Human Universe with Professor Brian Cox – available to watch on iPlayer for next 30 days
My generation is in the fortunate position to have witnessed a huge amount of technological change. There is a spaceship that has been flying away from earth for as long as I have been alive, to the month. It is the furthest a man made object has ever travelled and it’s still going. This still fills me with a sense of awe whenever I think of it.
That feeling was ignited again in me as I watched last night’s episode of Human Universe, Apeman to Spaceman, in which Professor Brian Cox takes us from our humble beginnings in the Rift Valley, in Ethiopia, to the modern accomplishments of space travel and the permanent home above our atmosphere that is the International Space Station. He eloquently and convincingly links (with references on twitter – see below) the precession of the planet and the periodic change in our orbit round the sun, via the effects on the environment in the Rift Valley to key changes in the evolution of the homo genus brain.
By skipping forward a few 100,000 years to the civilisation of Petra in Jordan and the effect of the advent of writing and agriculture on our species, Brian is able to hammer home the idea that our progress from then on has been exponentially fast.
Due to the ability of humans to pass on knowledge through the written word, in one lifetime we’ve gone from an Earth bound civilisation to one that has a (small) but continuous civilisation living in space.
The programme finishes as it starts in Russia and Kazakhstan with the rendezvous with a Soyuz capsule bringing back to earth some of the latest members of that special group of explorers. Brian explains succinctly the physics involved in getting them back safely while highlighting again the need for the written word and standing on the shoulders of Euclid, through Galileo and Newton in order achieve such an amazing feat.
It was an emotional ride with an beautifully diverse score and amazing visuals. I’m looking forward to the next part of our story next week.
Brian has also contributed to this BBC iWonder site to accompany the series.