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Words on a Page

   2020    History
Writing itself is 5,000 years old, and for most of that time words were written by hand using a variety of tools. The Romans were able to run an empire thanks to documents written on papyrus. Scroll books could be made quite cheaply and, as a result, ancient Rome had a thriving written culture. With the fall of the Roman Empire, papyrus became more difficult to obtain. Europeans were forced to turn to a much more expensive surface on which to write: Parchment. Medieval handwritten books could cost as much as a house, they also represent a limitation on literacy and scholarship.
No such limitations were felt in China, where paper had been invented in the second century. Paper was the foundation of Chinese culture and power, and for centuries how to make it was kept secret. When the secret was out, paper mills soon sprang up across central Asia. The result was an intellectual flourishing known as the Islamic Golden Age. Muslim scholars made discoveries in biology, geology, astronomy and mathematics. By contrast, Europe was an intellectual backwater.
That changed with Gutenberg’s development of movable type printing. The letters of the Latin alphabet have very simple block-like shapes, which made it relatively simple to turn them into type pieces. When printers tried to use movable type to print Arabic texts, they found themselves hampered by the cursive nature of Arabic writing. The success of movable type printing in Europe led to a thousand-fold increase in the availability of information, which produced an explosion of ideas that led directly to the European Scientific Revolution and the Industrial Revolution that followed.
Series: The Secret History of Writing

Level Up

   2020    Technology
Nintendo goes 3D with Star Fox. Wolfenstein 3D popularizes the first-person shooter format, while Doom ups the ante with networked gaming. 'High Score' is a crash course on the golden age of gaming filled with insightful interviews, brilliant writing, and most importantly, an inspiring and inclusive message.
Series: High Score

Secrets of the Seven Earths

   2018    Science    HD
We are living in a new golden age of exploration. Planet hunters are searching far beyond our solar system and they are actually finding new worlds orbiting other suns. Thousands of these alien worlds have already been found, but this is the story of perhaps the greatest discovery yet, a star 40 light-years away with seven Earth-sized planets: Trappist-1.
This new discovery of seven alien Earth-like planets in a faraway solar system is a major milestone in our hunt for extraterrestrial life, and experts investigate the secrets of Trappist -1's mysterious worlds to reveal if we're truly alone in the universe.
Series: Space Deepest Secrets

The Golden Age

   2016    History
This episode tells the tale of what's broadly considered China's most creative dynasty - the Song (960-1279). Michael Wood heads to the city of Kaifeng, the greatest city in the world before the 19th century. Here in Twin Dragon Alley, locals tell him the legend of the baby boys who became emperors.
He explores the ideas and inventions that made the Song one of greatest eras in world culture, helped by China's most famous work of art, the Kaifeng scroll, which shows the life of the city in around 1120. A chef makes Michael a recipe from a Song cookbook, while a guide to 'how to live happy, healthy lives for old people', published in 1085 and still in print, is discussed with local women doing their morning exercises. The Song was also a great era for scientific advance in China. Michael steers a huge working replica of an astronomical clock, made by China's Leonardo da Vinci.
Then at a crunch Chinese Premier League match, Michael tells us the Chinese invented football! The golden age of the northern Song ended in 1127, when invaders sacked Kaifeng, but they survived in the south. At their new capital, Hangzhou, Wood joins locals dancing by the West Lake, while in the countryside he meets Mr Xie with his records of 40 generations of ancestors. The final defeat of the Song took place in a naval battle in the estuary of the Pearl River in 1279. When all was lost, rather than surrender to the Mongols, a loyal minister jumped into the sea with the young boy emperor in his arms. 'So ended the glory of the Song', Wood concludes, 'but a new age would arise... as in China, it always has!'.
Series: The Story of China

Viva Vercingetorix

   2015    History
In episode two, we discover the golden age of the La Tene Celtic warrior and reveal how their world extended as far as central Turkey. But by the middle of the first century BC, the Celts were under threat from an expanding Roman Empire, and the Gallic warrior Vercingetorix would challenge Julius Caesar in an epic battle that would shape the future of Europe.
Series: The Celts: Blood, Iron, and Sacrifice
The Beauty of Maps
The Beauty of Maps

   2010    Art
Putin: A Russian Spy Story
Putin: A Russian Spy Story

   2020    History
Frozen Planet
Frozen Planet

   2011    Nature
Engineering the Future Series 3
Engineering the Future Series 3

   2021    Technology
Inside the Medieval Mind
Inside the Medieval Mind

   2008    History
Through the Wormhole Season 6
Through the Wormhole Season 6

   2015    Science
Leaving Neverland
Leaving Neverland

   2019    Culture
A Perfect Planet
A Perfect Planet

   2021    Nature