Margaret (pling) wrote,

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The Story of Science; Secret Britain

TV night was Wednesday night like usual, but Thursday morning I didn't have time to write up the programmes we saw, so I'm doing it this morning (er, afternoon) instead. We started the evening with an episode of The Story of Science - this time the question it was looking at was "What is the Secret of Life?", and the programme covered how the understanding of the human body & how it works has changed over the last couple of millenia. Starting with Galen in the Roman Empire & how his text book of anatomy & medicine came to be the "one true way" of medical science right up until the Renaissance. Then a desire for more realism in art lead people like Leonardo da Vinci to look at and draw the actual anatomy of a human, showing that Galen hadn't really got it right a lot of the time. I thought this segment of the programme was a little too hammed up though, all the "omg they dissected bodies" went on a bit too long really. It then moved on to the realisation that you can think of the way the body works as being like a machine (at the muscles/skeletal level), electricity & the way it stimulates muscles making them twitch but can't bring bodies back to life (despite the best efforts of experimenters), the discovery of cells and subsequently the discovery of the structures in cells via dyes. And finished up with the discovery of the structure of DNA, and the things we can now do using that knowledge to manipulate cells. All the way through (and it's one of the themes of the whole series) he made a point of showing how seemingly unrelated bits of science or industry or just society in general had an impact on the particular subject we were being told about. For instance the discovery and subsequent industrial exploitation of synthetic dyes also lead to discoveries about how cells are structured internally. And of course the take home message from the whole programme is that while we know more and more about the details of how living things work we still don't know the secret of life - the thing that makes it different from non-life - we still can't make a non-living thing into a living one. The programme didn't mention anything about the attempts to create artificial cells or about theories of how life actually started, which I think would've been nice instead of quite so much about the dissection of people - but presumably this way round made better telly.

Second programme of the evening was the last episode of Secret Britain - covering the Borderlands and Beyond, which meant we got a brief bit in Northumberland (Hadrians Wall and College Valley at the actual border) which pleased J. Then we were up through Scotland, looking at picturesque bits of scenery (including the most remote train station ever, which I wasn't quite sure why it was still there & in use - let alone why there was a cafe there when hardly anyone ever gets off). And they ended up at another MoD place (I think every episode had one) right at the Northwest-most point of mainland Scotland - Cape Wrath. Which, to be honest, looked bleak beyond belief - still picturesque but I think seeing it on the telly was a much better idea than standing out there in the cold & wet ;)
Tags: biology, britain, history, science, tv
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