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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

Workingman Death

   2005    Culture
Austrian director Michael Glawogger travels to five countries to focus on some of the worst jobs imaginable: Ukrainian miners crawl into tiny cracks in old coal pits to scratch out a few bags of winter fuel; Indonesian workers trudge long distances carrying baskets with hundreds of pounds of sulfur chunks extracted from a steaming mountain; Pakistanis risk explosions and burial under tons of scrap iron as they dismantle huge carrier ships. The visuals are everything here. Despite the hardships depicted, many sequences have a dreamlike beauty. In addition, the director has a bone-dry sense of irony; during the Ukraine scenes, he frequently cuts away to a statue of Stakhanov, the "hero" lauded by the Soviets for his superhuman work habits. He also shows us an old German smelting works that's been converted into a theme park.

World First Flying Car

   2020    Technology
The world’s first flying car might be on the market sooner than we think, and as a new, cutting-edge invention goes through a series of gruelling tests, behind-the-scenes access reveals the secrets of this sci-fi innovation. With the ability to carry up to 250 kg (551 lb) of payload at speeds up to 80 km/h (50 mph), the 12-rotor Seraph is developed by the Bristol-based company aptly named Vertical Aerospace, and is the Britain's leading electric VTOL (vertical take-off and landing) air taxi candidate.

World Richest Terror Army

   2015    Culture
The inside story of how a small band of fanatical jihadi fighters became the world's richest terror army ever. Featuring the first major TV interview with an imprisoned senior leader of the self-proclamed Islamic State, Peter Taylor looks behind its medieval savagery and investigates how it became so fabulously rich and resilient.

Worst Days on Planet Earth

   2011    Nature    3D
Earth may seem like the most hospitable planet in the solar system. But look again. Startling new discoveries reveal the blue planet has been plagued by more chaos and destruction than scientists once imagined. Stand on the Earth billions of years ago as a primitive planet called Theia slams into it. Shiver as our entire globe is frozen over like a gigantic snowball. Feel the heat as mammoth volcanoes scorch the landscape and darken the sky. From a cosmic gamma ray burst frying away the ozone layer to an Everest-size asteroid slamming into the ocean, we'll reveal new information about how these unparalleled events drove life to the brink of total extinction. Out of this continuous devastation, how has our planet--and life--got to where it is today? Are the worst days behind us--or lurking in the distant future?
Series: The Universe

WWII In 3D

   2011    History    3D
For the first time, you will see dramatic moments of WWII that were captured in 3D with stereographs and then shuttered away in secret archives and attics, until now. This stunning collection of colour 3D photos includes Allied reconnaissance photos, a trove of images that documents the rise and fall of the Third Reich, and photos secretly taken by a civilian in occupied France. WWII IN 3D also features an actual 3D motion picture film shot by the Nazis in 1943 and creates a fully immersive, three dimensional portrait of history's largest and bloodiest conflict.
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