Margaret (pling) wrote,

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Wonders of the Solar System; Ancient Worlds; Natural World

It's a shame TV night takes too long to write up if we're going out on a Thursday, coz I forget things by Saturday :(

The second episode of the Wonders of the Solar System was about how the solar system formed - the planets coalescing because of the forces of gravity. And looking at Saturn's rings as a model for the early solar system. When I was a kid I had a poster about Saturn on my bedroom wall, from the Voyager fly-past I think, so it was particularly neat to see some of the more current things that are known. As well as talking about how the main rings are kept in their shape by the gravitational effects of the moons (orbital resonance clearing out the gap is a neat concept), the programme also talked about the moon Enceladus and how it creates one of the outer rings from its ice equivalents of volcanoes. Cox told us that the tidal forces acting on the moon melt some of the water ice that Enceladus is made of, which then bursts through the surface ice much like a volcano eruption & produces a huge plume of water (that the Cassini spaceship observed) that then freezes and orbits Saturn. It was a programme full of neat facts/theories, actually, the other one that particularly sticks in my head is how the Late Heavy Bombardment was caused by orbital resonance between Jupiter & Saturn which eventually sent the planets bumping around like billiard balls and dislodging asteroids into eccentric orbits that could hit the inner planets.

Ancient Worlds this week was about the rise of the Roman Republic, from its beginnings as a single city state in Italy to the end of the Republic (which was not the end of the Empire, it was mid-way through, Julius Caesar era). I tend to think of the Romans as rolling like a juggernaut across all the other civilisations of the era, crushing all resistance, but obviously they weren't as all powerful as that particularly not at first. One of the things this programme talked about was the clash between Rome and Carthage - who were another big power of the time, and in fact were probably more powerful than Rome to start off with. And there was a point where Rome could have been conquered by the Carthaginians and crushed. One of the themes Miles was exploring in this programme was the difference between the Roman way of conquest to what had come before - they assimilated the conquered lands more thoroughly, it wasn't just "this is the land of the <something> people, who are now ruled by Rome" it was "this is now Roman land". You could be born a Roman citizen in it, with the rights of such a citizen not a subject people. Another of the themes was how the Romans were lawyers at heart (armed lawyers, as he put it - the twin powers of the law & the army). The Roman Republic was also based on the idea that the Senate & the People ruled together, and when first Sulla then Caesar took on power above the Senate & the People that was the death knell for the Republic - Caesar's (eventual) heir was the Emperor Augustus, Rome was no longer a republic.

And we finished up with a Natural World programme about the Himalayas - lots of neat footage of animals & scenery and a message about co-operation being the way forward in life. Which sat kinda oddly in a programme which was also showing us predators catching prey ... I think the best bit was the ultra-smug himalayan fox, who in all the footage seemed to be nodding knowingly at the camera ;)
Tags: astronomy, history, nature, physics, rome, science, tv
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