- 1 The Big Chill
Remember that long, hot summer? You might never see its like again. And all that talk of global warming? Forget it. This season's first Horizon reveals that a growing number of experts fear Britain could be heading for a climate like Alaska. Our ports could be frozen over. Ice storms could ravage the country, and London could see snow lying for weeks on end. It would be the biggest change in the British way of life since the last Ice Age. The first signs that such a disaster could happen came from deep within the ice sheet of Greenland. Scientists discovered that the Earth's past was littered with sudden, drastic drops in temperature. The big question was: could it ever happen again? Clues came from tiny shells at the bottom of the Atlantic; a huge glacier on the move in Arctic and some alarming discoveries in the far north of Russia. In the end there came the terrifying revelation: the Gulf Stream, that vast current of water that keeps us warm, could be cut off. According to one scientist, there is a one in two chance it will happen in the next century. Others say a climatic catastrophe could be heading our way in just twenty years time.
Air Date: 2003-11-13
- 2 The Bible Code
What he can see is truly horrific; according to Drosnin, the world could end in an atomic holocaust - in 2006. It sounds preposterous yet Drosnin claims to have serious scientific backing. Behind his findings lies the work of one of the world's most brilliant theoretical mathematicians, an Israeli professor called Eliyahu Rips. In 1994, using exactly the same ancient code, Michael Drosnin accurately predicted the assassination of the Israeli Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin - twelve months before it occurred. Drosnin's books on the Bible Code have been translated into most of the world's major languages and are read by millions of people. If he's right, he's stumbled on one of the most important discoveries ever made. This week Horizon investigates the science behind the Bible Code.
Air Date: 2003-11-20
- 3 Last Flight of the Columbia
Mixing powerful and deeply moving footage with telling forensic analysis, Horizon reveals what really went wrong on the Space Shuttle Columbia. The film's final revelation is telling. If NASA had acted differently, all seven astronauts could have been brought back to Earth alive. The film begins with the astronauts' final moments and shows the haunting scenes at Mission Control at the moment the disaster struck. What then follows is a disturbing detective story as the investigators gradually realise that the tragedy was caused by the failure of a small panel on the shuttle's left wing that had been built to be indestructible. No one had ever thought such an accident was possible. It has led to the shuttle being grounded for the foreseeable future. But that wasn't all. The film also shows that NASA had a number of options to bring the crew back safely - if only it had commandeered a spy telescope to visually inspect the damage. It could even have launched a rescue mission. But instead, NASA chose to rely on a computer programme for damage assessment. The programme got it wrong; as a result, there was no hope for those seven crew members.
Air Date: 2003-11-27
- 4 The Hunt for the AIDS Vaccine
Horizon tells the microbiological detective story in which some of the best brains in science have been pitted against the most extraordinary bug the world has ever seen. In 1984 it was discovered that HIV was the cause of AIDS. Straight away, there were confident predictions that there would be a vaccine ready for testing in just two years. Back then, just 1,292 deaths from AIDS had been reported. Now the figure is 25 million dead. By 2010 it is predicted there will be 85 million infections and 70 million deaths. And after 20 years there is still no sign of a vaccine. Despite work of dazzling complexity, the ambition of so many brilliant scientists has been constantly thwarted. Just as a vaccine seems to be working, the AIDS virus alters itself, and ten to fifteen years of work, and millions of pounds, go down the drain. These bitter disappointments are only compounded by the desperate human urgency of the work. This is a story where the clock doesn't stop ticking.
Air Date: 2003-12-04
- 5 Percy Pilcher's Flying Machine
Could an unknown Englishman have been the first person ever to fly? To mark the hundredth anniversary of the Wright brothers inaugural flight, Horizon tells the remarkable story of Percy Pilcher. He could have been the most famous aviator of them all. Four years before the Wright brothers, he had constructed his own aeroplane. But on the day it was due to take off for the very first time, something so terrible happened that he was denied the chance of ever flying it. So Horizon has rebuilt his long lost flying machine to see if Percy Pilcher, the British amateur, could have claimed the glory and been the first person ever to fly. This film mixes dramatic reconstruction with fabulous contemporary scenes and gripping science. With a specially assembled team of historians, aviation experts and our own test pilot, Horizon painstakingly rebuilds Pilcher's flying machine and puts it to the test. The results will leave you cheering.
Air Date: 2003-12-11
- 6 Time Trip
Horizon's Time Trip is a thrilling journey deep into the strangeness of cutting-edge physics - a place where beautiful, baffling ideas are sometimes indistinguishable from the utterly crazy. On this journey, we meet a time-travelling pizza, a brilliant mathematician in a ski mask and even God. The journey ends with a strange and dark conclusion - one which calls into question our very existence. Ever since Einstein showed it was theoretically possible, the quest to travel through time has drawn eccentric amateurs and brilliant scientists in almost equal numbers. The amateurs include Aage Nost, who demonstrates his time machine in front of the cameras. The professionals include the likes of Professor Frank Tipler of Tulane University. His time machine sounds good - but it would weigh half the mass of the galaxy. There is, however, one way that time travel to the past could be possible. And it would be much more convenient. Future civilisations could use computers to create exact replicas of the past. Unfortunately that idea has physics trembling in its socks. Because if you can generate a perfect virtual reality version of the past, who's to say we are not one of the replicas?
Air Date: 2003-12-18
- 7 Demonic Ape
It began with a magical story. A young girl ventured alone into the jungle and befriended a group of chimpanzees. What she saw became the stuff of scientific legend. But then, last year came a terrible tragedy. Frodo, one of the chimpanzees she had helped make famous, killed a human baby. That shocking act brought into focus a huge debate about the relationship between humans and chimps, and what these primates have taught us about the origins of our own behaviour. The saga of how Jane Goodall went into the jungle to study the chimps of Gombe in Tanzania has inspired novels and movies. Her observations revealed that chimpanzees were in many ways like humans. They used tools, had culture and even language. And what's more they had empathy. They were also capable of savage brutality against their own kind. Just like us. In fact many began to think that the origins of aggressive human male behaviour could be traced back to our shared evolutionary ancestry with chimps. In other words, men are genetically programmed to be violent. But then came some disturbing questions. In a film that is in turns charming, disturbing and poignant, Horizon explores the relationship between science and the chimpanzee.
Air Date: 2004-01-08
- 8 The Moscow Theatre Siege
In October 2002, Chechen terrorists took a thousand people hostage in a Moscow theatre and threatened to kill them. The problem was how to get them out alive. A bloodbath seemed inevitable. Three days later Russian special forces stormed the theatre using a secret gas to knock everybody out. 129 hostages died - apparently killed by the very gas that was meant to save them. Horizon investigates the mystery substance, and why so many died. The Russian authorities insisted their secret weapon was not lethal. The claim provoked contempt from the victims families, and incredulity among doctors and scientists around the world. But were the Russians actually right? The Russians offered just one clue. And in Germany there was a scientist who had the means to test it: a urine sample taken from one of the survivors shortly after he was freed. Horizon follows as extremely sensitive tests are performed to find out if the Russians were telling the truth, and uncovers a deeper secret. With the help of doctors and scientists in America, Germany and Britain, Horizon unpicks the mystery of the Moscow theatre siege.
Air Date: 2004-01-15
- 9 Secrets of the Star Disc
This is the extraordinary story of how a small metal disc is rewriting the epic saga of how civilisation first came to Europe, 3600 years ago. When grave robbers ransacked a Bronze Age tomb in Germany, they had no idea that they had unearthed the find of a lifetime. But they knew that it was worth selling. It was a small bronze disc of exquisite design. So they contacted the archaeologist Harald Meller, offering to sell it to him for �300,000. Meller went deep into the criminal underworld and, after a police sting, he got his disc. It depicted the sun, the moon and the stars. This suggested an understanding of the heavens greater than that of the first great civilisations, like Egypt. Could it possibly be real? After exhaustive tests, the disc was declared genuine. Then a team of crack scientists pieced together what it meant. What emerged is a true marvel. This disc, it seems, is a Bronze Age Bible, combining an advanced understanding of the stars with some of the most sophisticated religious imagery of the age. In intellectual achievement and also age, it surpasses anything yet found in Egypt or Greece. It seems that civilisation had already dawned in Europe.
Air Date: 2004-01-29
- 10 The Dark Secret of Hendrik Schon
Imagine a world where disease could be eradicated by an injection of tiny robots the size of molecules. That is the hope offered by nanotechnology - the science of microscopically small machines. But others fear nanotechnology could lead to a non-biological cancer - where swarms of tiny nanobots come together and literally devour human flesh. Sounds like science fiction? It certainly did until a brilliant young scientist called Hendrik Sch�n seemed to bring it a step closer. Sch�n's great breakthrough was to make a computer transistor out of a single organic molecule. It was an achievement of almost incalculable brilliance. Some speculated this technology could spell the end of the entire silicon chip industry. Crucially, Sch�n's transistor was organic. Suddenly, this seemed to be the first step towards true nanotechnology, where minute computers could grow as living cells. Scientists speculated about how these tiny machines could be used to target diseases with astonishing precision. Others wondered - could the military use them as a new weapon? Others, including Prince Charles, were terrified. If these machines can grow by themselves, how do we stop them from growing? What happened next would destroy reputations and shatter lives - because there was more to Hendrik Sch�n's discovery than anyone knew.
Air Date: 2004-02-05
- 11 Thalidomide - A Second Chance?
Thalidomide was one of the biggest medical tragedies of modern times. The images of children born with shrunken limbs still haunt anyone who sees them. And the tragedy is not over. Those children are adults today, still coping with their disability. For many, thalidomide is a drug that should be consigned to the dustbin of history - an awful cautionary tale of the errors that science can make. But now it is making a comeback - as a radical treatment for incurable blood cancers. But can it possibly be safe to use such a dangerous drug again? In a powerful and deeply moving film, Horizon tells the tale of thalidomide and how this drug that has become so infamous may now be giving hope to people who otherwise face death. It also explores the mystery at the heart of thalidomide. It seems that the reason why it works for cancer may at least partly explain something that has long baffled scientists - why thalidomide caused such terrible damage to babies in the womb all those years ago.
Air Date: 2004-02-12
- 12 Diamond Labs
Top quality diamonds at knock down prices? The only catch is: these rocks don't come out of the ground, but are made in a lab. This is the promise offered by a series of recent scientific breakthroughs. For most of us, it seems we may soon be able to bejewel ourselves like movie stars. But for De Beers, the world's largest diamond trader, could this, one day, be a serious threat? Following a dodgy meeting in Moscow, retired US Army General Carter Clarke acquired some experimental diamond growing machines, originally destined for the Russian military. He created the world's first gem diamond production line, to mass produce highly prized coloured diamonds. In a secret location south of Boston, a father and son team developed a different technique. Robert Linares and son Bryant have made colourless diamonds, allegedly higher quality than those found in nature. De Beers, at vast cost, set up a new scientific division called the Gem Defensive Programme. Its goal: to find ways to tell apart their natural diamonds from these new synthetic gems. But will the new synthetics slip through De Beers detection net? And could anyone really tell the difference? Horizon tells the story of the Diamond Labs.
Air Date: 2004-03-04
- 13 T.rex - Warrior or Wimp?
Tyrannosaurus rex - it's the scariest, meanest, most bewitching dinosaur of them all. Children are captivated by the sheer savagery of the teeth. Experts marvelled at the force of its bite - ten times more powerful than anything we know today. Movie makers made millions out of the terror it inspired. But could our picture of this monster be completely wrong? Was T. rex in fact a slow lumbering creature, with hideously bad breath, that couldn't get anywhere close to catching a Triceratops. Was it really a scavenger that lived off the scraps left by others? Was T. rex, in fact, a wimp? Featuring fabulous graphics and interviews with T. rex experts from around the world, Horizon looks at the new science that is challenging the legend of the dinosaur we love to hate.
Air Date: 2004-03-11
- 15 Project Poltergeist
This is the story of two genuine scientific heroes. For forty years, John Bahcall and Ray Davis were engaged in a single extraordinary experiment - to find out why the Sun shines. In the end they would triumph. Davis would win the Nobel Prize and, thanks to their work, a whole new theory about how the universe is put together may have to be created. At the heart of this story is a tiny, utterly mysterious thing called a neutrino. Trillions of them pass through your body every second, touching nothing, leaving no trace. Yet neutrinos are one of a handful of fundamental particles in the universe, essential to every atom in existence and clues to what makes the Sun work. But their ghost-like quality made trapping and understanding them immensely difficult. What then followed was a bizarre series of experiments. They led from a vat containing 600 tons of cleaning fluid, to a vast cavern in a Japanese mountain, to a hole in the ground in Canada two kilometres deep. What they would reveal would stun the world of science. It seems that neutrinos may be our parents. They may be the reason why everything, including us, exists.
Air Date: 2004-03-18
- 16 The Truth of Troy
It's one of the greatest stories ever told. The legend of Helen of Troy has enchanted audiences for the last three thousand years. In May this year a Hollywood film staring Brad Pitt and Orlando Bloom will be launched in Britain. But is there any reality to the myth? Horizon has unprecedented access to the scientist with the answers. Since 1988 Professor Manfred Korfmann has been excavating the site of Troy. He has never before spoken at this length. He has made amazing discoveries - how large the city was, how well it was defended and, crucially, that there was once a great battle there at precisely the time that experts believe the Trojan war occurred. But who had attacked the city and why? Horizon then follows a trail of clues - the ancient tablets written by a lost civilisation, the sunken ship rich in treasure, and the magnificent golden masks and bronze swords of a warrior people. The film reaches its climax in a tunnel deep beneath Troy, where Korfmann has made a discovery that may reveal, once and for all, the truth behind the myth. The story that emerges is one of great passion - but not, it seems, about love.
Air Date: 2004-03-25
- 17 The Atkins Diet
- 18 Blackjack Card Counting The Easy Way
In the mid-1990s, a team of American science students took on the might of the Las Vegas casinos, and came home with millions of dollars. Hardworking engineering students during the week, they became high-rolling gamblers by the weekend and proved that, in one game at least, the house doesn't always win. The game was blackjack, and the students were from the world-renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Their audacious winnings marked the climax of an arms race between casino and player that began 40 years earlier with maths professor Edward Thorp. He realised that the one feature of blackjack that made it different from other casino games also made it possible to beat. In most gambling games - roulette, dice, slot machines, the lottery - events in the past do not determine the future. The odds are the same on every roll of the dice or spin of the wheel. Winning streaks or losing streaks may occur, but they are only one possible result from the set of all possible outcomes. A fair coin that has shown heads ten times, still only has a 50% chance of showing heads on the next flip. Casinos and bookmakers make certain that the odds are always stacked slightly in their favour. In other words, over time, the house will always win.