and asteroids as planetary impactors, giving recent examples of the Tunguska event and a lunar impact described by Canterbury monks in 1178. It moves to a description of the environment of Venus, from the previous fantastic theories of people such as Immanuel Velikovsky to the information gained by the Venera landers and its implications for Earth's greenhouse effect. The Cosmos Update highlights the connection to global warming.
Series: Cosmos

The Mastery of Flight

   1998    Nature
The second programme deals with the mechanics of flight. Getting into the air is by far the most exhausting of a bird's activities, and Sir Attenborough observes shearwaters in Japan that have taken to climbing trees to give them a good jumping-off point. The albatross is so large that it can only launch itself after a run-up to create a flow of air over its wings. A combination of aerodynamics and upward air currents (or thermals), together with the act of flapping or gliding is what keeps a bird aloft. Landing requires less energy but a greater degree of skill, particularly for a big bird, such as a swan. Weight is kept to a minimum by having a beak made of keratin instead of bone, a light frame, and a coat of feathers, which is maintained fastidiously. The peregrine falcon holds the record for being fastest in the air, diving at speeds of over 300 km/h. Conversely, the barn owl owes its predatory success to flying slowly, while the kestrel spots its quarry by hovering. However, the true specialists in this regard are the hummingbirds, whose wings beat at the rate of 25 times a second. The habits of migratory birds are explored. After stocking up with food during the brief summer of the north, such species will set off on huge journeys southwards. Some, such as snow geese, travel continuously, using both the stars and the sun for navigation. They are contrasted with hawks and vultures, which glide overland on warm air, and therefore have to stop overnight.
Series: The Life of Birds

Deep Freeze

   2012    Science
There is an extraordinary range of temperatures in the universe. This program examines the extreme lower temperature range, the temperature we live in and below, explaining how cold is essential for the formation of habitats suitable for life. Explore icy planets and moons, discover the role of cold in the Universe, and learn about the importance of ice to the development of habitable worlds.
Series: The Universe

Triumph of Life: The Four Billion Year War

   2006    Nature
A compelling new vision of the epic forces that have shaped every aspect of existence on our planet. Life on this planet has fought a ceaseless battle for survival since it first appeared some four billion years ago. Yet out of this eternal conflict has emerged the overwhelming richness and diversity we see around us. Exploring this paradox, Triumph of Life begins with a penetrating look at the process of evolution and the driving force behind it - genes.
Series: Triumph of Life
Top Science Stories
Top Science Stories

   2020    Science
Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey
Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey

   2014    Science
Black Hole Apocalypse
Black Hole Apocalypse

   2018    Science
The Nazis, A Warning From History
The Nazis, A Warning From History

   1997    History
Mind Field Season 2
Mind Field Season 2

   2018    Technology
How the Universe Works Season 4
How the Universe Works Season 4

   2015    Science
Earth at Night in Color
Earth at Night in Color

   2020    Nature
Senna
Senna

   2010    Culture