Tag: Top Documentary Films

The history of dogs and humans

The secret life of the dog.

No, that subtitle is wrong. It should be: Science brings to light the wonderful history of dogs and humans!

Approximately seven years ago I published a series of posts. Each post was a segment of a BBC Horizon documentary entitled: The Secret Life of the Dog. Inevitably as so often happens when BBC programmes unofficially find their way on to YouTube those videos have long disappeared from sight.

So imagine the joy when Jean and I were browsing the web site Top Documentary Films to find that the full BBC Horizon episode was available.

The documentary is an hour long and is unmissable viewing for anyone who is interested in the history of mankind back in the days of hunting and gathering. If you are also a lover of dogs and you haven’t seen the programme then, in two words WATCH IT!

Here’s a clip from the Horizon episode. A deeply emotional and moving clip.

Now I can’t insert the Top Documentary video as I can with a YouTube video.

But I can link to it, and republish the written introduction.

Here it is: BBC Horizon: The Secret Life of the Dog

Storyline

secret-life-dogWe have an extraordinary relationship with dogs – closer than with any other animal on the planet. But what makes the bond between us so special?

Research into dogs is gaining momentum, and scientists are investigating them like never before. From the latest fossil evidence, to the sequencing of the canine genome, to cognitive experiments, dogs are fast turning into the new chimps as a window into understanding ourselves.

Where does this relationship come from? In Siberia, a unique breeding experiment reveals the astonishing secret of how dogs evolved from wolves. Swedish scientists demonstrate how the human/dog bond is controlled by a powerful hormone also responsible for bonding mothers to their babies.

Why are dogs so good at reading our emotions? Horizon meets Betsy, reputedly the world’s most intelligent dog, and compares her incredible abilities to those of children. Man’s best friend has recently gone one step further – helping us identify genes responsible for causing human diseases.

Trust me, if you haven’t seen this documentary and you have dogs in your life it will change the way you appreciate and love your wonderful dogs.

I’m going to close this post with a photograph you have seen many times before, via the home page of this blog.

Simply because I know for thousands of you who have dogs in your lives there is nothing more special, nothing more intimate, nothing more magical than the eye-to-eye bond between your dog and you.

Pharaoh - just being a dog!

Pharaoh!

Knowing you is special beyond words!

The meaning of it all!

Celebrating the life and times of Albert Einstein.

Albert-EinsteinYesterday was the centenary of the birth of Albert Einstein (14 March 1879 – 18 April 1955). It has been widely reported. For example, a piece on the EarthSky blog:

March 14, 1879. This is the anniversary of the birth of Albert Einstein, undoubtedly the most famous scientist of the modern era.

Einstein was born in Ulm, Germany, where an uncle – Jakob Einstein, an engineer – introduced him to science and math. At age 17, he enrolled in the Swiss Polytechnic Institute after failing the entrance exam the previous year. He graduated in 1900, and in 1902 he became a junior patent examiner in the Swiss Patent Office in Bern, Switzerland, where he specialized in electrical devices.

The year 1905 came to be known as Einstein’s Miracle Year. He was 26 years old, and in that year he published four papers that reshaped physics.

Now before you read on let me proclaim that today’s post has absolutely nothing to do with dogs! (Unless dogs exist in parallel universes!)

But a recent documentary that was published on Top Documentary Films was really fascinating and incredibly well presented. Thus, in terms of the likes of you and I better understanding what Einstein revealed about our universe, I couldn’t resist sharing it with you all today. It is just 29 minutes long.

STORYLINE

One hundred years have passed since Albert Einstein first unleashed his highly influential Theory of General Relativity unto the world. These revelations charted a future course of scientific pursuit, and never cease to inform our understanding of the universe today. In celebration of that impressive legacy, the documentary short Einstein’s Extraordinary Universe travels to three research facilities in different regions across the globe, and shows us how Einstein’s work continues to challenge, shape and inspire the scientific discoveries of tomorrow.

The film opens in Tuscany. Under the shadows of Galileo’s groundbreaking work on gravity research, a group of astrophysicists are exploring Einstein’s theories related to the occurrence of gravitational waves through space and time. Can modern technologies and advanced scientific intellect result in actual proof of such waves?

Viewers are then taken to the world’s largest underground laboratory. Hidden far beneath Italy’s Gran Sasso mountains, the lab serves as a home to researchers who work tirelessly to prove another of Einstein’s grandiose theories: the existence of dark matter. The vast majority of our universe is made up of materials that we have not yet been able to detect through forces of light and energy. The dedicated team who toil away in this impressive underground lair hope they can lay the groundwork in changing that.

The filmmakers’ next stop is Switzerland, where they are given a tour of one of the most impressive displays of scientific testing technology on the planet. Housed by the European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN, the Large Hadron Collider is the most powerful particle accelerator on the planet, and is being used to question and examine the substance of all matter in our universe.

Through each destination on this incredible journey, what amazes most is how prescient Einstein’s theories have proven even after a century has passed. His work continues to test the limits of our scientific understanding, and sets a groundwork from which researchers still strive for answers. Featuring a plethora of illuminating interviews with many top figures in the fields of scientific study, Einstein’s Extraordinary Universe is certain to delight seasoned science geeks and novices alike.

What an extraordinary mind he had!

Footnotes.

Where we are today?

On New Year’s Day I published the first part of a film called Awakening the Dreamer: Changing the Dream.  Then yesterday came the second part.  I found it a remarkable film.  Because, while the first part reminded the viewer of the list, the long list, of things that are wrong with these present times, the second part highlighted the many currents of positive changes that are taking place here and now.

Without hope there is nothing.
Without hope there is nothing.

The film is available to watch on Top Documentary Films and here is the introduction offered in that place.

Of all the innumerable beliefs and hypotheses that make up our contemporary industrial perspective on life there is one that is dominant and very frequent. That’s the assumption that we are disconnected, from everyone and everything. This belief configures basically all our ideas and actions. There’s a crucial fallacy that we are separate. But, if there is only one, then whatever I do to you I’m actually doing it to myself, my family, and my children.

Spiritual attitude has long instructed that partition is actually an illusion. However, in the past, the narrative that’s been exchanged in the modern world, whether consciously or unconsciously, has been that the world functions like a huge machine made of separate parts like a big clock. For the past four centuries, the scientific established practice has been trying to take the clock apart, and figure out how it functions, so we can use it for our own ambitions.

This rigid aspect meant that instead of realizing the relation between things, we were analyzing and taking apart those very same things. So, what developed was kind of disintegrated view of the natural world. And we became entranced with the ability that came out of this technology, and we lost our relations to each other; we lost our connection to the enigma of the cosmos.

Although the modern worldview is superior on Earth, it’s valuable to identify that it’s not the only worldview. Traditional, native cultures are not so concentrated on “advancement”, rather they’re focused on their health and persistence of the community, and they see the interdependence of all things. They try to recognize that we’re related to everything… to the animals, fish, plants, trees, birds, and even to the microorganisms. Indigenous people of the world have a particularly important role to play at this moment in history. We need them to come forward and explain how they see things.

The film was produced by the Pachama Alliance, an organisation I hadn’t come across before.  Their website is here and on the About page one learns:

Purpose

The Pachamama Alliance, empowered by our partnership with indigenous people, is dedicated to bringing forth an environmentally sustainable, spiritually fulfilling, socially just human presence on this planet.   Our unique contribution is to generate, and engage people everywhere in, transformational conversations and experiences consistent with this purpose. We weave together indigenous and modern worldviews such that human beings are in touch with their dignity and are ennobled by the magnificence, mystery and opportunity of what is possible for humanity at this time.   We are here to inspire and galvanize the human family to generate a critical mass of conscious commitment to a thriving, just and sustainable way of life on Earth. This is a commitment to transforming human systems and structures that separate us, and to transforming our relationships with ourselves, with one another, and with the natural world.

If you have read this post so far, then you will enjoy this video. More than enjoy it; you will find it inspiring and liberating.

Another organisation mentioned in the film was Bioneers, also not previously known to me.  Their website is here. The organisation describes itself, in part:

Collective Heritage Institute – Bioneers is a non-profit New Mexico corporation founded in 1990 by Kenny Ausubel and Nina Simons. The overarching mission of Bioneers is the advancement of holistic education pertaining to global social, cultural and environmental issues. Bioneers identifies progressive yet nature-honoring solutions to rising challenges of instability, inequality, and unsustainable growth and disseminates this knowledge via independent media, events, and community action networks.

There is much on these two websites to offer hope.

What We Still Don’t Know? Part 3

The concluding part – Are We Real?

As I implied when I introduced Part 2 last Thursday, Why Are We Here?, these are deeply interesting films.  Do find time to watch them both (Part 1 Are We Alone is here ) if you can.  So here is the concluding part, Are We Real? You can either go to it via this link, or watch the YouTube elements below.

There is a fundamental chasm in our understanding of ourselves, the universe, and everything. To solve this, Sir Martin takes us on a mind-boggling journey through multiple universes to post-biological life.

On the way we learn of the disturbing possibility that we could be the product of someone else’s experiment.

I do hope you all found these three films as stimulating and thought-provoking as Jean and I did.

What We Still Don’t Know? Part 2

Why Are We Here?

On Tuesday, I introduced the first of three films hosted by Lord Martin Rees.  That was called Are We Alone.  I do hope many of you were able to watch that.  Film two is also from the website Top Documentary Films and the link is here.  But, again, the film is available in 5 parts from YouTube and follows below.

In total, just around an hour to watch and well worth while.  You will find, believer in God or not, that there are some deeply spiritual aspects to Martin Rees’ wonderful presentation.

Everything you thought you knew about the universe is wrong. It’s made of atoms, right?

Wrong. Atoms only account for a measly 15% of everything that exists!

The mass of the universe consists of something so mysterious and elusive that it has been dubbed ‘dark matter’.

The final film of the trilogy will be presented on Learning from Dogs next Tuesday, the 17th January.

What We Still Don’t Know?

Are we truly alone?

On the 5th January, I presented a piece, called Life and the Cosmos, that was based on a deeply interesting lecture given by Britain’s Lord Martin Rees at the University of Melbourne’s Medical School in 2010.  I wrote that I was going to pick up on some of the points made by Lord Rees in that lecture and I do so starting today.

On the website Top Documentary Films there is a collection of three films, originally shown on Channel 4 television in the UK, under the broad banner of What We Still Don’t Know?  They make deeply fascinating viewing.  Luckily they appear to be available on YouTube as well, thus can be included directly in this Post.  However, if you have any problems with the YouTube versions then click here.

So here is the first programme, Are We Alone?

Are we alone? Sir Martin explores the possibility that life exists on planets beyond our own. He unveils an unsettling scientific debate that has startling consequences for us Earthlings. Do you believe in aliens? Why are we here? Everything you thought you knew about the universe is wrong. It’s made of atoms, right? Wrong. Atoms only account for a measly 15% of everything that exists. The mass of the universe consists of something so mysterious and elusive that it has been dubbed ‘dark matter’. Are we real? There is a fundamental chasm in our understanding of ourselves, the universe, and everything. To solve this, Sir Martin takes us on a mind-boggling journey through multiple universes to post-biological life. On the way we learn of the disturbing possibility that we could be the product of someone else’s experiment.

The second programme Why Are We Here? will be presented on Learning from Dogs on Thursday.

The BBC

A remarkably fine institution

Having now been living in Arizona for 18 months, I can say with some degree of certainty that there are few British things that I miss.  One of them is draft English beer, of course, but another one is the BBC.  Luckily modern internet technology means that quite a few of the great BBC television programmes ‘leak’ outside the UK.

The BBC Horizon science series has been one such example of a really well-produced programme.

Recently, a BBC Horizon programme about genetically modified (GM) foods aired by the BBC found its way onto YouTube and thence to the website Top Documentary Films.  Not only is it an interesting programme but it also reveals how the facts of new advances in science are often difficult to understand by us; the general public.

The link to the film on the TDF website is here but if you want to watch it directly from YouTube then here it is.

Socrates and self-confidence

A presentation by Alain de Botton.

On April 12th, I introduced to you, dear reader, the philosopher, Alain de Botton. I promised that I would soon give you more.

On Top Documentary Films, there are links to all six parts of a series on philosophy presented by this popular British philosopher  featuring six thinkers who have influenced history, and their ideas about the pursuit of the happy life.

The first part is about Socrates; Socrates and self-confidence.  But before linking to that specific programme, a little about this enigmatic man, Socrates, who lived about 2,500 years ago (469–399 B.C.E).  Here’s an extract from the Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy.

The philosopher Socrates remains, as he was in his lifetime (469–399 B.C.E.), an enigma, an inscrutable individual who, despite having written nothing, is considered one of the handful of philosophers who forever changed how philosophy itself was to be conceived. All our information about him is second-hand and most of it vigorously disputed, but his trial and death at the hands of the Athenian democracy is nevertheless the founding myth of the academic discipline of philosophy, and his influence has been felt far beyond philosophy itself, and in every age. Because his life is widely considered paradigmatic for the philosophic life and, more generally, for how anyone ought to live, Socrates has been encumbered with the admiration and emulation normally reserved for founders of religious sects—Jesus or Buddha—strange for someone who tried so hard to make others do their own thinking, and for someone convicted and executed on the charge of irreverence toward the gods. Certainly he was impressive, so impressive that many others were moved to write about him, all of whom found him strange by the conventions of fifth-century Athens: in his appearance, personality, and behavior, as well as in his views and methods.

Full entry may be read here, and very interesting it is, by the way.

Anyway, back to the programme from Alain de Botton.  The part on Socrates is introduced thus,

Why do so many people go along with the crowd and fail to stand up for what they truly believe? Partly because they are too easily swayed by other people’s opinions and partly because they don’t know when to have confidence in their own.

You can either watch the video by clicking here, or view it as three sections from YouTube, as follows.