biology

In Our Time: Extremophiles

"Extremophiles" is a bit of a parochial term - this is the name for organisms that live happily in environments that we consider extreme. Too cold, too hot, too acid, too something to support life, in our terms. Studying the lifeforms that disagree with us on what is a good place to live has started a new field of astrobiology and a new appreciation of the possibility of life existing in the wider universe.

Egypt's Lost Queens; Talk to the Animals; John Bishop's Australia

Egypt's Lost Queens was a one off programme presented by Joann Fletcher about four influential women in Ancient Egyptian history. Of the women she picked to focus on there were two who wielded power in their own right, and two who were mothers and/or wives of Pharaohs. Fletcher didn't just go the easy route of picking all the "obvious" ones - i.e. no Nefertiti, no Cleopatra - instead she covered Hetepheres, Hatshepsut (who does count as an obvious choice), Nefertari (ditto) and Arsinoe.

Tropic of Cancer; Dolphins - Spy in the Pod

Tropic of Cancer is one of Simon Reeve's travelogue series. In this one, originally from 2010, he travels around the world following the line of the Tropic of Cancer which is the northernmost boundary of the tropics. He starts in Mexico, then across the Atlantic to the north of Africa, followed by bits of Arabia then the south of Asia, finally ending up in Hawaii.

Secrets of Bones; Tales from the Royal Wardrobe

Secrets of Bones was a 6 part series of half hour programmes about skeletons, presented by Ben Garrod. Each episode covered a different aspect of the way that skeletons are vital to vertebrates. The series looked at both the commonalities between the vertebrate skeletal structure, and also the ways that skeletons are adapted to the life style of the particularly organism.

Mud Sweat and Tractors; Fossil Wonderlands: Nature's Hidden Treasures; The Crusades

Mud Sweat and Tractors is a four part series about the changes in farming in Britain over the last century or so. It split it up into four areas - milk, horticulture, wheat and beef - and treated each as a separate story, so each episode seemed quite self-contained. Each time there were two or three farming families chosen who had photographs and video footage stretching back to the 1930s. So they made good case studies and could talk about why they or their Dad or Grandad had made particular decisions at particular points.

The Necessary War; The Pity of War; David Attenborough's First Life

The Necessary War and The Pity of War were a pair of programmes from the BBC about the First World War that aired a couple of months ago. In The Necessary War Max Hastings put the case for WW1 being, ultimately, necessary despite the loss of life etc. And in The Pity of War Niall Ferguson argued that it was all a terrible and costly (in terms of lives) mistake - this programme finished with a debate.

Heart vs Mind: What Makes Us Human?; The First World War; How to Get Ahead; Precision: The Measure of All Things

We finished three different series over the last week so I wasn't going to write about any of the one-off programmes as well, but Heart vs Mind: What Makes Us Human? irritated me sufficiently that I wanted to say why! The premise of this film was that the presenter, David Malone, had always thought of himself as a wholly rational person but then his life had become derailed - his wife had started to suffer from severe depression and it was as if the person she had been no longer existed.

Monkey Planet; Pagans and Pilgrims: Britain's Holiest Places

Monkey Planet was a three part series presented by George McGavin about primates - monkeys, apes and lemurs. The first episode in was primarily a survey of just how wide-ranging and varied a group the primates are. The other two looked at aspects of primate behaviour that we tend to think of as particularly human, and showed both how it's actually primate-wide and more varied than our narrow perspective suggests.

Around the World in 60 Minutes; Dinosaurs, Myths and Monsters

Around the World in 60 Minutes was a hybrid of a programme - part "what's it like to be an astronaut?" and part travelogue. The two strands of the programme were woven together by looking at what you see during one orbit of the International Space Station - which takes 90 minutes to go round the Earth. The travelogue side of it went to about a dozen different places round the world, in the direction of the orbit, and told us something about the place and an interesting stat or two.

Inside the Animal Mind; Edward VII: Prince of Pleasure; Royal Cousins at War; The Great British Year

Inside the Animal Mind is a three part series presented by Chris Packham that looks at what we know about how animals think and what that tells us about our own thinking. The first episode covered animal senses, the second looked at how intelligent animals are and the third investigated the effects of being social on animal intelligence. In each episode Packham showed us the sorts of experiments currently being done to extend our knowledge of animal minds.

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