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To Fly or Not to Fly

   1998    Nature
The first episode looks at how birds first took to the skies in the wake of the insects. It begins in Mexico, where Sir Attenborough observes bats being outmanoeuvred by a red-tailed hawk. Pterosaurs were the birds' forerunners, some 150 million years after dragonflies developed the means of flight, but eventually went extinct together with the dinosaurs. Birds had by then already evolved from early forms like archaeopteryx, the first creature to possess feathers. Its ancestry can be traced through reptiles, and some current species, such as the flying lizard, possibly show paths this evolution may have taken." One of the biggest birds to have ever existed was the terror bird, which proliferated after dinosaurs vanished and stood up to 2.5 metres tall. By comparison, the ostrich, while not closely related, is the largest and heaviest living bird. It was probably the evasion of predators that drove most birds into the air, so their flightless cousins evolved because they had few enemies. Accordingly, such species are more likely to be found on islands, and Sir Attenborough visits New Zealand to observe its great variety, most especially the kiwi. Also depicted is the moa, another huge creature that is now gone. The takahē is extremely rare, and high in the mountains of New Zealand, Sir Attenborough discovers one from a population of only 40 pairs. Finally, another example on the brink of extinction is the kakapo, which at one point numbered only 61 individuals. A male is heard calling — an immensely amplified deep note that can be heard at great distances from its nest.
Series: The Life of Birds

One Voice in the Cosmic Fugue

   1980    Science
Sagan discusses the story of the Heike crab and artificial selection of crabs resembling samurai warriors, as an opening into a larger discussion of evolution through natural selection (and the pitfalls of intelligent design). Among the topics are the development of life on the Cosmic Calendar and the Cambrian explosion; the function of DNA in growth; genetic replication, repairs, and mutation; the common biochemistry of terrestrial organisms; the creation of the molecules of life in the Miller-Urey experiment; and speculation on alien life (such as life in Jupiter's clouds). In the Cosmos Update ten years later, Sagan remarks on RNA also controlling chemical reactions and reproducing itself and the different roles of comets (potentially carrying organic molecules or causing the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event).
Series: Cosmos

Land of the Cave-Bear

       Science
In the Land of the Cave Bear, Alice ventures to the parts of the northern hemisphere, hit hardest by the cold - Europe and Siberia. High in the mountains of Transylvania, a cave sealed for thousands of years reveals grisly evidence for a fight to the death between two staving giants, a cave bear and a cave lion. Yet Alice discovers that for woolly rhinos and woolly mammoths, the Ice Age created a bounty. The Mammoth Steppe, a vast tract of land which went half way round the world, provided food all year round, for those that liked the cold. It was these mammoths that Europe's most dangerous predators hunted for their survival.
Series: Ice Age Giants

Neanderthal 1

       History
Long ago, two species of human beings coexisted on Earth until competition drove one of them to extinction. This program, set in the southwest of France 35,000 years ago, reconstructs the life in the Neanderthal world at the time Cro-Magnons first entered the scene. All aspects of Neanderthal clan life are examined, including tool- and weapon-making, hunting and gathering, health and healing, childbirth, rituals, and making fire. Footage of skeletal remains and the scholarly research of eminent paleontologist Chris Stringer and Oxford University's Paul Pettitt support the documentary.
Series: Neanderthal

Neanderthal 2

       History
Long ago, two species of human beings coexisted on Earth until competition drove one of them to extinction. This program, set in the southwest of France 35,000 years ago, reconstructs the life in the Neanderthal world at the time Cro-Magnons first entered the scene. All aspects of Neanderthal clan life are examined, including tool- and weapon-making, hunting and gathering, health and healing, childbirth, rituals, and making fire. Footage of skeletal remains and the scholarly research of eminent paleontologist Chris Stringer and Oxford University's Paul Pettitt support the documentary.
Series: Neanderthal
The Universe
The Universe

   2010    Science
Building Giants
Building Giants

   2019    Technology
Generation Iron
Generation Iron

   2018    Culture
Speed
Speed

   2019    Technology
Earth from Space
Earth from Space

   2019    Nature
Becoming Human
Becoming Human

   2010    History
Atom
Atom

   2007    Science