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Who Will We Be

   2015    Medicine
In ‘Who will we be?’ Dr. David Eagleman journeys into the future, and asks what’s next for the human brain, and for our species. We stand at a major turning point, one where we might take control of our own development. We face a future of uncharted possibilities in which our relationship with our own body, our relationship with the world, the very basic nature of who we are is set to be transformed. For thousands of generations, humans have lived the same life cycle over and over. We are born, we control a fragile body, we experience a limited reality, and we die. But science and technology are giving us tools to transcend that evolutionary story. Our brains don't have to remain as we have inherited them. We are capable of extending our reality, of inhabiting new bodies, and possibly shedding our physical forms altogether. And we are discovering the tools to shape our own destiny. Who we become is up to us.
Series: The Brain with David Eagleman

Project Nim

   2011    Science
The film tells the tale of Nim Chimpsky, a chimpanzee who was the subject of a landmark experiment to see if an ape could learn to communicate with language if raised and nurtured like a human child. This study was the brainchild of Dr. Herbert Terrace, a Columbia University behavioral psychologist who hoped to teach Nim enough language that he could eventually express what he was thinking and feeling. This would refute Noam Chomsky's thesis that language is inherent only in humans, hence his moniker, a direct pun on the famous linguists' name. The doc was a smash when it played at Sundance with this entirely different incredible but true story

Growing

   1994    Nature
The second episode is about how plants gain their sustenance. Sunlight is one of the essential requirements if a seed is to germinate, and Attenborough highlights the cheese plant as an example whose young shoots head for the nearest tree trunk and then climb to the top of the forest canopy, developing its leaves en route. Using sunshine, air, water and a few minerals, the leaves are, in effect, the "factories" that produce food. However, some, such as the begonia, can thrive without much light. To gain moisture, plants typically use their roots to probe underground. Trees pump water up pipes that run inside their trunks, and Attenborough observes that a sycamore can do this at the rate of 450 litres an hour — in total silence. Too much rainfall can clog up a leaf's pores, and many have specially designed 'gutters' to cope with it. However, their biggest threat is from animals, and some require extreme methods of defence, such as spines, camouflage, or poison. Some can move quickly to deter predators: the mimosa can fold its leaves instantly when touched, and the Venus flytrap eats insects by closing its leaves around its prey when triggered. Another carnivorous plant is the trumpet pitcher that snares insects when they fall into its tubular leaves. Attenborough visits Borneo to see the largest pitcher of them all, Nepenthes rajah, whose traps contain up to two litres of water and have been known to kill small rodents.
Series: The Private Life of Plants

The Social Struggle

   1995    Nature
Fourth episode examines how plants either share environments harmoniously or compete for dominance within them. Attenborough highlights the 1987 hurricane and the devastation it caused. However, for some species, it was that opportunity for which they had lain dormant for many years. The space left by uprooted trees is soon filled by others who move relatively swiftly towards the light. The oak is one of the strongest and longest-lived, and other, lesser plants nearby must wait until the spring to flourish before the light above is extinguished by leaves. Tropical forests are green throughout the year, so brute force is needed for a successful climb to the top of the canopy: the rattan is an example that has the longest stem of any plant. As its name suggests, the strangler fig 'throttles' its host by growing around it and cutting off essential water and light. Some can take advantage of a fallen tree by setting down roots on the now horizontal trunk and getting nutriment from the surrounding moss and the fungi on the dead bark. The mountain ash (eucalyptus regnans) grows so tall, that regeneration becomes a considerable problem. It is easily flammable, so its solution is to shed its seeds during a forest fire and sacrifice itself. It therefore relies on the periodic near-destruction of its surroundings in order to survive. Attenborough observes that catastrophes such as fire and drought, while initially detrimental to wildlife, eventually allow for deserted habitats to be reborn.
Series: The Private Life of Plants

The Private Life of Plants Living Together

   1995    Nature
The fifth programme explores the alliances formed between the animal and plant worlds. Attenborough dives into Australia's Great Barrier Reef and contrasts the nocturnal feeding of coral, on microscopic creatures, with its daytime diet of algae. Some acacias are protected by ants, which will defend their refuge from any predator. Besides accommodation, the guards are rewarded with nectar and, from certain species, protein for their larvae as well. Fungi feed on plants but can also provide essential nutriment to saplings (Mycorrhiza). The connection is never broken throughout a tree's life and a quarter of the sugars and starches produced in its leaves is channelled back to its fungal partners. Meanwhile, fungi that feed on dead wood leave a hollow trunk, which also benefits the tree. Orchids enjoy a similar affiliation. Lichens are the product of a relationship between fungi and a photosynthetic associate, usually algae. They are extremely slow-growing, and a graveyard is the perfect location to discover their exact longevity. Mistletoe is a hemiparasite that obtains its moisture from a host tree, while using own leaves to manufacture food. Its seeds are deposited on another by the mistletoe tyrannulet, following digestion of the fruit. The dodder (Cuscuta) is also parasitic, generally favouring nettles, and siphons its nourishment through periodic 'plugs' along its stem. The rafflesia has no stem or leaves and only emerges from its host in order to bloom — and it produces the largest single flower: one metre across.
Series: The Private Life of Plants
Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece

   2013    History
Stephen Hawking's Favorite Places
Stephen Hawking's Favorite Places

   2016    Science
Triumph of Life
Triumph of Life

   2006    Nature
Prehistoric America
Prehistoric America

   2003    Nature
Planet Earth
Planet Earth

   2007    Nature
Blood of the Vikings
Blood of the Vikings

   2001    History