Life Fantastic

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Science Documentary hosted by Dr Alison Woollard, published by BBC broadcasted as part of Royal Institution Christmas Lectures series in 2013 - English narration

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Image: Life-Fantastic-Cover.jpg

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Dr Alison Woollard explores the frontiers of developmental biology.

[edit] Where Do I Come From?

Dr Alison Woollard from the University of Oxford reveals just how the incredible transformation from a single cell into a walking, talking, multi-trillion-celled organism that we call the human body takes place. Using live experiments she shows how each of those trillions of cells knows what to do, when to do it and how to organise themselves to carry out vital specialist roles in the body. In the lecture theatre we witness the creation of life, following the 'real-time' embryonic development of a tiny worm on its journey to adulthood. Alison is passionate about what these tiny creatures can tell us about developmental biology. Joining her on this journey is Sir Paul Nurse, who won his Nobel Prize for his work on yeast. Such organisms may seem a long way from us, yet by understanding how cells divide and function, they have helped scientists make significant advances in the treatment of cancers.

[edit] Am I a Mutant?

Dr Alison Woollard unravels the mystery of why evolution by natural selection has given such stunning diversity on our planet. Charles Darwin understood that species adapt and change, but how they did so remained a puzzle to him. Alison reveals that diversity has come about by genetic mutation, with life revolving around the survival of the fittest mutant. Darwin himself appears - for the very first time in the 188-year history of the lectures - in the form of a ghostly apparition. After explaining Darwin's theory, Alison reveals to both him and to the audience what Darwin never knew. Alison's guest on this lecture is fellow Oxford biologist, Professor Peter Holland. Together they explore the crucial genes responsible for mapping out an animal's body-plan. We find out what happened when a developing lizard's body eventually ended up as an entirely different animal altogether - a snake.

[edit] Could I Live Forever?

Dr Alison Woollard tackles a question that has intrigued scientists and natural philosophers for centuries - why do we die? The cycle of life and death affects all cells, but Alison reveals a shocking truth: that 'cell death' plays an important part in life. It enables the development and survival of most multi-celled organisms from hedgehogs to humans. Why does a mayfly's life last just a few minutes when an elephant can live for 80 years? Developmental biology and genetics give us new insights into how cells work and how we can use this knowledge to improve or even extend our lives. Some animals, like the naked mole rat, are well on the way. Alison artificially 'ages' the audience using a computer program and meets a patient who has had their eyesight restored with cutting-edge stem cell therapy. Joining Alison to discuss the serious ethical implications of such medical and scientific advances is Lord Winston. They confront the potential dangers of tinkering with evolution.

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[edit] Technical Specs

  • Video Codec: x264 CABAC High@L4.1
  • Video Bitrate: CRF 19 (~2970Kbps)
  • Video Resolution: 1280x720
  • Video Aspect Ratio: 16:9
  • Audio Codec: AAC-LC
  • Audio Bitrate: Q=0.42 (~132Kbps) VBR 48KHz
  • Audio Channels: 2
  • Run-Time: 59 mins
  • Framerate: 25FPS
  • Number of Parts: 3
  • Part Size: 1.30 GB (average)
  • Source: HDTV
  • Encoded by: JungleBoy

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