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  • Guns, Germs and Steel – Jared Diamond (2005) episode 1

    Guns, Germs and Steel – Jared Diamond (2005) episode 1

    Guns, Germs and Steel is a landmark Pulitzer prize winning book by Jared Diamond published in 1997. It is a very successful non-racist whirlwind tour of human history. Throughout the book historical and geographical roots of global inequality and resource distribution is explored. This first episode is dedicated to plant and animal domestication in different geographical settings. You can find a great encapsulation of this episode published in Nature Magazine in 2002. There’s also a simplified narrative of the book […]

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  • Harvest of the Seasons – Jacob Bronowski (1973)

    Harvest of the Seasons – Jacob Bronowski (1973)

    Harvest of the Seasons is the second episode of a thirteen-part documentary series called The Ascent of Man written and presented by Jacob Bronowski. The series reached wide audiences for Bronowski’s highly intellectual but simple and convincing analysis. Much of his long monologues were unscripted and were a source of inspiration for creating a template for Carl Sagan’s hugely sucessful Cosmos series. The motto used by Bronowski “A personal view” became “A personal voyage” in Sagan’s. The episode provides an […]

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  • A Tour of a Section of Human Chromosome 11

    A Tour of a Section of Human Chromosome 11

    This video produced by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratories takes us on a tour of about 650,000 nucleotides from the tip of the short arm of human chromosome 11. From a distance we can discern 28 genes, denoted by red and yellow blocks. The red exons carry the DNA code for protein, while the yellow introns are noncoding. Also prominent are more than 500 transposons, or jumping genes, denoted by blue and purple blocks. If we zoom in, we can take […]

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  • Nice Guys Finish First – Richard Dawkins (1987)

    Nice Guys Finish First – Richard Dawkins (1987)

    In this BBC documentary Richard Dawkins explores the evolution of cooperation. The problem has been discussed intensely since Darwin’s time and is still being investigated scientifically. Cooperative species are quite successful but rare. Social insects (ants, wasps, bees and termites) make up only 3 percent of animal diversity yet they may constitute up to 50 percent of the total animal biomass in land habitats. Among 43,678 known species of spiders cooperative behavior evolved in only a few. How could a […]

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  • Nanook of the North – Robert Flaherty (1922)

    Nanook of the North – Robert Flaherty (1922)

    In the days long before the term “documentary” had even been coined this full feature movie did it all. The filmmaker Robert Flaherty (1884-1951) had an early exposure to people of the Arctic. Born in Michigan, he spent quite a bit of time traveling with his father in northern Canada. He developed an ethnographic eye and casually filmed many short sequences of the daily lives of Inuit people. He later decided to put all these clips together to create a […]

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  • World Without Sun – Jacques-Yves Cousteau (1964)

    World Without Sun – Jacques-Yves Cousteau (1964)

    World Without Sun is perhaps the most progressive documentary in Cousteau’s filmmaking career. Produced in 1964 it captures activities of six crew members living in Continental Shelf Station II at 10m depth for 30 days in Red Sea. The undersea colony was the forerunner of other human habitation experiments such as Biosphere2 or Mars500 and even the International Space Station ISS. It also inspired other film makers like James Cameron. The film must be watched considering the context of its […]

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  • A Glimpse of Human Ecology Through the Nomadic Life of Netsilik Inuit – Quentin Brown & Asen Balıkçı (1967)

    A Glimpse of Human Ecology Through the Nomadic Life of Netsilik Inuit – Quentin Brown & Asen Balıkçı (1967)

    The Netsilik Series is very successful in documenting the lives of Netsilik Dr. Asen Balikci of the University of Montréal it became one of the ethnographical masterpieces belonging to a genre called course material for school children. Dr. Balikci has since produced many high quality documentaries. In the beginning, we are reminded of the fact that although it is an accurate depiction of Inuit way of life some parts had to be enacted. It has no narration or subtitles. Hearing […]

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  • When and Why We Lost Hair?

    When and Why We Lost Hair?

    When and why our ancestors began to wear clothing is a curious story. Clothing may have emerged for insulation of body heat. Similarly it also have provided a means to carry things and improve mobility. Cold snaps engulfed the earth many times. Using ice cores from Antarctica scientists identified 8 glacial cycles within the last 800 thousand years alone. An archaelogical site from Israel provides the earliest evidence of controlled fire by humans spanning the same time period. We know […]

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  • Why Societies Collapse? – Jared Diamond (2003)

    Why Societies Collapse? – Jared Diamond (2003)

    Jared Diamond examines how societies collapse in a five-point framework: [1] Impact on environment, [2] Climate change, [3] Relations with friendly neighbors, [4] Relations with unfriendly neighbors, [5] Perception and resolution of environmental problems. Diamond is the author of  a Pulitzer prize winner book Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, published in 1997. He seeks to explain Eurasian hegemony throughout history. Using evidence from ecology, archaeology, genetics, linguistics, and distinct historical case studies, he argues that the differences in social structure and technology among human societies do […]

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  • The Botany of Desire – Michael Pollan – PBS (2009)

    The Botany of Desire – Michael Pollan – PBS (2009)

    Domestication is a defining feature of recent human evolution. In animals first trait selected by humans was behavior. In plants harvestability through selection of non-shattering seeds was the first trait of domestication. Plant domestication paved the way to agriculture which enabled highly specialized sedentary human societies. Domesticated plants differ from their wild ancestors in distinct ways that can be categorized under a term called as the domestication syndrome. Domestication syndrome includes reduced shattering of seeds (seeds don’t separate from the […]

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