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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

The Sun

   2021    Nature
From the frozen poles to the searing deserts, this episode shows how animals have come up with strategies to survive the uneven amounts of sunlight that fall on our planet over the course of a year. The exception is on the equator, where the duration of day and night remain the same throughout the year. Here, this guaranteed sunlight drives the great diversity of life in the tropical jungles.
Series: A Perfect Planet

Atlantic Coast Killer

   2021    Science
A mammoth Tsunami strikes the eastern seaboard. It would be a disaster of epic proportions. Some scientists believe this catastrophe could happen one day, but how? This episode shows the Atlantic island of La Palma has collapsed several times in mega-landslides. Another could trigger a tsunami with enough power to cross the Atlantic Ocean and decimate the US East Coast.
Series: X-Ray Earth

Volcano Apocalypse

   2021    Science
Beneath Yellowstone National Park, lies the biggest volcano on Earth. An eruption in the past was so big it plunged the earth into a volcanic winter that lasted years. A super-eruption would be more than millions of Hiroshima bombs going off all at once. It would be even worse than an asteroid impact: Entire cities lost beneath ash, people and animals crushed alive, power networks destroyed, sun dimmed across the globe, harvests failed, widespread famine. Could this nightmare really happen? We will use the latest scientific data to uncover the danger beneath us, as we see our planet like never before.
Series: X-Ray Earth

Putin: A Russian Spy Story
Putin: A Russian Spy Story

   2020    History
The Green Planet
The Green Planet

   2022    Nature
Wild Wild Country
Wild Wild Country

   2018    Culture
Minimalism
Minimalism

   2015    Culture
Conquest of the Skies
Conquest of the Skies

   2015    Nature
Out of the Cradle
Out of the Cradle

   2019    History
The Incredible Human Journey
The Incredible Human Journey

   2009    History