PBS and NOVA
NOVA's Evolution (2001)
Evolution plays a critical role in our daily lives, yet it is one of the most overlooked principles of life. It is the mechanism that determines who lives, who dies, and who gets the opportunity to pass traits on to the next generation, and the next, and the next ...
The Evolution project is a seven-part, eight-hour television broadcast series, an extensive Web site, a far-reaching educational outreach initiative, and a HarperCollins companion book by acclaimed science writer Carl Zimmer.
Evolution, which premiered on PBS September 24 - 27, 2001, travels around the world to examine evolutionary science and the profound effect it has had on society and culture. From the genius and torment of Charles Darwin to the vast changes that spawned the tree of life, from the role of mass extinctions in the survival of species to the power of sex to drive evolutionary change, Evolution is fascinating and far-reaching in scope. The series also explores the emergence of consciousness, the success of humans, and the perceived conflict between science and religion in understanding human life.
The Evolution project's goals are to heighten understanding of evolution and how it works, to dispel common misunderstandings, to illuminate why it is relevant to our lives, to improve its teaching, to encourage a national dialogue, and to prompt participation in all aspects of the project.
The Box Set of DVDs from PBS At Amazon
NOVA's Becoming Human (2009)
Becoming Human Part 1
First Steps: Six million years ago, what set our ancestors on the path from ape to human?
Becoming Human Part 2
Birth of Humanity: New discoveries reveal how early humans hunted and formed families.
Becoming Human Part 3
Last Human Standing: Many human species once shared the globe. Why do we alone remain?
PBS Link Amazon DVD
NOVA's What Darwin Never Knew (2009)
This NOVA documentary on the burgeoning science of evolutionary developmental biology aired on December 29, 2009, on public broadcasting stations around the country. It was released in DVD March 2010.
Earth teems with a staggering variety of animals, including 9,000 kinds of birds, 28,000 types of fish, and more than 350,000 species of beetles. What explains this explosion of living creatures—1.4 million different species discovered so far, with perhaps another 50 million to go? The source of life's endless forms was a profound mystery until Charles Darwin brought forth his revolutionary idea of natural selection. But Darwin's radical insights raised as many questions as they answered. What actually drives evolution and turns one species into another? To what degree do different animals rely on the same genetic toolkit? And how did we evolve?
"What Darwin Never Knew" offers answers to riddles that Darwin couldn't explain. Breakthroughs in a brand-new science—nicknamed "evo devo"—are linking the enigmas of evolution to another of nature's great mysteries, the development of the embryo. NOVA takes viewers on a journey from the Galapagos Islands to the Arctic, and from the explosion of animal forms half a billion years ago to the research labs of today. Scientists are finally beginning to crack nature's biggest secrets at the genetic level. The results are confirming the brilliance of Darwin's insights while revealing clues to life's breathtaking diversity in ways the great naturalist could scarcely have imagined.
NOVA webpage Watch the Video Online PBS Amazon
PBS: The Human Spark (2010)
After some three and a half billion years of life’s evolution on this planet – and after almost two million years since people recognizable as human first walked its surface – a new human burst upon the scene, apparently unannounced.
It was us.
Until then our ancestors had shared the planet with other human species. But soon there was only us, possessors of something that gave us unprecedented power over our environment and everything else alive. That something was – is – the Human Spark.
What is the nature of human uniqueness? Where did the Human Spark ignite, and when? And perhaps most tantalizingly, why?
In a three-part series to be broadcast on PBS in 2010, Alan Alda takes these questions personally, visiting with dozens of scientists on three continents, and participating directly in many experiments – including the detailed examination of his own brain.
Alda is uniquely qualified for this role. As an actor and author, and as the long-time host of the PBS series Scientific American Frontiers, he has a passion for both the humanities and science. He is bringing his trademark humor and curiosity to face-to-face conversations with leading researchers seeking the Human Spark, from archeologists finding clues in the fossilized bones and tools of our ancestors; to primatologists studying our nearest living relatives to explore what we have in common and what sets us apart; to neuroscientists peering into his mind with the latest brain scanning technologies.
In the first program, Alda witnesses the dazzling (apparent) debut of the Human Spark in the spectacular 30,000 year-old artwork carved and painted on the walls of caves in France. He explores the world of our predecessors in Europe, the Neanderthals, who until we came along had done just fine. The central question of this program: What did we possess that the Neanderthals didn’t – and where did it come from? Did the Human Spark really burst into life in Europe, as archeologists have long believed? Or did it originate earlier, on another continent? Finding the answer involves research as disparate as exploring why long distance running gave us large brains; reconstructing the weaponry that made possible – and relatively safe – the hunting of large animals; scanning the teeth of Neanderthal children in a giant particle accelerator to see how quickly they grew up; reading Neanderthal genes; and discovering the beads that are the first evidence of our species’ fascination with social status – and that provided our ancestors with a powerful new means of social communication.
In the second program, Alan joins researchers studying our fellow apes – mainly chimpanzees, our closest living relatives – to discover both what we share with them, and what we have that has evolved since we went our separate ways. Alan observes and participates in experiments that reveal chimps’ immense skills but also a striking indifference to how things work. He sees how chimps use tools and have culture – but also how those tools and cultures are very different from ours. He witnesses chimps showing signs of empathy and cooperation, but also sees how limited these characteristically human qualities are. And, in an unexpected twist, he visits a “dog lab” in Germany where he participates in experiments that show how, in many areas of social understanding, dogs – separated from humans by tens of millions of years of evolution – are considerably more advanced than our nearest relatives.
In the third program, we literally peer into Alda’s head with a variety of high-tech imaging techniques to see if we can find his Human Spark. We discover the unique circuitry that provides us with what is our most prized ability, language, and with the insight provided by a family whose members have profound problems with speech, we untangle the complex story of the FOXP2 gene, which appears to have provided us with at least some of the brain mechanisms needed for language. We find out what areas of Alan’s brain allow him to use complex tools and understand the minds of others, both essential human attributes. Alda will participate in tests of babies as young as three months for their ability to make moral judgments. And we’ll discover in Alan’s brain a critical network that works best when he’s just doing nothing and which, ironically, may in fact be a critical repository for the Human Spark.
The History Channel has produced a fascinating 11-hour DVD series called EVOLVE. The 2009 series is available from the History Channel and from Amazon.
It’s a tough, violent, and lethal world out there, and it’s been that way since the dawn of time. Roughly 99 percent of all species have become extinct. What enabled that other one percent to survive the cutthroat competition? Their ability to.... EVOLVE.
Through a stunning combination of dramatizations, computer animations, live action nature footage and lab work, discover the biological and behavioral innovations that have kept us all on this Earth!
4-DVD Set includes (among others):
EYES: Seeing is believing … not to mention evading, eating and surviving! Learn how the eyeball evolved from ancestors of jellyfish who developed light-sensitive cells to the unique adaptations that allowed primates to better exploit their new habitat, while the ability to see colors helped them find food.
FLIGHT: In this high-flying episode, unearth the secrets, and the continuing mysteries, of the very first vertebrate flyer, the pterosaur, which escaped its earthly bounds 220 million years ago. This creature eventually evolved into flying Goliaths the size of small planes!
COMMUNICATION: Communication isn’t just the key to a good relationship; it also goes a long way toward ensuring the success of a species. While humans, comfortable at the top of the food chain, have made the most out of this particular evolutionary achievement, organisms everywhere - from dolphins to amoebae - can be found speaking to one another.
Darwin’s Secret Notebooks
Using Darwins own diary and field notes as a travel guide, retrace Darwin’s expedition beyond the Galapagos to uncover the forgotten evidence that inspired his revolutionary work. Link DVD at NG Store Amazon