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Weirder and Weirder

   2018    Science
Dr Hannah Fry explores a paradox at the heart of modern maths, discovered by Bertrand Russell, which undermines the very foundations of logic that all of maths is built on. These flaws suggest that maths isn't a true part of the universe but might just be a human language - fallible and imprecise. However, Hannah argues that Einstein's theoretical equations, such as E=mc2 and his theory of general relativity, are so good at predicting the universe that they must be reflecting some basic structure in it. This idea is supported by Kurt Godel, who proved that there are parts of maths that we have to take on faith.
Hannah then explores what maths can reveal about the fundamental building blocks of the universe - the subatomic, quantum world. The maths tells us that particles can exist in two states at once, and yet quantum physics is at the core of photosynthesis and therefore fundamental to most of life on earth - more evidence of discovering mathematical rules in nature. But if we accept that maths is part of the structure of the universe, there are two main problems: firstly, the two main theories that predict and describe the universe - quantum physics and general relativity - are actually incompatible; and secondly, most of the maths behind them suggests the likelihood of something even stranger - multiple universes.
We may just have to accept that the world really is weirder than we thought, and Hannah concludes that while we have invented the language of maths, the structure behind it all is something we discover. And beyond that, it is the debate about the origins of maths that has had the most profound consequences: it has truly transformed the human experience, giving us powerful new number systems and an understanding that now underpins the modern world.
Series: Magic Numbers

How to Grow a Planet Life from Light

   2012    Science
In this series Professor Iain Stewart tells a stunning new story about our planet. He reveals how the greatest changes to the Earth have been driven, above all, by plants. In this first episode Iain journeys from the spectacular caves of Vietnam to the remote deserts of Africa. He sees how plants first harnessed light from the sun and created our life-giving atmosphere. He uncovers the epic battle between the dinosaurs and the tallest trees on the planet. And, using remarkable imagery, he shows plants breathing - and for the first time talking to each other.
Series: How to Grow a Planet

Let there be Life

   2014    Science
Professor of physics Jim Al-Khalili investigates the most accurate and yet perplexing scientific theory ever - quantum physics, the perplexing theory of sub-atomic particles. Turning his attention to the world of nature, can quantum mechanics explain the greatest mysteries in biology? The European robin navigates using one of the most bizarre effects in physics - quantum entanglement, a process which seems to defy common sense. Jim finds that even the most personal of human experiences - our sense of smell - is touched by ethereal quantum vibrations. According to new experiments it seems that our quantum noses are listening to smells. Jim discovers that the most famous law of quantum physics - the uncertainty principle - is obeyed by plants and trees as they capture sunlight during the vital process of photosynthesis. Jim wonders if the strange laws of the sub-atomic world, which allow objects to tunnel through impassable barriers in defiance of common sense, could effect the mechanism by which living species evolve?
Series: The Secrets of Quantum Physics

Cosmic Phenomena

   2009    Nature
A variety of cosmic events have both helpful and harmful effects on life on Earth. From the beauty of the Aurora Borealis and rainbows to the dangers of UV radiation and cosmic rays, from the miracle of photosynthesis to the thrill of a meteor shower, this episode explores how the effects generated by the sun and other extra-solar sources can literally get under our skin, scramble our technology, make life possible and threaten our existence all at the same time
Series: The Universe

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
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