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Evolution: Great Transformations
What triggered the incredible diversity of life on Earth, and how have complex life forms, including humans, evolved? Is there direction to evolution? And is human intelligence inevitable? This program focuses on evolution's 'great transformations' —among them the development of a standard four-limbed body plan, the journey from water to land, the return of marine mammals to the sea, and the emergence of humans. Driven by a combination of opportunism and a genetic 'toolkit', these astounding leaps forward define the arc of evolution. And they suggest that every living creature on earth today, and every species that has ever existed, is a variation on a grand genetic theme—a member of one, and only one, tree of life
This episode covers the nature of how life may have developed on Earth and the possibility of life on other planets. Tyson begins by explaining how the human development of writing systems enabled the transfer of information through generations, describing how Princess Enheduanna ca. 2280 BCE would be one of the first to sign her name to her works, and how Gilgamesh collected stories, including that of Utnapishtim documenting a great flood comparable to the story of Noah's Ark. Tyson explains how DNA similarly records information to propagate life, and postulates theories of how DNA originated on Earth, including evolution from a shallow tide pool, or from the ejecta of meteor collisions from other planets. In the latter case, Tyson explains how comparing the composition of the Nakhla meteorite in 1911 to results collected by the Viking program demonstrated that material from Mars could transit to Earth, and the ability of some microbes to survive the harsh conditions of space. With the motions of solar systems through the galaxy over billions of years, life could conceivably propagate from planet to planet in the same manner. Tyson then moves on to consider if life on other planets could exist. He explains how Project Diana performed in the 1960s showed that radio waves are able to travel in space, and that all of humanity's broadcast signals continue to radiate into space from our planet. Tyson notes that projects have since looked for similar signals potentially emanating from other solar systems. Tyson then explains that the development and lifespan of extraterrestrial civilizations must be considered for such detection to be realized. He notes that civilizations can be wiped out by cosmic events like supernovae, natural disasters such as the Toba disaster, or even self-destruct through war or other means, making probability estimates difficult. Tyson describes how elliptical galaxies, in which some of the oldest red dwarf stars exist, would offer the best chance of finding established civilizations. Tyson concludes that human intelligence properly applied should allow our species to avoid such disasters and enable us to migrate beyond the Earth before the Sun's eventual transformation into a red giant.
Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey
What makes us human is the squishy triple-pounder inside our heads. It lets us build skyscrapers, and lift a special few of us into space. We are the only species on this planet that can construct realities in our mind and then go actually build it. The story of how our mind evolved on this one strange rock is one of chance, coincidence and impossible odds.
This episode is an investigation into the mystery of the human brain and the chain of events that produced the anomaly of human intelligence.
One Strange Rock
Shock and Awe: The Story of Electricity
Himalaya with Michael Palin
Life in a Day
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