- 1 Do I Drink Too Much
Alcohol is by far the most widely used drug - and a dangerous one at that. So why are so many of us drinking over the recommended limits? Why does alcohol have such a powerful grip on us? How much of our relationship with this drug is written in our genes? What are the real dangers of our children drinking too young? Addiction expert John Marsden, who likes a drink, makes a professional and personal exploration of our relationship with alcohol. He undergoes physical and neurological examinations to determine its impact, and finds out why some people will find it much harder than others to resist alcohol. Even at the age of 14 there may be a way of determining which healthy children will turn into addicts. John experiments with a designer drug being developed that hopes to replicate all the benefits of alcohol without the dangers. Could this drug replace alcohol in the future?
Air Date: 2009-10-13
- 2 The Secret You
With the help of a hammer-wielding scientist, Jennifer Aniston and a general anaesthetic, Professor Marcus du Sautoy goes in search of answers to one of science's greatest mysteries: how do we know who we are? While the thoughts that make us feel as though we know ourselves are easy to experience, they are notoriously difficult to explain. So, in order to find out where they come from, Marcus subjects himself to a series of probing experiments.
Air Date: 2009-10-20
- 3 Fix Me
Horizon follows the emotional journey of three young people with currently untreatable conditions to see if, within their lifetime, they can be cured. Sophie Morgan is determined not to spend the rest of her life in a wheelchair. She is tempted by the online claims of unregulated private clinics promising a cure using stem cells. To help her decide if she should go for treatment, she meets another paraplegic, Chris Oberle, who spent his life savings visiting an Indian clinic. She also visits Geron, the Californian clinic set to hold the first human trials using embryonic stem cells. A lot rests on the trial; if successful, it could mean treatment much sooner for Sophie and lead to cures for a range of untreatable conditions. Anthony Bath was just 20 when his right leg was amputated. A botched pinning procedure led to an MRSA infection and, after 18 operations, the loss of his leg. Although he has continued to achieve great things on the sporting front, running marathons and sailing around the world, he would still love to have his leg back. In Finland, Anthony witnesses one of the world's first operations in which stem cells are used to replace bone. If the procedure had been available a few years ago, his leg could have been saved. When Dean Third collapsed, he was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy, a condition in which his damaged heart could cause his death at any moment. His condition is stabilised by medication, but each of his children carries a 50 per cent chance of developing symptoms, too. Desperate for a cure, he visits Dr Anthony Mathur from University College London in his operating theatre to witness the world's first trial using stem cells taken from bone marrow. They are then injected directly into the muscles of the heart with the aim of regenerating the damaged heart cells. For Sophie, Anthony and Dean, this pioneering research could mean the difference between the life they are forced to lead and the life they dream of. Throughout the film, they reflect on what these discoveries could mean for them, and whether they really believe that, in the future, stem cells could heal them.
Air Date: 2009-10-27
- 4 Who's afraid of the Big Black Hole?
Black holes are one of the most destructive forces in the universe, capable of tearing a planet apart and swallowing an entire star. Yet scientists now believe they could hold the key to answering the ultimate question - what was there before the Big Bang? The trouble is that researching them is next to impossible. Black holes are by definition invisible and there's no scientific theory able to explain them. Despite these obvious obstacles, Horizon meets the astronomers attempting to image a black hole for the very first time and the theoretical physicists getting ever closer to unlocking their mysteries. It's a story that takes us into the heart of a black hole and to the very edge of what we think we know about the universe.
Air Date: 2009-11-03
- 5 Why Do We Talk?
Talking is something that is unique to humans, yet it still remains a mystery. Horizon meets the scientists beginning to unlock the secrets of speech - including a father who is filming every second of his son's first three years in order to discover how we learn to talk, the autistic savant who can speak more than 20 languages, and the first scientist to identify a gene that makes speech possible. Horizon also hears from the godfather of linguistics, Noam Chomsky, the first to suggest that our ability to talk is innate. A unique experiment shows how a new alien language can emerge in just one afternoon, in a bid to understand where language comes from and why it is the way it is.
Air Date: 2009-11-10
- 6 How Long is a Piece of String?
Alan Davies attempts to answer the proverbial question: how long is a piece of string? But what appears to be a simple task soon turns into a mind-bending voyage of discovery where nothing is as it seems. An encounter with leading mathematician Marcus du Sautoy reveals that Alan's short length of string may in fact be infinitely long. When Alan attempts to measure his string at the atomic scale, events take an even stranger turn. Not only do objects appear in many places at once, but reality itself seems to be an illusion. Ultimately, Alan finds that measuring his piece of string could - in theory at least - create a black hole, bringing about the end of the world.
Air Date: 2009-11-17
- 7 How Many People Can Live on Planet Earth
Naturalist Sir David Attenborough reflects on the impact of a doubling in world population over his career, and whether the world faces a population crisis. While much of the projected population growth is in the developing world, it is the lifestyle enjoyed by many in the West that has the most impact on the planet. Attenborough examines whether it is the duty of individuals to commit to smaller families and change the way they live for the sake of humanity.
Air Date: 2009-12-09
- 8 The Secret Life of the Dog
We have an extraordinary relationship with dogs - closer than with any other animal on the planet. But what makes the bond between us so special? Research into dogs is gaining momentum, and scientists are investigating them like never before. From the latest fossil evidence, to the sequencing of the canine genome, to cognitive experiments, dogs are fast turning into the new chimps as a window into understanding ourselves. Where does this relationship come from? In Siberia, a unique breeding experiment reveals the astonishing secret of how dogs evolved from wolves. Swedish scientists demonstrate how the human/dog bond is controlled by a powerful hormone also responsible for bonding mothers to their babies. Why are dogs so good at reading our emotions? Horizon meets Betsy, the world's most intelligent dog, and compares her incredible abilities to those of children. Man's best friend has recently gone one step further - helping us identify genes responsible for causing human diseases.
Air Date: 2010-01-06
- 9 Why Do Viruses Kill?
Just months ago, the world stood in fear of an emerging new disease that threatened to kill millions. A new flu variant H1N1 had arrived. In the UK alone, 65,000 deaths were predicted. Yet to date, these dire warnings have not materialised. If this latest pandemic has taught anything, it is just how little is understood about the invisible world of viruses. But that has not stopped scientists trying. Horizon follows the leading researchers from across the world, who are attempting to unravel the many secrets of viruses to understand when and why they kill.
Air Date: 2010-01-13
- 29 We are the Aliens
Clouds of alien life forms are sweeping through outer space and infecting planets with life – it may not be as far-fetched as it sounds. The idea that life on Earth came from another planet has been around as a modern scientific theory since the 1960s when it was proposed by Fred Hoyle and Chandra Wickramasinghe. At the time they were ridiculed for their idea – known as panspermia. But now, with growing evidence, it's back in vogue and even being studied by NASA. Horizon meets the scientists on a mission to get to the bottom of the beginnings of life on Earth - from the team in Texas who are lovingly building a robotic submarine called DEPTHX to explore a moon of Jupiter, to Southern India where they are investigating a mysterious red rain which fell for two months in 2001. According to local scientist Godfrey Louis, the rain contains biological cells unlike any he had seen before – with no DNA and the ability to replicate at 300°C. Louis has come to the conclusion that the cells are extra-terrestrial in origin.
Air Date: 2006-11-14