Wonders of Life
It never ceases to amaze me the diametric perceptual shift of Science in
today’s society when compared to as little as ten years ago. Suddenly,
Science is cool, and figures like Astrophysicist Neil Degrasse
Tyson and Professor Brian Cox are lauded almost as rock stars in their
fields. No longer considered the domain of archetypical white Lab-Coat
wearing “Brainboxes”, Science and the appreciation of it has experienced
quite the renaissance lately; if further proof was needed, one only has
to look at the massive following a page like the awesomely named “I F*cking
Love Science” has garnered to realise that the esoteric and stuffy
subject that was the bane of many a high school student has now well and
truly stepped into the limelight where it belongs.
Wonders of Life,
the BBC’s latest entry in the “Wonders” series presented by man
of the moment Professor Brian Cox, attempts to explore just what
ingredients and factors are necessary for life to perpetuate itself... A
fairly lofty undertaking, to be sure. I have to admit to some initial
trepidation as to how qualified Cox, a particle physicist, would be to
explore the intricacies of Biology; The preceding programs in the
series, Wonders of The Universe and Wonders of The Solar
System, certainly fell squarely into the field of his expertise, but
for this outing I feared that attaching his name to the program was more
to cynically capitalise on his growing fan base rather than to provide a
cohesive overview of admittedly convoluted subject matter.
Thankfully Cox is as enjoyable to watch as always, and it certainly
appears that he’s boned up on the subject, to the degree where the
legendary David Attenborough has named him as his natural successor.
Like Attenborough himself, Cox is armed with an affable and relatable
charm that allows for ease of imparting information; simply put, he’s
just a joy to watch and makes even some of the more impenetrable aspects
of science easy to absorb without a sense of dumbing it all down.
My fears about his perceived lack of expertise in this particular field
were almost allayed instantly; Life, as with most everything else in
existence, can be broken down to the same basic laws of physics that
governed the creation of the universe and all it encompasses... A
subject Cox is very familiar with, as evident by the previous entries in
the series. This allows for Cox to explore the subject matter with the
same self assuredness and accessibility that made the other programs so
Throughout the series Cox journeys around the globe and touches upon
spirituality and faith in a surprising aside as he attends ceremony in
the Philippines where patrons attempt to commune with the the dead.
Exploring varied tangents such as this serves to break up the series and
prevents information overload, which admittedly can still occur due to
the constant barrage of scientific exposition and the relation of the
properties of physics to biological processes. Each episode focuses on a
different facet of existence, from how energy is formed and how it
supports life to the development of senses and the external influence of
the environment on evolution.
What is Life?
Endless Forms Most Beautiful
Unfortunately there are no supplemental features on this release, but
when the main content is as strong and as enthralling as Wonders of
Life then this can be easily forgiven.
While it can be quite heavy going in parts, Wonders of Life is a
worthy successor to Wonders of the Universe and Wonders of the
Solar System. Of course a healthy interest in science is probably
necessary to gain full enjoyment of the program, and some may be put off
by the technical terms and scientific jargon about Proton Gradients and
the like, but this fresh exploration of life from a physicists
perspective is engaging and, most importantly, accessible. A lot of this
comes down to Cox’s sheer unbridled enthusiasm and the deft way he ties
biology, chemistry and physics together into a neat little package.
Everything in nature, when you boil it down to its most basic form, is
bound by the same set of rules that govern existence and the sheer
concept that every living thing on earth can have its origins traced
back to the same molecule is astounding to consider. This mind-boggling
information is accompanied by the BBC’s usual flawless photography,
presenting beautiful vistas and close-up looks at various animals that
are resplendent in their detail.
If you have even a cursory interest in scientific documentaries you will
find a lot to keep you entertained with Wonders of Life.