Margaret (pling) wrote,

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Wonders of the Solar System; Gods and Monsters: Homer's Odyssey

It's the return of TV night - after only a week off, I guess, but it feels like longer coz we've been away. Started off with the fourth episode of Wonders of the Solar System, called Dead or Alive. Mostly this one was about volcanoes, with a side-trip into asteroids and how their orbits are affected by Jupiter's gravity. Which makes it sound a little disconnected, but it wasn't while we were watching it - tho I either don't remember or didn't follow at the time why he was saying volcanoes were so important to us. Maybe it was just the production of new land? Or a sign that the core was still molten, and thus still generating a magnetic field keeping the solar wind from stripping the atmosphere off (which was discussed in the third episode in the context of Mars). This programme covered Mars which used to have volcanoes, but now they're extinct because Mars is both smaller & further from the Sun so cooled off more rapidly. And looked at Venus - where there are many volcanoes (possibly now extinct, they're not sure), and the land looks like an area of India which was formed by an enormous eruption 65mya - this is probably what triggered the runaway greenhouse effect on Venus. Here on Earth the temperature is such that rain can "clean" the atmosphere of CO2 but on Venus (being closer to the Sun) this wasn't the case, and the CO2 helped heat up the atmosphere in self-reinforcing fashion. Then there was the digression into planet-killer asteroids - this is my biggest "ostrich" subject. We can't do anything about it, so I don't want to know if there's ever an asteroid on a collision course with Earth, why get advance notice of it? Once the engineers/physicists/astronomers work out how they'll stop one, then sure. (Just as well, of course, that some people are thinking about the subject, but not me). And lastly he talked about Io, which is a moon of Jupiter that is warmed up by friction caused by the tidal forces generated by Jupiter and other moons of Jupiter. And it has spectacular volcanoes that shoot lava 180km into the sky, and lakes of lava. He visited a lake of lava on Earth, and it was pretty awe-inspiring, even if I wouldn't want to actually visit it myself :)

Second programme (after a break for Christmas cake) was Gods and Monsters: Homer's Odyssey with Simon Armitage. I hadn't heard of Armitage before, but looking at wikipedia he's a well-respected British poet. He was travelling to the places Odysseus went to on his way home from Troy, retelling the Odyssey using both excerpts and paraphrasing parts of it. And some talking to modern Greek people about it. He's got a great sense of humour and some fantastic turns of phrase (as you'd expect from a poet, really). I can't quite remember any well enough to quote them tho, which is a shame, but I suspect they'd also need the Yorkshire accent and deadpan delivery to work properly :) We both enjoyed this programme a lot, more than we'd expected from the rather dry description the BBC had up for it (we recorded it because it was part of the Greek season, rather than on its own merits).
Tags: astronomy, greek, poetry, science, tv
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