The Biggest Things in Space

We cannot compare anything on earth to the largest things known in space. The Lymann Alpha blob is a bubble-like structure containing countless galaxies, perhaps the biggest object in the entire universe.

Regions of radio-emitting gas, called radio lobes, could be even bigger. Then there are super galaxy clusters, which are hundreds of galaxies merged together due to cosmic collisions.

In this documentary we discover which is the largest planet, star, star cluster, constellation, black hole, void, volcano, galaxy, explosion, moon, storm and impact crater in space.

Time - A Documentary

In this four-programme series, string theory pioneer Michio Kaku goes on an extraordinary exploration of the world in search of time. He discovers our sense of time passing and the clocks that drive our bodies. He reveals the forces of time that make and destroy us in a lifetime. He journeys to some of the Earth's most spectacular geological sites to look for clues to the extraordinary depths of time at a planetary level. Finally, he takes us on a cosmic journey in search of the beginning (and the end) of time itself.

PART ONE - Daytime
We humans seem to run to the beat of time, often without being aware of how this is the case or how our perception of it may differ from another person's, from nature's rhythms or from our own internal clock. In the first episode of the series, string theory pioneer Michio Kaku witnesses one of the most extraordinary feats of timing in nature on a remote Californian beach.

We also meet a French caver who spent months in complete isolation to see what would happen to his sense of time - and discovered that we have an internal clock that drives our days. Michio self-experiments by being monitored over 24 hours to see how this clock shapes his whole body chemistry. And we test a family with a rare disease to uncover the very roots of the body clock itself.

Where does our sense of time passing come from? We all know it's critical - as comedians demonstrate at a Soho comedy club. Michio discovers this critical timer (the stopwatch) in a brain-scan experiment at Duke University. It seems that this 'sense' of time is plastic: crash victims report that time seems to slow under extreme stress. We conduct a unique experiment to test this - by dropping someone 150 feet. Meanwhile, back at Duke an experiment with cocaine and marijuana on rats reveals the chemical process by which our sense of time is altered.

But time for us is even more than this. We have a unique knowledge of time. We 'know' past and future. It's an ability shared by no other animals... apart from a special few. King the Gorilla demonstrates his awareness of time to researchers in Miami. We meet a man with no memory and reveal how much we depend on being able to place ourselves in time. This special awareness of time raises some of the most important questions about time itself: Why does it only flow in one direction? Why can't we stop it, see it or hold it? And if it so elusive, then is it real or just a figment of our minds?

PART TWO - Lifetime
Why is our time limited? And does it have to be? Could our age-old dream of immortality ever be possible? In episode two, Michio Kaku explores these questions and meets some of the key people involved in the cutting-edge research into ageing. He travels to the amazing Methuselah tree, which is almost 5000 years old and still producing new pine cones. He discovers that time does get faster as you get older and, under hypnosis, he goes in search of his lost time, stored as memories. But it only proves that lost time is really gone forever.

We are incredible machines for living - but if we're programmed to live, are we also programmed to die? As we grow, our cells divide into a complex colony of three trillion individual cells in our bodies. Sir Paul Nurse has spent a lifetime studying cells to search for the most basic process of life - the secret of cell division. We discover that cells seem to be potentially immortal. They continue to divide again and again perfectly. Even our own bodies are replaced through our lives - most of our cells are replaced in a roughly seven-year cycle. Yet we know that we age and that time wreaks changes on our bodies.

This episode reveals the biological changes in our cells that make our skin wrinkle and our bones become brittle. This new understanding is beginning to reveal the process of time in our bodies and, through this, scientists are now looking at ways of slowing or even stopping time. Scientists in California are studying sea urchins for clues as they not only live longer than ever thought before but they appear to show no sign of ageing. Genetic manipulation is extending the lives of mice. And a British scientist is now suggesting that the pace of advance is so fast that the first immortals are already living today; that before our children have reached the end of their natural lives, the technology to stop and even reverse ageing will exist. But what will that mean for our essential humanity?

PART THREE - Earth Time
Our awareness that time stretches back long before we were born, and will continue to stretch into the future long after we're gone, lies at the heart of our humanity. Without this sense we couldn't learn from the past, and wouldn't plan for the future But where did we come from, and where are we going in time? Every culture mythologises time and attempts to answer the ultimate questions: was there a beginning? And will there be an end?

In the 17th century an Irish bishop used the scientific method and the Bible to calculate a date of creation - approximately 6000 years ago. It was a remarkable achievement, but he was wrong. Michio climbs down the layers of rock from which the Grand Canyon is carved to discover that the world must be much older. Meteorites hold the ultimate clues to the formation of the Earth - a staggering 4.6 billion years ago. Michio reveals that, far from being fixed, the Earth has been reshaped with incredible violence. It's usually too slow to witness directly, but inhabitants close to the world's most active volcano, Kilauea, on Hawaii know the Earth's forces all too well as they recover their homes from volcanic ash.

It's almost impossible to conceive of the vastness of Earth time: in an attempt to illustrate the planet's lifespan, Michio travels from the West to the East coast of America each millimetre representing one year. But where do we fit in? Our time seems so insignificant, but we're part of perhaps the greatest story ever told - the story of life itself. The programme looks at bacteria that have been brought to life from a time capsule of rock after 250 million years, encounters creatures in which evolution can be seen in action, and explores the ultimate biological clock - DNA. Michio has his own DNA tested to reveal his ancestral journey all the way back to our first human ancestors in Africa. Finally, the episode concludes with a look into the future to ask where we are ultimately going.

PART FOUR - Cosmic Time

Throughout history, one thing has never changed - time. It is something we rely on to plan our lives, and it is consistent, regular and ceaseless. But is it? High in the Alps, Michio encounters a mystery - tiny particles called muons which shouldn't exist. They don't last long enough to be detected on Earth - and yet here they are. The answer to this mystery lies in one of the greatest discoveries of all time - Einstein's theory of relativity. The faster you travel, the slower time ticks. So time is not fixed at all.

Michio goes on a journey to places where time becomes very strange. Inside atoms, time blurs to such an extent that something can be in two places at once. Within extreme places in space, like black holes, time is squeezed to such an extent that, to an observer, it seems to stand still. Time is more variable that it could ever have been thought possible. It can even, theoretically, move backwards. This leads to one of the most extraordinary possibilities - a time machine. This episode shows a graphical representation of what it might look like: the size of a planet and consuming unimaginable amounts of energy but still a possibility.

Finally, Michio tackles the greatest questions of all - did time itself have a beginning, and will it have an end? He explains how the time capsule of the stars revealed the evolution of the Universe - and pointed the way to the ultimate beginning, the Big Bang, 13.6 billion years ago. And the future? Michio discovers that the cosmos of the stars is only a moment in the Universe's history, that we live in the stelliferous age - the age of the stars - the second of the Universe's five ages of time. But Michio explains that it is hardly an age at all: within the entire lifetime of the Universe the stars shine for less than a finger-click of history.

Stupidity, a documentary

Stupidity by Albert Nerenberg Features Bill Maher, Noam Chomsky, George W. Bush, Mark Crispin Miller and many others. A humorous examination of stupidity in contemporary American culture, covering: the effects of television and mass media on the American intellect; the "dumbing down" of American culture; the popularity of Steve-O and Jackass; role of religion in willful stupidity; the identifaction of many Americans with George W. Bush; the evolution of such concepts as "idiot" and "moron."

The DVD edition contains extra interviews commentaries and readings. The film is not connected
to Matthijs van Boxsel's book called Encyclopaedia of Stupidity -- also 2003- but recommended.

What We Still Don't Know Documentary

Part 1 - Are we alone?

Hear the word ‘alien’ and what might spring to mind is something approaching HG Wells’ vision of a warlike Martian invader from War of the Worlds. His fantastical dreams of dumpy aliens sporting octopod tentacles and camouflage coloured skin have long been inclined to place the topic of alien life well beyond the realm of intelligent discourse and into the world of weird and wacky belief.

But no longer. In this documentary film - Are We Alone?, Martin Rees puts paid to the flights of fantasy and takes us on a journey of unsettling consequence.

Seth Shostak is one of SETI’s (Institute for the Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence) leading investigators. He is utterly convinced that there is someone out there. The most compelling evidence is simply in the vast scales of space. There are 10,000 billion billion stars visible from Earth’s telescopes alone, and a conservative estimate places orbiting planets around one in ten of them. Would it not then be very strange if Earth were the only planet out of so many boggling billions to have been a cradle for life?

Peter Ward is a paleontologist at the University of Washington in Seattle. He’s an expert biologist and not given to inventing weird alien creatures. But even he has to admit that life elsewhere is more than likely: ‘When you think there are 400 billion stars in our galaxy alone, and there are billions of galaxies, we now think that virtually every star has a planet, more than one planet, you’re going to have abodes for life almost everywhere. It’s ridiculous to think it happened on this planet and this planet alone. Life is definitely out there.’

Part 2 - Why are we here?

Philosophers and theologians have long debated our purpose in the universe. We have always assumed that there is some higher purpose for humanity, but the universe it seems may have other ideas.

In Why Are We Here? Martin Rees explains how scientists have had to revise long-held beliefs about the very nature of the universe, and in the process re-evaluate our place here. To do this, Rees presents some of the most fundamental questions about the universe and our own origins: What was the beginning? What is the nature of life? What is the future of the cosmos and the nature of reality?

The answers may not be what you expect. Empty space is not so empty after all. Most of the universe is made up not of atoms, as previously thought, but of a mysterious and elusive substance called ‘dark matter’. Without it the universe simply would not exist.

But working against dark matter is an even more mysterious force that threatens to tear the universe apart – ‘dark energy’.

Part 3 - Are we real?

All life on Earth is nothing more than an elaborate facade created by super-intelligent beings. Humans now exist in a computerized version of the world – a simulation that keeps us happy, while our powers are drained by our creators for use as fuel in their campaign for dominance in the ‘real’ world. This is the premise of the cult sci-fi thriller The Matrix.

‘The simulation hypothesis, that we are currently living in a computer simulation, should be understood literally, it’s not just in a metaphorical sense whereby one could view the universe as a simulation, but literally we would be living in a simulation created by some advanced civilization in a computer they built in their universe. And everything we see and our brains themselves would just be parts of this simulation.’ Oxford University philosopher Dr Nick Bostrom echoes the thoughts of sci-fi writers and scientists alike. The simulation hypothesis is not sci-fi, it’s serious academic thought.

In Are We Real? Martin Rees navigates the extraordinary territory between science fact and science fiction. He reveals the logical steps that have led cosmologists and philosophers to the shocking conclusion that The Matrix scenario cannot be safely relegated to our storybooks. Whether it’s true or not, and it might be, here is a story that is altogether more serious and more deeply disturbing than any sci-fi fantasy could ever be.

Cosmologist Professor Max Tegmark from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology warns us that ‘We humans have undergone a series of demotions, a series of blows to our ego.’ Prepare yourself for another.

Visions of the Future

In this new three-part documentary, leading theoretical physicist and futurist Dr Michio Kaku explores the cutting edge science of today, tomorrow, and beyond. He argues that humankind is at a turning point in history. In this century, we are going to make the historic transition from the 'Age of Discovery' to the 'Age of Mastery', a period in which we will move from being passive observers of nature to its active choreographers. This will give us not only unparalleled possibilities but also great responsibilities.


In the opening installment, Kaku explains how artificial intelligence will revolutionise homes, workplaces and lifestyles, and how virtual worlds will become so realistic that they will rival the physical world. Robots with human-level intelligence may finally become a reality, and in the ultimate stage of mastery, we'll even be able to merge our minds with machine intelligence.

For the first time on television, see how a severely depressed patient can be turned into a happy person at the push of a button - all thanks to the cross-pollination of neuroscience and artificial intelligence.


Genetics and biotechnology promise a future of unprecedented health and longevity: DNA screening could prevent many diseases, gene therapy could cure them and, thanks to lab-grown organs, the human body could be repaired as easily as a car, with spare parts readily available. Ultimately, the ageing process itself could be slowed down or even halted.

But what impact will this have on who we are and how we will live? And, with our mastery of the genome, will the human race end up in a world divided by genetic apartheid?


The quantum revolution could turn many ideas of science fiction into science fact - from metamaterials with mind-boggling properties like invisibility through limitless quantum energy and room temperature superconductors to Arthur C Clarke's space elevator. Some scientists even forecast that in the latter half of the century everybody will have a personal fabricator that re-arranges molecules to produce everything from almost anything.

Yet how will we ultimately use our mastery of matter? Like Samson, will we use our strength to bring down the temple? Or, like Solomon, will we have the wisdom to match our technology?

Philosophy: A Guide to Happiness

This six part series on philosophy is presented by popular British philosopher Alain de Botton, featuring six thinkers who have influenced history, and their ideas about the pursuit of the happy life.

Episode 1: Socrates on Self-Confidence - Why do so many people go along with the crowd and fail to stand up for what they truly believe? Partly because they are too easily swayed by other people's opinions and partly because they don't know when to have confidence in their own.

Episode 2: Epicurus on Happiness - British philosopher Alain De Botton discusses the personal implications of the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus (341-270BCE) who was no epicurean glutton or wanton consumerist,but an advocate of "friends, freedom and thought" as the path to happiness.

Episode 3: Seneca on Anger Roman philosopher Lucious Annaeus Seneca (4BCE-65CE), the most famous and popular philosopher of his day, took the subject of anger seriously enough to dedicate a whole book to the subject. Seneca refused to see anger as an irrational outburst over which we have no control. Instead he saw it as a philosophical problem and amenable to treatment by philosophical argument. He thought anger arose from certain rationally held ideas about the world, and the problem with these ideas is that they are far too optimistic. Certain things are a predictable feature of life, and to get angry about them is to have unrealistic expectations.

Episode 4: Montaigne on Self-Esteem looks at the problem of self-esteem from the perspective of Michel de Montaigne (16th Century), the French philosopher who singled out three main reasons for feeling bad about oneself - sexual inadequecy, failure to live up to social norms, and intellectual inferiority - and then offered practical solutions for overcoming them.

Episode 5: Schopenhauer on Love - Alain De Botton surveys the 19th Century German thinker Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) who believed that love was the most important thing in life because of its powerful impulse towards 'the will-to-life'.

Episode 6: Nietzsche on Hardship - British philosopher Alain De Botton explores Friedrich Nietzsche's (1844-1900) dictum that any worthwhile achievements in life come from the experience of overcoming hardship. For him, any existence that is too comfortable is worthless, as are the twin refugees of drink or religion.

Hubble - 15 Years of Discovery

Hubble - 15 years of discovery” covers all aspects of the Hubble Space Telescope project – a journey through the history, the troubled early life and the ultimate scientific successes of Hubble. This portrait, directed by Lars Lindberg Christensen, contains large amounts of previously unpublished footage of superb quality. With morethan 500,000 copies distributed, this DVD movie is probably the most widely available science documentary ever.

Hubble's spectacular visual images make a stunning backdrop throughout the film, bringing an immediacy and vitality as the narrative reveals the new insights Hubble has inspired in all fields of astronomy from exoplanets to black holes. Complex though the science behind the telescope’s images often is, Art Director Martin Kornmesser has developed a unique style of elaborate 3D animation that enhances and vividly clarifies the underlying science.

The movie is presented by an ESA scientist, Dr. Robert (Bob) Fosbury, who has himself used Hubble for his own research on many occasions.

BBC Horizon - Are We Alone in the Universe?

This documentary investigates one of the most controversial questions of the past hundred years...are we alone in the universe? This is not one those films that claims to have conclusive proof, but rather a look at the serious science of the search for extraterrestrial life.

The search for extra-terrestrial life has been going for 50 years - but there's been a recent breakthrough. Astronomers have discovered a new planet called Gliese 581 c. It is the most Earth-like planet ever found. It orbits a star and may have habitats capable of supporting life. NASA hopes to find 50 more Earth-like planets by the end of the decade, all of which increases the chance that alien life has begun elsewhere.

Click here to to find out more about the Drake equation.

Click here to visit the SETI website.

End Day

Inspired by the predictions of scientists, End Day creates apocalyptic scenarios that go beyond reality. In a single hour, explore five different fictional disasters, from a giant tsunami hitting New York to a deadly meteorite strike on Berlin.

End Day is a 2005 docu-drama produced by the BBC and aired on the National Geographic Channel, on the TV series, National Geographic Channel Presents, that depicts various doomsday scenarios. The documentary follows the fictional scientist Dr. Howell, played by Glenn Conroy, as he travels from his London hotel room to his laboratory in New York City, and shows how each scenario affects his journey as well as those around him, with various experts providing commentary on that specific disaster as it unfolds.

Guns, Germs and Steel - 13.000 years of human history

Based on Jared Diamond's Pulitzer Prize-winning book of the same name, Guns, Germs and Steel traces humanity's journey over the last 13,000 years – from the dawn of farming at the end of the last Ice Age to the realities of life in the twenty-first century.

Inspired by a question put to him on the island of Papua New Guinea more than thirty years ago, Diamond embarks on a world-wide quest to understand the roots of global inequality.

  • Why were Europeans the ones to conquer so much of our planet?
  • Why didn't the Chinese, or the Inca, become masters of the globe instead?
  • Why did cities first evolve in the Middle East?
  • Why did farming never emerge in Australia?
  • And why are the tropics now the capital of global poverty?

  • As he peeled back the layers of history to uncover fundamental, environmental factors shaping the destiny of humanity, Diamond found both his theories and his own endurance tested.

    The three one-hour programs were filmed across four continents on High Definition digital video, and combinied ambitious dramatic reconstruction with moving documentary footage and computer animation. They also include contributions from Diamond himself and a wealth of international historians, archeologists and scientists.

    Guns, Germs, and Steel is a thrilling ride through the elemental forces which have shaped our world – and which continue to shape our future.

    PART ONE - Out of Eden

    PART TWO - Conquest

    PART THREE - Tropics

    Einstein's Unfinished Symphony

    As Albert Einstein lay on his deathbed, he asked only for his glasses, his writing implements and his latest equations. He knew he was dying, yet he continued his work. In those final hours of his life, while fading in and out of consciousness, he was working on what he hoped would be his greatest work of all. It was a project of monumental complexity. It was a project that he hoped would unlock the mind of God.

    "I want to know God's thoughts"

    "I am not interested in this phenomenon or that phenomenon," Einstein had said earlier in his life. "I want to know God's thoughts – the rest are mere details." But as he lay there dying in Princeton Hospital he must have understood that these were secrets that God was clearly keen to hang on to. The greatest scientist of his age died knowing that he had become isolated from the scientific community; revered on the one hand, ridiculed for this quest on the other.

    It was a journey that started 50 years earlier in Berne, Switzerland. Then - in his early 20s - he was a young man struggling to make his mark. His applications to universities throughout Europe had all been rejected. In the end his father had pulled strings to get him a job as a third class clerk evaluating the latest electrical gizmos.

    But in his spare time he was formulating the most extraordinary scientific ideas. In a single year - 1905, a year that would become known as his miracle year – he published papers that would redefine how we see our world and universe.

    Time is relative
    He confirmed that all matter was composed of molecules – an idea that at the time was controversial. And most famously of all, he published the paper 'On the electrodynamics of moving bodies'. It contained his Theory of Special Relativity and suggested that time - something that had always thought to be unchanging and absolute – was relative. It could speed up or slow down depending on the speed you were travelling. From this paper would come an additional three pages, finished in September of the same year, that would contain the derivation of e=mc², the most famous mathematical equation ever written.

    Einstein was on a roll. Ten years after his Theory of Special Relativity, he published his Theory of General Relativity – a piece of work widely acknowledged as his masterpiece. The great 17th century scientist Sir Isaac Newton had described the force of gravity very successfully, but what caused gravity remained a mystery. In this Theory of General Relativity, Einstein suggested that gravity was due to the bending of time and space by massive objects. In 1919 astronomers confirmed this by measuring the bending of starlight around the sun during a solar eclipse.

    The battle with quantum mechanics
    In 1921, Einstein was awarded the Nobel Prize, not for his theories of relativity, but for another paper published in 1905. In this paper, Einstein proposed that light was not simply made up of waves, it could also be thought of as discrete, individual particles or quanta. This discovery would revolutionise physics and chemistry, because it would become one of the foundations of a new science: quantum mechanics.

    But during the 1920s the new science of quantum mechanics began to turn the tide against the way Einstein saw the world. Young pretenders in the field of physics had begun to emerge, such as Heisenberg, Bohr and Schrödinger, who are now some of the most famous figures in science. But at the time they were mavericks. They saw quantum mechanics as a brand new way of interpreting everything.

    A core element to their new interpretation of the world was that at a fundamental level, everything was unpredictable. You could, for example, accurately tell the speed of a particle but not – at the same time – its position. Or its position but not its speed. It meant that precise predictions were impossible – the best you could hope for was a science based on probabilities.

    God does not play dice
    Einstein's work was underpinned by the idea that the laws of physics were an expression of the divine. This belief led him to think that everything could be described by simple, elegant mathematics and moreover, that once you knew these laws you could describe the universe with absolute accuracy. Einstein loathed the implications of quantum mechanics. It was a clash of ideologies.

    The conflict reached a crescendo in the late 1920s at the Solvay Conference in Belgium. There Einstein clashed with the great Danish physicist Niels Bohr over the nature of the universe. Einstein constantly challenged Bohr over the implications of quantum mechanics, but never budged from his belief that "God does not play dice", meaning that nothing would be left to chance in the universe. To which the quantum mechanics community replied: "Einstein, stop telling God what to do with his dice."

    The theory of everything
    But Einstein had a trick up his sleeve. He had already begun a piece of work that he believed would ultimately replace quantum mechanics. It would become later known as his theory of everything – it was his attempt to extend general relativity and unite the known forces in the universe.

    By completing this theory of everything Einstein hoped he would rid physics of the unpredictability at the heart of quantum mechanics and show that the world was predictable – described by beautiful, elegant mathematics. Just the way he believed God would make the universe. He would show that the way the quantum mechanics community interpreted the world was just plain wrong. It was a project that he would work on for the next 30 years, until the final day of his life.

    But while Einstein's theory of everything may be considered to have been a failure, it is an idea that still fascinates and draws some of the brightest minds in physics. Today many believe that String Theory is our best candidate for a theory of everything. But the ultimate irony is that lurking at the heart of String Theory is the very thing that, because of his beliefs, Einstein had been unable to accept: quantum mechanics.

    The Journey of Man - A Genetic Odyssey

    By analyzing DNA from people in all regions of the world, geneticist Spencer Wells has concluded that all humans alive today are descended from a single man who lived in Africa around 60,000 years ago.

    Modern humans, he contends, didn't start their spread across the globe until after that time. Most archaeologists would say the exodus began 100,000 years ago—a 40,000-year discrepancy. Wells's take on the origins of modern humans and how they came to populate the rest of the planet is bound to be controversial.

    His work adds to an already crowded field of opposing hypotheses proposed by those who seek answers in "stones and bones"—archaeologists and paleoanthropologists—and those who seek them in our blood—population geneticists and molecular biologists.

    Over the last decade, major debate on whether early humans evolved in Africa or elsewhere, when they began outward migration, where they went, and whether they interbred with or replaced archaic species has moved out of scientific journals and into the public consciousness.

    In this documentary, Wells addresses these issues. In a straightforward story, he explains how he traced the exodus of modern humans from Africa by analyzing genetic changes in DNA from the y-chromosome.

    "As often happens in science," he said, "technology has opened up a field to new ways of answering old questions—often providing startling answers."

    Of course, not everyone agrees with him...what do you think?

    Einstein's Equation of Life and Death

    In the summer of 1939 Albert Einstein was on holiday in a small resort town on the tip of Long Island. His peaceful summer, however, was about to be shattered by a visit from an old friend and colleague from his years in Berlin. The visitor was the physicist Leo Szilard. He had come to tell Einstein that he feared the Nazis could soon be in possession of a terrible new weapon and that something had to be done.

    Szilard believed that recent scientific breakthroughs meant it was now possible to convert mass into energy. And that this could be used to make a bomb. If this were to happen, it would be a terrible realisation of the law of nature Einstein had discovered some 34 years earlier.

    September 1905 was Einstein's 'miracle year'. While working as a patents clerk in the Swiss capital Berne Einstein submitted a three-page supplement to his special theory of relativity, published earlier that year. In those pages he derived the most famous equation of all time; e=mc², energy is equal to mass multiplied by the speed of light squared.

    The equation showed that mass and energy were related and that one could, in theory, be transformed into the other. But because the speed of light squared is such a huge number, it meant that even a small amount of mass could potentially be converted into a huge amount of energy. Ever since the discovery of radioactivity in the late 19th century, scientists had realised that the atomic nucleus could contain a large amount of energy. Einstein's revolutionary equation showed them, for the first time, just how much there was.

    However, at the time Einstein doubted whether that energy could ever be released. By 1935 he was convinced it would never be practical. At the Winter Session of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Pittsburgh, he is quoted as telling journalists: "The likelihood of transforming matter into energy is something akin to shooting birds in the dark in a country where there are only a few birds."

    Einstein was so sceptical because attempts to break open the atomic nucleus always required more far energy be put in than was ever released. Nuclear physicists like Ernest Rutherford were exploring the structure of the atom by bombarding atomic nuclei with alpha particles. Even when machines were built to accelerate the alpha particles to ever higher speeds they had only limited success in breaking apart the nucleus. In 1933 Rutherford dismissed talk of atomic power as 'moonshine'.

    One morning in September 1933 Szilard read Rutherford's comments in The Times. Leaving his hotel and crossing the street, he had a brainwave. Alpha particles and the other particles that physicists had been using to bombard the nucleus were simply the wrong tool for the job, because he realised that they, like the nucleus, had a positive charge.

    Since like charges repel, Szilard thought, no matter how hard you fire them in, the majority would simply be deflected away. That morning he was one of the first to realise that the recently discovered neutron might be what was needed. The neutron, a subatomic particle like a proton but with no electric charge was discovered in 1932. With no charge, Szilard believed the neutron would simply slip into the heart of the atom undeflected.

    But he didn't stop there. Szilard thought that if an atom could be found that is split open by neutrons, not only would it release some of its huge store of energy, it might also release further neutrons, which could then go on and split further atoms, setting up a chain reaction leading to a truly vast release of energy. Szilard immediately saw the possible military applications and sought to patent the idea and have it made an official secret. But in 1933, the chain reaction only existed in Szilard's head. No one had yet found an atom that could be split by neutrons.

    These developments were happening against a background of extraordinary political turmoil in Europe. Hitler had come to power in Germany in January 1933. In 1938, less than a year before the outbreak of World War II, just such an atom was found, uranium.

    Working at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute in Berlin, the nuclear chemists Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassman found that when bombarded with neutrons, uranium split into two nuclei of roughly half the size. Not only that, but further calculations showed that a large amount of energy was also released - enough from a single nucleus to move a grain of sand. The first stage of Szilard's chain reaction had been achieved.

    When he heard the news Szilard, now in New York and working at Columbia University with Enrico Fermi, set about showing whether, as well as energy, further 'secondary' neutrons were released. By July 1939, when he first knocked on Einstein's door, he knew that they were and so the chain reaction was possible. Also, he and Fermi had settled on a design for the first nuclear reactor.

    During the course of their conversations in the summer of 1939, Szilard explained these new developments to Einstein and his fear that the Nazis might use them to create a nuclear bomb. Together they drafted a letter, signed by Einstein, to the American President, Franklin Roosevelt. The letter was delivered to the President on the 11 October 1939 and after reading it the President provided funding for research that would pave the way for the Manhattan Project and lead, ultimately to the construction of the first atomic bomb. After signing the letter, Einstein played no further part in the development of the bomb.

    With the first atomic explosion over Hiroshima, the power of e=mc² had been graphically demonstrated to the world. Just 0.6 grams of mass, converted into energy, had been enough to destroy an entire city.

    Einstein was horrified when he heard that the bomb had been dropped. When they, wrote to the President, Szilard and Einstein advocated the development of an American bomb purely as a deterrent against the threat of a Nazi weapon. They had not conceived of its use as an offensive weapon, especially after the defeat of Nazi Germany.

    Einstein always saw e=mc² as a purely theoretical insight and refuted any responsibility for the bomb but he did feel some responsibility for the letter he'd written to Roosevelt. A letter he would come to describe as "the one mistake" of his life. Einstein saw nuclear weapons and the nuclear arms race as a threat to the future of civilisation. In his final years he devoted much of his time and energy to issues dealing with the world's future - advocating pacifism and campaigning for the control of nuclear weapons, not by individual nations, but by a world government. The last document he signed, just a week before he died, was a manifesto drawn up by Bertrand Russell, renouncing war and nuclear weapons. As Russell said: ""Einstein was not only a great scientist he was a great man. He stood for peace in a world drifting towards war..."

    But while the bomb proved e=mc² to be the ultimate equation of destruction, only after his death has the role of Einstein's equation in the creation of the universe become clear. Just as mass can be turned into energy in a bomb, the pure energy generated in the Big Bang condensed into the matter that makes up our world. Almost a hundred years ago, with just six short pen stokes Einstein unlocked one of the most powerful truths about the universe. A truth that would change our world, both for good and ill.

    Richard Dawkins - The Enemies of Reason

    There are two ways of looking at the world – through faith and superstition or through the rigours of logic, observation and evidence – in other words, through reason. Reason and a respect for evidence are precious commodities, the source of human progress and our safeguard against fundamentalists and those who profit from obscuring the truth.

    Yet, today, society appears to be retreating from reason. Apparently harmless but utterly irrational belief systems from astrology to New Age mysticism, clairvoyance to alternative health remedies are booming. Richard Dawkins confronts what he sees as an epidemic of irrational, superstitious thinking... He explains the dangers the pick and mix of knowledge and nonsense poses in the internet age, and passionately re-states the case for reason and science.

    The Irrational Health Service
    In this episode, Dawkins looks at how health has become a battleground between reason and superstition. A third of us now spend a total of over 1.6 billion a year on superstitious alternative remedies, but 80% of them have never been subjected to properly conducted trials.

    Slaves to Superstition
    In the episode, Dawkins tackles the epidemic of irrational, superstitious thinking which is blotting the light of logic and evidence. After garnering tips on psychics' entirely earthly trade secrets from the illusionist Derren Brown, Dawkins attends a seance and confronts the medium. Time and again, the interviewees appeal to personal revelation or second-hand anecdote to justify their belief.

    Richard Dawkins - The Blind Watchmaker

    One of the earliest efforts from Richard Dawkins in his identification and attack on the rise of creationism with the rising star of the US fundamentalist christian demographic. In the important documentary, Dawkins shows ways to easily refute some of the more common creationist arguments.

    Dawkins begins with the question, "Did everything in Creation fall together by chance or was there an intelligent designer like God?" He then looks at the spreading disaffection with Darwinism and argues that it should not be written off as a worn out declaration of scientific faith.

    Whilst this is an aging documentary, it was an important key step in the growing assertion of science as the ONLY paradigm worthy of consideration to a highly developed species.

    Human, All Too Human

    Human, All Too Human
    This three part documentary series looks at the lives and thoughts of three of the most important philosophical thinkers of the contemporary period - Friedrich Nietzsche, Martin Heidegger and Jean-Paul Sartre.

    Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

    Nietzsche was a nineteenth-century German philosopher and classical philologist. He wrote critical texts on religion, morality, contemporary culture, philosophy, and science, using a distinctive German language style and displaying a fondness for metaphor and aphorism. Nietzsche's influence remains substantial within and beyond philosophy, notably in existentialism and postmodernism.

    His style and radical questioning of the value and objectivity of truth raise considerable problems of interpretation, generating an extensive secondary literature in both continental and analytic philosophy. Nevertheless, some of his key ideas include interpreting tragedy as an affirmation of life, an eternal recurrence (which numerous commentators have re-interpreted), a rejection of Platonism, and a repudiation of both Christianity and Egalitarianism (especially in the form of Democracy and Socialism).

    Nietzsche began his career as a classical philologist before turning to philosophy. At the age of 24 he was appointed to the Chair of Classical Philology at the University of Basel (the youngest individual ever to have held this position), but resigned in 1879 because of health problems, which would plague him for most of his life. In 1889 he exhibited symptoms of insanity, living out his remaining years in the care of his mother and sister until his death in 1900.

    Martin Heidegger
    Heidegger claimed that Western philosophy has, since Plato, misunderstood what it means for something "to be," tending to approach this question in terms of a being, rather than asking about being itself. In other words, Heidegger believed all investigations of being have historically focused on particular entities and their properties, or have treated being itself as an entity, or substance, with properties.

    A more authentic analysis of being would, for Heidegger, investigate "that on the basis of which beings are already understood," or that which underlies all particular entities and allows them to show up as entities in the first place. But since philosophers and scientists have overlooked the more basic, pre-theoretical ways of being from which their theories derive, and since they have incorrectly applied those theories universally, they have confused our understanding of being and human existence. To avoid these deep-rooted misconceptions, Heidegger believed philosophical inquiry must be conducted in a new way, through a process of retracing the steps of the history of philosophy.

    Heidegger argued that this misunderstanding, commencing from Plato, has left its traces in every stage of Western thought. All that we understand, from the way we speak to our notions of "common sense," is susceptible to error, to fundamental mistakes about the nature of being. These mistakes filter into the terms through which being is articulated in the history of philosophy—reality, logic, God, consciousness, presence, et cetera. In his later philosophy, Heidegger argues that this profoundly affects the way in which human beings relate to modern technology.

    Jean-Paul Charles Aymard Sartre
    Jean-Paul Sartre was born in Paris to Jean-Baptiste Sartre, an officer of the French Navy, and Anne-Marie Schweitzer. His mother was of Alsatian origin, and was a cousin of German Nobel prize laureate Albert Schweitzer.

    When Sartre was 15 months old, his father died of a fever. Anne-Marie raised him with help from her father, Charles Schweitzer, a high school professor of German, who taught Sartre mathematics and introduced him to classical literature at a very early age. As a teenager in the 1920s, Sartre became attracted to philosophy upon reading Henri Bergson's Essay on the Immediate Data of Consciousness.

    He studied and earned a doctorate in philosophy in Paris at the elite École Normale Supérieure, an institution of higher education which was the alma mater for several prominent French thinkers and intellectuals. Sartre was influenced by many aspects of Western philosophy, absorbing ideas from Immanuel Kant, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger among others. In 1929 at the École Normale, he met Simone de Beauvoir, who studied at the Sorbonne and later went on to become a noted philosopher, writer, and feminist. The two, it is documented, became inseparable and lifelong companions, initiating a romantic relationship, though they were not monogamous. Sartre served as a conscript in the French Army from 1929 to 1931 though he later argued in 1959 that each French person was responsible for the collective crimes during the Algerian War of Independence.

    Growing Up in the Universe - Richard Dawkins

    Oxford professor Richard Dawkins presents a series of lectures on life, the universe, and our place in it. With brilliance and clarity, Dawkins unravels an educational gem that will mesmerize young and old alike. Illuminating demonstrations, wildlife, virtual reality, and special guests (including Douglas Adams) all combine to make this collection a timeless classic.

    Yes!: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive - Author Noah Goldstein

    Author Noah Goldstein visits Google's Santa Monica, CA office to discuss his book Yes!: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive. This event took place on February 2, 2009, as a part of the Authors@Google series.

    Last Days on Eart - ABC 20/20 Special

    20/20 Last days on earth - The seven deadliest treats to humanity - 1:22:22

    How smart are we as a civilization? Smart enough to control our destiny and avoid the cataclysms that may end life as we know it? For thousands of years, different religions have warned Earth about Armageddon and the final days. We are now living in an age where scientists are adding their voices and their evidence in support of end-of-the-world possibilities.

    A New View of Human Capacity - Sir Ken Robinson

    Ken Robinson, innovation expert and author of Out of Our Minds: Learning to Be Creative, overcame polio to become one of the world's leaders in the development of creativity in business, education and human resources.
    Hear him hold forth on the potential and capacity of truly "human" resources.

    Sir Ken Robinson - Sir Ken Robinson was born in Liverpool 4 March 1950, the son of James and Ethel Robinson. He is an internationally recognized leader in the development of creativity, innovation and human resources. He has worked with national governments in Europe and Asia, with international agencies, Fortune 500 companies, national and state education systems, non-profit corporations and some of the world's leading cultural organizations. They include the Royal Shakespeare Company, Sir Paul McCartney's Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, the Royal Ballet, the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, the European Commission, UNESCO, the Council of Europe, the J Paul Getty Trust and the Education Commission of the States. From 1989 - 2001, he was Professor of Arts Education at the University of Warwick.