Saturday, January 12, 2008

Atomic TV - BBC 4

TV viewing preferences for me usually tend to be of the dramatic variety,
such as TV productions of Sense and Sensibility (BBC recent) or Brideshead
Revisited (ITV ancient) or The West Wing (USA modernish) so on
channel flicking after a hard day job day, I did not expect to
come across so absorbing a TV series as BBC 4's "The Atom".

The BBC blurb on this reads:

In this three-part documentary series, Professor Jim Al-Khalili tells the story of one of the greatest scientific discoveries ever: that the material world is made up of atoms.

But that does not do justice to the entertaining educational and dramatic
teamwork by the Professor and the BBC's production team.

The simple pollen on water type experiments contrasted with the huge
and expensive ones such as the miles long atom crackers the first of which
was built in USA (I think the European CERN atom cracker is the
newest now) made for riveting viewing and learning.

Having also shown the dramas between prima donna scientists enroute,
the professor took viewers down the path from discovering the atom, to finding some
if its component parts that took place largely in C20, through to
the present day, where he signified that the question for scientists
in C21 will be to determine why some atoms combine to form say
human beings and others say the rocks around us.

He pointed out that
the component parts of atoms of say gold and mercury are almost identical
yet the very slight difference indeed still gives rise to a liquid metal
and a solid precious metal. That many atoms are inherently unstable to
the extent that over time they may all be decaying or developing
into the most stable form - Iron - was news to me.

His question for C21 scientists however I feel will need input
from theologians in the search for answers. Even so the conclusion might
be that some questions may not be answerable by mere mortals.

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