Forces of Nature
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After journeying around the Solar System and out to the edges of the Universe, Professor Brian Cox takes viewers on a grand tour of Earth to reveal how our planet isnt just beautiful to look at, its even more beautiful to understand. In four stunning programmes he unveils how a few laws of nature create the seemingly infinite and magnificent complexity that surrounds us. Seeking out the most astonishing sights on Earth, Forces of Nature takes the spectacle of our planet as youve never seen it before and combines it with the beautiful elegance of physics. It answers some of those eternal questions like why is water blue, why are honeycombs hexagonal and why dont we feel the Earth spinning, taking viewers on an inspirational, revelatory journey around our planet and beyond.
- Aspect Ratio : 1.78:1
- Is Discontinued By Manufacturer : No
- Language : English
- Package Dimensions : 18.03 x 13.76 x 1.48 cm; 83.16 Grams
- Studio : BBC
- ASIN : B01HID7MF2
- Number of discs : 2
- Best Sellers Rank: 17,411 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
- 4,320 in TV Shows (Movies & TV)
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“The origin of you, your most distant ancestor, wasn’t a living thing at all. It was a geological thing, a thermal vent in some ocean four billion years ago. You are just chemistry. But what chemistry! Earth is your ancestor. A restless planet is your creator.”
I laugh. Not at him per se. No, not at all. Just at life and the strange wonder of it all. It’s a liberating laugh and thought.
He speaks in a way that makes you want to listen to him, his voice full of wonder and joy. He’s like the child who understands for the first time that night and day are certain proof that the world is round and must be spinning, or that the sun moving across the face of the sky means we are moving through space too. Knowledge is empowering. It changes everything in the mind of the child: what seems isn’t always what is. Appearances can be misleading. Where is the truth and how do I find it if my own senses can’t fully be trusted as the best guides? The counterintuitive spark of discovery begins in wonder. ‘How’ is the great question we constantly ask ourselves.
The world feels sensual to the child because it is. As babies we enter the world with built-in emotions and sensations. Thought, abstraction, ideas will come later. Beauty is real because we’re touched and awed by it. But there’s beauty too in understanding how things are, in knowing the constituent parts of things. Such an understanding does not diminish what we see and experience as beautiful. In fact, quite the opposite: it deepens the aesthetic experience by giving a basis for knowing how such beauty can exist. It doubles, in a sense, one’s appreciation of what Darwin called “endless forms most beautiful…[that] have been, and are being, evolved.”
The structures we see everywhere around us in nature are intricate and complex on the surface. But they are “shadows of something deeper,” Prof. Cox tells us. “They mask an underlying beauty and simplicity.” He begins by describing snowflakes: what causes them, what they’re composed of, what creates their structure, design and shapes. The whole of physics and its natural laws, and by extension the universe, is contained in a snowflake, he says. The four forces that operate on it are gravity (which makes the snowflake fall to Earth through the clouds); electromagnetism, binding together the water molecules that form the snowflake’s crystals; the nuclear forces that bind the atomic nuclei of oxygen together; and the tendency toward symmetry in nature.
At the beginning of each of the four episodes in the series Prof. Cox says this:
“The natural world is beautiful, but complex. The skies dance with colour. Shapes of great geometrical beauty form and disappear. And the planet itself is constantly transformed. But this seemingly infinite complexity is just a shadow of something deeper: the underlying laws of nature.”
What contributes to life on this planet? Simply put, the arrangement of chemicals and their atomic structures combined with energy. The source of energy, of heat and radiation, is of course the sun, and perhaps the greatest combination of atoms to make a chemical structure is the arrangement of hydrogen and oxygen to create liquid water, a substance on which all life is built and depends. Water is the universal solvent, Prof. Cox says, a substance that carries the ingredients of life. It’s also what he calls “a theatre of life”, an arena in which atoms and molecules combine to form the structures of all living things.
If we are of the earth, made from it, the earth in a way is a messenger or carrier of life from the stars, because that is where the supply of chemicals needed for life has been forged. So we, and all life, are both of this earth and cosmic in origin. Life in a way is “just a temporary home for the immortal elements that build up in the universe,” Prof. Cox says. He also says:
“Everything is made of atoms. An oak tree in a forest is really just carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen and a few other bits mixed together.”
Einstein’s momentous discovery says space and time are not separate. They form a single entity called space-time. He solved the riddle of how we and all things age. The sun is not stationary. It is travelling at high velocity into the future. We travel with it as our planet (and all the other planets) follow it via the force of gravity. The motion of our planet can be pictured as a spiral winding into the future as it circles the sun which vaults ahead. This is why no place remains the same. It cannot. It will always be at a new place in time. The place you think you revisit on this planet is not a place you have been to before. Only in your memory is the original place (and moment) frozen. This means every moment is unique in time. So is every place. It also explains why you must age. It cannot be otherwise, as you are a traveller on this spinning rock in space that orbits a star that is racing into the future.
When Prof. Cox explains this to us his eyes shine. His voice even trembles a little. His mind grasps the big picture, or enough of it to be awed by what he knows of it. The ride is wild on every level: atomic, chemical, cosmic, temporal. People speak of wormholes, other dimensions, parallel universes and multiverses. But the physical fact is we live on a physical rock vaulting at high velocity through space-time, so there is no escaping this reality, this destiny. Whatever the grand scheme of things might be, we are a part of it. So all we can do is humbly say “yes”, the most powerful word in the universe.
When I was a boy Carl Sagan inspired me to look up at the night sky and wonder. Now I’m a man and Brian Cox does the same. Both men are touched with the magic of wonder, awe and curiosity. They are not afraid and want to know how things are as they are. Their boyish wonder is the source of their greatness as scientists, and we are so very lucky to have them in our lives.
And herein lies part of the problem for me. The complex cultures of various parts of the world are beautifully filmed, but their interactions with nature are reduced to simple, or more often simplistic storylines. So, for example, the migration of the Maasai to take their cattle to water is made into a narrative of the wife waiting at home for the husband to return, with a sickening sentimental and obviously staged sequence where the children run to be embraced by their returning dad.
Worse still is a sequence in the last episode where a child has his cataracts removed and can see for the first time. Of course this is a great thing and to be celebrated. But it is presented in a way which unequivocally depicts blindness as something to be pitied. The child is led around by his mother, and held by his father looking sad whilst his friends play together. This is nonsense - blind children can play with their friends (whether they subsequently recover their sight or, because their condition is different from this child's, never do). I was shocked and disgusted that the BBC have so little sensitivity and ethical and moral sense as to present disability in this way. I will be writing to them suggesting they re-edit this sequence to remove this insult to the disabled and the consequent really objectionable opinions such as that the child 'was not a whole boy' because he could not see. He was and other permanently blind children also are. This sequence is so, so wrong.
So, go to Cox's previous series Wonders of Life which covers the same science exactly but in much more detail and without the sentimentality and patronising attitude to the disabled and other cultures. Shame on you BBC - in 2016 a responsible broadcasting company should at least know the basics of ethical behaviour.
Arrived well packaged.