In the third episode, Professor Brian Cox takes on the story of the force that sculpts the entire universe - gravity.
Gravity seems so familiar, and yet it is one of the strangest and most surprising forces in the universe. Starting with a zero-gravity flight, Brian experiences the feeling of total weightlessness, and considers how much of an effect gravity has had on the world around us.
But gravity also acts over much greater distances. It is the great orchestrator of the cosmos. It dictates our orbit around the sun, our relationship with the other planets in our solar system, and even the way in which our solar system orbits our galaxy.
Yet the paradox of gravity is that it is actually a relatively weak force. Brian takes a face distorting trip in a centrifuge to explain how it is that gravity achieves its great power, before looking at the role it plays in one of the most extraordinary phenomena in the universe - a neutron star. Although it is just a few kilometres across, it is so dense that its gravity is 100,000 million times as strong as on Earth.
Over the centuries our quest to understand gravity has allowed us to understand some of the true wonders of the universe, and Brian reveals that it is scientists' continuing search for answers that inspires his own sense of wonder.
The brain is constantly being bombarded with information, so how does it decide what to trust and what to ignore, without the person even being aware of it? Professor Bruce Hood gives the second of this year's Christmas Lectures - testing the limits of the memory, finding out how humans learn, how the brain takes shortcuts and why multitasking can be dangerous. Bruce makes people say the wrong thing and fail to see what is right in front of them. Can one really believe one's eyes? Possibly not.
Epic account of the early life of Genghis Khan, from the time he became an orphan at the age of nine through to his triumph as undisputed Mongol leader in 1206. Betrayed by his father's clan when still a child, then sold into slavery and imprisoned by the Chinese, he eventually escapes. Only then, through cunning and a series of fearsome, bloody victories in battle does he begin his campaign to unite the warring Mongol clans into a large and fearsome empire.
Documentary looking at the Secret History of the Mongols, said to have been written by Genghis Khan's adopted son, which reveals a very different man to the brutal butcher of Western legend. Not just a womaniser, but a devoted husband. Not just a warrior, but a politician. Not just a conqueror, but a legislator. A man who wanted the lessons he had learnt - good and bad - to be passed onto his successors. Within its pages lies the inside story of how an illiterate nomad inspired his successors to conquer the largest land empire the world has ever seen.
For many years our place in the universe was the subject of theologians and philosophers, not scientists, but in 1960 one man changed all that.
Dr Frank Drake was one of the leading lights in the new science of radio astronomy when he did something that was not only revolutionary, but could have cost him his career. Working at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Greenback in Virginia, he pointed one of their new 25-metre radio telescopes at a star called Tau Ceti twelve light years from earth, hoping for signs of extraterrestrial intelligence.
Although project Ozma resulted in silence, it did result in one of the most seminal equations in the history of science - the Drake Equation - which examined seven key elements necessary for extraterrestrial intelligence to exist, from the formation of stars to the likely length a given intelligent civilisation may survive. When Frank and his colleagues entered the figures, the equation suggested there were a staggering 50,000 civilisations capable of communicating across the galaxy.
However, in the 50 years of listening that has followed, not one single bleep has been heard from extraterrestrials. So were Drake and his followers wrong and is there no life form out there capable of communicating? Drake's own calculations suggest that we would have to scan the entire radio spectrum of ten million stars to be sure of contact.
The answers to those questions suggest that, far from being a one-off, life may not only be common in the universe but once started will lead inevitably towards intelligent life.
To find out about the equation's influence, Dallas Campbell goes on a worldwide journey to meet the scientists who have dedicated their lives to focusing on its different aspects.
THURSDAY 29 DECEMBER 2011
THU 19:00 Wonders of the Universe (b0101h6w)
In the last episode of Professor Brian Cox's epic journey across the universe, he travels from the fossils of the Burgess Shale to the sands of the oldest desert in the world to show how light holds the key to our understanding of the whole universe, including our own deepest origins.
To understand how light holds the key to the story of the universe, you first have to understand its peculiar properties. Brian considers how the properties of light that lend colour to desert sands and the spectrum of a rainbow can lead to profound insights into the history and evolution of our universe.
Finally, with some of the world's most fascinating fossils in hand Brian considers how, but for an apparently obscure moment in the early evolutionary history of life, all the secrets of light may have remained hidden. Because although the universe is bathed in light that carries extraordinary amounts of information about where we come from, it would have remained invisible without a crucial evolutionary development that allowed us to see. Only because of that development can we now observe, capture and contemplate the incredible wonders of the universe that we inhabit.
THU 20:00 Royal Institution Christmas Lectures (b018l71s)
Are You Thinking What I'm Thinking?
Have you ever seen a face in a piece of burnt toast, or given your car a name? Why do you feel pain when someone else is hurt? Why are people so obsessed with other people? In the last of this year's Christmas Lectures, Professor Bruce Hood investigates how our brains are built to read other people's minds. With a little help from a baby, a robot and a magician, Bruce uncovers what makes us truly human.
THU 21:00 After Life: The Strange Science of Decay (b012w66t)
Ever wondered what would happen in your own home if you were taken away, and everything inside was left to rot? The answer is revealed in this fascinating programme, which explores the strange and surprising science of decay.
For two months in summer 2011, a glass box containing a typical kitchen and garden was left to rot in full public view within Edinburgh Zoo. In this resulting documentary, presenter Dr George McGavin and his team use time-lapse cameras and specialist photography to capture the extraordinary way in which moulds, microbes and insects are able to break down our everyday things and allow new life to emerge from old.
Decay is something that many of us are repulsed by. But as the programme shows, it's a process that's vital in nature. And seen in close-up, it has an unexpected and sometimes mesmerising beauty.
THU 22:30 North Korea: A State of Mind (b0074q9w)
Documentary following two young North Korean gymnasts and their families for over eight months in the preparations for the Mass Games, a choreographed socialist realism spectacular involving a cast of thousands in the biggest and most elaborate human performance on earth.
The film provides a rare glimpse into one of the world's least known societies. North Korea is sealed off from outside influences. It borders China and Russia to the north, and to the south there is a 4km wide impenetrable border with South Korea. The country follows its own communist ideals, a strict philosophy known as the Juche Idea wrapped around the worship of the Kim dynasty - Kim Il Sung, their Eternal President who died in 1994 but remains Head of State, and his son and successor, Kim Jong Il, known as the General.
The crew began filming in February 2003 and had unique access to the families' day-to-day life, and have created a remarkable insight into a part of North Korean society never before seen by Western eyes.
THU 00:00 Old Jews Telling Jokes (b01777fr)
In the fine tradition of American Jewish humour, a group of pensioners from all walks of life gather together to tell their favourite jokes. Remember, laugh loud - they don't hear so good.
THU 00:30 Old Jews Telling Jokes (b017j5jw)
In the fine tradition of American Jewish humour, a group of pensioners from all walks of life gather together to tell their favourite jokes. Remember, laugh loud. They don't hear so good.
THU 01:00 Only Connect (b00xjrr9)
University Challenge Special
Victoria Coren presents a special edition of the quiz show in which knowledge will only take you so far, as patience and lateral thinking are also vital. Undefeated champions of champions, the Crossworders, risk their reputation by confronting the awesome brainpower of the University Challengers, captained by the illustrious Alex Guttenplan.
It isn't going to be an easy ride for either team, as they try to connect Fortis shareholders with Muntadar al-Zaidi, sabateurs and Nikita Kruschchev.
THU 01:30 Wonders of the Universe (b0101h6w)
[Repeat of broadcast at 19:00 today
THU 02:30 Royal Institution Christmas Lectures (b018l71s)
[Repeat of broadcast at 20:00 today
THU 03:30 Old Jews Telling Jokes (b01777fr)
[Repeat of broadcast at 00:00 today
THU 04:00 Old Jews Telling Jokes (b017j5jw)
[Repeat of broadcast at 00:30 today
FRIDAY 30 DECEMBER 2011
FRI 19:00 Darcey Bussell Dances Hollywood (b018nwbx)
LIST OF THIS WEEK'S PROGRAMMES
Darcey Bussell steps into the shoes of her Hollywood heroes to celebrate the enduring legacy of classic dance musicals.
In the age of Strictly Come Dancing and Streetdance 3D, Darcey, one of Britain's greatest living dancers and Hollywood musical superfan, discovers that the key to understanding where this dance-mad culture comes from lies in classic movie musicals. She takes famous dance routines from her favourite Hollywood musicals and reveals how they cast their spell, paying tribute to the legends of the art form and discovering the legacy they left.
Darcey pays homage to Fred Astaire in an interpretation of Puttin' on the Ritz, plays Ginger Rogers in a rendition of Cheek to Cheek, pays tribute to the exuberant Good Morning from Singin' in the Rain, and stars in a new routine inspired by Girl Hunt Ballet from The Band Wagon.
Darcey works with leading choreographer Kim Gavin and expert conductor John Wilson, who has painstakingly reconstructed the original scores, as she discovers how dance in the movies reached a pinnacle of perfection and reveals how the legacy of the golden age lives on.
FRI 20:30 BBC Proms (b014hsbn)
Hooray for Hollywood
A celebration of the Golden Age of Hollywood film musicals performed by John Wilson who, returning to the Proms for a third season, conducts his hand-picked, high-octane orchestra and a line-up of star soloists.
Hooray for Hollywood takes us from the dawn of the 'talkies' and the birth of the movie musical through to the 1960s. There are excerpts from 42nd Street, Top Hat, Strike Up the Band, Swing Time and Shall We Dance, with a special tribute to the RKO films of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.
FRI 22:30 Charlie Brooker's 2011 Wipe (b018l74r)
Charlie Brooker takes a comedic look back at the hectic events of 2011 - a mad year of royal weddings, Gypsy Weddings, riots, phone-hacking and Desperate Scousewives. With contributions from Doug Stanhope, Adam Curtis and Brian Limond.
FRI 23:30 Lemmy: The Movie (b012p5vv)
Film which celebrates the life and rock 'n' roll philosophy of the late Motorhead frontman and bassist Lemmy. Born Christmas Eve 1945 in Stoke and schooled in part on Anglesey, Ian Fraser Willis acquired the name 'Lemmy' while roadying for Jimi Hendrix and co when he hit London in 1967; it comes from the oft repeated saying 'Len' me a quid'.
Lemmy became the bass player in Hawkwind and sang their biggest hit, Silver Machine, before forming his own hard rockin' metal trio Motorhead in the mid-70s, blending punk and primal rock into a foot-to-the-floor, hard driving rock 'n' roll aesthetic which resulted in monster hits like Ace of Spades and the live album No Sleep Til Hammersmith in the early 80s and to which he has remained constantly steadfast.
Joining Lemmy and members of Motorhead to celebrate his life and times are Hawkwind's Dave Brock, Metallica's James Hetfield, Dave Grohl, Alice Cooper, Peter Hook and Jarvis Cocker.
FRI 01:25 Legends (b00xln7l)
Thin Lizzy: Bad Reputation
Affectionate but honest portrait of Thin Lizzy, arguably the best hard rock band to come out of Ireland.
Starting with the remix of the classic album Jailbreak by Scott Gorham and Brian Downey, the film takes us through the rollercoaster ride that is the story of Thin Lizzy. From early footage of singer Phil Lynott in Ireland in his pre-Lizzy bands the Black Eagles and Orphanage, it follows his progress as he, guitarist Eric Bell and drummer Brian Downey form the basic three-piece that was to become Thin Lizzy - a name taken from the Beano.
Using original interviews with Bell, Downey, the man who signed them and their first manager, it traces the early years leading to the recruitment of guitarists Brian 'Robbo' Robertson and Scott Gorham - the classic line-up. The film uses a number of stills, some seen on TV for the first time, archive from contemporary TV shows and a range of tracks both well known and not so famous.
There are hilarious self-deprecating anecdotes, from the stories behind the making of the Boys are Back in Town to the hiring of Midge Ure. We hear about the 'revolving door' as guitarist after guitarist was fired and hired, and the recording of Bad Reputation and Live and Dangerous - where producer Tony Visconti pulls no punches in talking about how he recorded the latter - putting the controversy to bed for the final time. Except that Downey and Robertson still disagree with him.
Finally, we hear how drugs and alcohol impacted on the band and how the music suffered, how one member later substituted golf for heroin and how addiction and the related lifestyle led to the death of Phil Lynott.
Contributors include Brian Downey, Scott Gorham, Eric Bell, Brian Robertson, Midge Ure, Bob Geldof, Tony Visconti, Joe Elliot and many others.
FRI 02:25 Charlie Brooker's 2011 Wipe (b018l74r)
[Repeat of broadcast at 22:30 today
FRI 03:25 Darcey Bussell Dances Hollywood (b018nwbx)
[Repeat of broadcast at 19:00 today
(Note: the times link back to the details; the pids link to the BBC page, including iPlayer)
A Christmas History of Sacred Music 03:05 SAT (b00wvdcj)
After Life: The Strange Science of Decay 21:00 THU (b012w66t)
BBC Proms 20:30 FRI (b014hsbn)
Cardigans at Christmas 00:25 SUN (b0077dwr)
Carole King and Friends at Christmas 01:15 SUN (b018p1hq)
Charlie Brooker's 2011 Wipe 22:30 FRI (b018l74r)
Charlie Brooker's 2011 Wipe 02:25 FRI (b018l74r)
Darcey Bussell Dances Hollywood 19:00 FRI (b018nwbx)
Darcey Bussell Dances Hollywood 03:25 FRI (b018nwbx)
Dolly Parton: Live from London 22:55 MON (b00qmdzy)
Doris Day - Virgin Territory 00:35 SAT (b0074rwd)
Doris Day: A Sentimental Journey 01:35 SAT (b014hv2x)
El Cid 19:00 SUN (b0077tfh)
Jerusalem on a Plate 03:05 TUE (b017znj9)
Jerusalem: The Making of a Holy City 00:05 TUE (b018jlj0)
Johnny Cash at Christmas 21:50 SUN (b018snk4)
Johnny Cash at Christmas 03:15 SUN (b018snk4)
Johnny Cash at Christmas 00:05 MON (b018snk4)
Land of the Pharaohs 21:00 SAT (b00kz6t4)
Legends 01:25 FRI (b00xln7l)
Lemmy: The Movie 23:30 FRI (b012p5vv)
Mongol: The Rise of Genghis Khan 21:00 WED (b018l6wz)
Night Music: Songs After Dark 02:15 SUN (b018jl9k)
Night on Film: An A-Z of the Dark 23:05 TUE (b018jl97)
North Korea: A State of Mind 22:30 THU (b0074q9w)
Old Jews Telling Jokes 00:00 THU (b01777fr)
Old Jews Telling Jokes 00:30 THU (b017j5jw)
Old Jews Telling Jokes 03:30 THU (b01777fr)
Old Jews Telling Jokes 04:00 THU (b017j5jw)
Only Connect 01:00 THU (b00xjrr9)
Originals 00:55 MON (b0074rrd)
Royal Institution Christmas Lectures 20:00 TUE (b018l6vy)
Royal Institution Christmas Lectures 02:05 TUE (b018l6vy)
Royal Institution Christmas Lectures 20:00 WED (b018l6wx)
Royal Institution Christmas Lectures 01:50 WED (b018l6wx)
Royal Institution Christmas Lectures 20:00 THU (b018l71s)
Royal Institution Christmas Lectures 02:30 THU (b018l71s)
The Andy Williams Christmas Show 02:35 SAT (b00phmjh)
The Christmas Session 01:55 MON (b00pcnsp)
The Doris Day Special 23:40 SAT (b014hv2v)
The Fall of the Roman Empire 20:00 MON (b0078gjh)
The Pharaoh Who Conquered the Sea 20:00 SAT (b00pq9gs)
The Search for Life: The Drake Equation 02:50 WED (b00wltbk)
Timeshift 19:00 SAT (b017zqw8)
Timeshift 22:40 SAT (b018jp1v)
Timeshift 23:50 WED (b018jp1v)
Timewatch 23:00 WED (b00790p2)
Timewatch 03:50 WED (b00790p2)
Top of the Pops 22:45 SUN (b018l6cb)
Top of the Pops 23:35 SUN (b018m5q3)
Waterloo 21:00 TUE (b00f60kf)
Wonders of the Universe 19:00 MON (b00zf9dh)
Wonders of the Universe 02:55 MON (b00zf9dh)
Wonders of the Universe 19:00 TUE (b00zm833)
Wonders of the Universe 01:05 TUE (b00zm833)
Wonders of the Universe 19:00 WED (b00zv39p)
Wonders of the Universe 00:50 WED (b00zv39p)
Wonders of the Universe 19:00 THU (b0101h6w)
Wonders of the Universe 01:30 THU (b0101h6w)