Sunday, September 11, 2022

Biology lives here

As I built my Lessons of Phyz library over the years, I liked working in groovy biology content whenever I could.

As mentioned in the "Chemistry: we've got it" post below, physics teachers are spoiled with an abundance of course-covering video series. Chemistry doesn't seem to have such a thing, nor have I found one for biology.

But here's the biology-related documentaries I have found.

The coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 upended life as we knew it in a matter of mere months. But at the same time, an unprecedented global effort to understand and contain the virus—and find a treatment for the disease it causes—was underway. Join the doctors on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19 as they strategize to stop the spread, and meet the researchers racing to develop treatments and vaccines. Along the way, discover how this devastating disease emerged, what it does to the human body, and why it exploded into a pandemic. 

In this docuseries, meet the heroes on the front lines of the battle against influenza and learn about their efforts to stop the next global outbreak. This series was released just before the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic broke out.
In this introduction to life on the front lines, doctors in the U.S. and Asia battle the flu, and researchers race to develop a universal vaccine.

Vaccine debates rage while health-care workers inoculate against the Ebola virus in Congo and influenza in detainee camps at the U.S.—Mexico border.

Worldwide, scientists test animals and their handlers for emerging viruses. In the U.S. and India, doctors work long hours caring for flu patients.

Anti-vaccine debate escalates, and medical staff are attacked in Congo. Funding cuts hit hard in the U.S., but researchers in Guatemala make strides.

Around the world, community, family and faith help physicians and medical advocates stay strong in the face of long hours and a relentless disease.

Successes for some balance setbacks for others. Meanwhile, viral outbreaks continue to claim lives across the globe—and a larger pandemic looms.
The extraordinary story of Earth and why it is special and uniquely brimming with life among a largely unknown but harsh cosmic arena; astronauts tell the story of Earth through a unique perspective. The camera work is stunning and includes sweeping vistas, detailed close-ups, and dynamic drone footage.

This series examines the interplay between earth science and biology. It’s an essential for the NGSS course, The Living Earth. But it can work in other courses, too.
Astronaut Chris Hadfield reveals the unlikely and unexpectedly interconnected systems that allow life on our planet to breathe.

Ever wonder how our planet got here? It was born in a cosmic storm. The violence could have destroyed us, but instead it made us.

The epic story of Earth’s battle with the sun, and how life thrives here against the odds.

Our rock is special—it's alive. But how did life begin here and is it likely elsewhere?

It’s not enough for Earth to be habitable, it also has to be lethal for life to thrive. This is the story of how life evolved hand in hand with death.

Astronaut Chris Hadfield has seen the bullet holes left by asteroids on Earth’s surface. Our planet is vulnerable. Could we ever survive elsewhere?

For nearly 4 billion years, life has sculpted almost every part of Earth. But how exactly did life turn this once barren rock into a paradise?

Is there another planet like ours out there and would it also be packed with life forms like Earth's?

Of all life on Earth, we’re the only ones with the smarts to leave our planet. How did our planet make us so intelligent?

10. HOME
Our home: one strange rock, floating in space. But just how strange is it? Are we alone?
This series is essentially the sequel to One Strange Rock. It paired director Darren Aronofsky and presenter Will Smith. This time, Smith is extracted from the presenter's studio and dropped into a variety of dangerous environments. Fear not, he's paired with seasoned adventurers who will guide him through the hazards. But in many cases, there's a twist. Saying more would constitute a spoiler!
On a remote island in the Pacific, Will Smith descends into the heart of an active volcano to investigate sounds beyond human hearing. Will discovers that everything on our planet creates its own unique sound—even if we can’t always hear it. With the help of technology, we can tune into the hidden sounds of our planet, from the pull of the moon on our mountains and cities to a silent rumble so deep and powerful, it can move the earth around it.

In a deep-water submersible, Will Smith descends 3,300 feet to the bottom of the ocean, where even fewer people have gone than outer space. Along the way down, Will and explorer Diva Amon investigate how color is used in the natural world. He discovers some animals creating their own vibrant, mind-bending light displays in pitch-black darkness. Rarely seen by humans, these displays are one of the most common forms of communication on the planet.

Thirty years ago, Will Smith was mesmerized by a photo of the incredible wildebeest migration across the Serengeti in a National Geographic magazine. Now he visits those same wildebeests and discovers an amazing survival strategy. Individually, wildebeests are animals with low intelligence, but when threatened, they group together and behave as if they have a single, super-intelligent brain. Will discovers that without this superpower, thousands of wildebeests could never survive the 150-mile gauntlet of the most blood-thirsty predators on the planet.

On the trail of tiger sharks in the Pacific, Will explores the power of smell. For humans, the sense of smell triggers deep memories and emotions, but it has an even more vital function in the animal world. Will discovers that scents link ecosystems around the world and are so powerful for some animals that they can mean the difference between life and death.

Will explores the Namibia Desert, where both the landscape and time seem to have stood still for over 50 million years. Will discovers that humans can only see a small sliver of what’s moving around us because everything on the planet is happening either too fast or too slow for us to perceive. With the help of Albert Lin’s incredible technology, Will finds everything is on the move: life, the earth and even the cosmos.

For Will’s final journey, an ultimate challenge. He and polar explorer Dwayne Fields are dropped by helicopter in the middle of an Icelandic glacier. Will’s mission is to draw on everything he’s learned from the five previous expeditions about what it means to be an explorer to overcome his fear and anxieties of the wilderness. By learning how to read nature’s clues, Will slowly gains an understanding of the environment around him, allowing him to embrace his fear and take the reins on a powerful and unpredictable stretch of white-water rapids. Will discovers that uncertainty and confusion are not obstacles to exploration but rather a vital part of every explorer’s experience when throwing themselves into the unknown.
This series includes stunning photography at every level. As always, watch the episode yourself before presenting or assigning it to students. A companion website can be found at
The habitats that make up our planet are connected and reliant upon each other. The astonishing diversity of life on earth depends on these global connections. Witness the planet's breathtaking diversity—from seabirds carpet-bombing the ocean to wildebeests eluding the wild dogs of the Serengeti.

Our poles are some of the earth's last remaining wildernesses. And yet just as we are beginning to understand these extraordinary places, they are changing fast. On the unforgiving frontier of global warming, polar bears, walruses, seals and penguins find their icy Edens in peril.

In jungles, everywhere is special. They are the oldest and most diverse ecosystems on our planet. Jungles and rainforests are home to an incredible variety of species like preening birds, intelligent orangutans, and remarkably ambitious ants.

Our coastal seas are a rich community of plants and animals working together, all of which are vital to the health of our planet and humanity. From fearsome sharks to lowly urchins, 90 percent of marine creatures live in coastal waters. Protecting these habitats is a battle humanity must win.

Our planet’s grasslands are the rich home to our big land animals, but they’re also shrinking. Life in our grasslands depends on space. Cameras follow desert elephants seeking sustenance, bison roaming North American grasslands and caterpillars living the good life underground.

The open oceans are the world’s largest ecosystems, vital to everyone, owned by no-one. Traversed by whales, sharks, turtles, tuna and albatross and home to mysterious deep-sea creatures, these are the true wilds of our planet. Venture into the deep, dark and desolate ocean that are home to an abundance of beautiful - and downright strange - creatures.

Without fresh water, life on land wouldn't exist. It is the most precious resource on our planet, but it's finite. Every drop is vital for all species and us humans that rely upon it. The need for fresh water is as strong as ever. However, the supply is becoming increasingly unpredictable for all manner of species.

We are uniquely reliant on forests—without them, life as we know it would not exist. We’ve exploited our forests through the ages, but if we give them the chance, they will bounce back. Examine the fragile interdependence that exists between forests' wide variety of residents, including bald eagles, hunting dogs and Siberian tigers.
Without the chemistry of photosynthesis, ozone, and a molecule called Rubisco, none of us would be here. So how did we get so lucky? To find out, host David Pogue investigates the surprising molecules that allowed life on Earth to begin, and ultimately thrive. Along the way, he finds out what we’re all made of—literally.

The episode covers several facets of the origin of life and evolution. Tyson describes both artificial selection via selective breeding, using the example of humankind's domestication of wolves into dogs, and natural selection that created species like polar bears. Tyson uses the Ship of the Imagination to show how DNA, genes, and mutation work, and how these led to the diversity of species as represented by the Tree of life, including how complex organs such as the eye came about as a common element.
Tyson describes extinction of species and the five great extinction events that wiped out numerous species on Earth, while some species, such as the tardigrade, were able to survive and continue life. 

Tyson speculates on the possibility of life on other planets, such as Saturn's moon, Titan, as well as how abiogenesis may have originated life on Earth. The episode concludes with an animation from the original Cosmos showing the evolution of life from a single cell to humankind today.

I love this story of evolution! This episode emphasizes biology: selection, DNA, and exobiology. Sagan discusses the story of the Heike crab and artificial selection of crabs resembling samurai warriors, as an opening into a larger discussion of evolution through natural selection (and the pitfalls of intelligent design). Among the topics are the development of life on the Cosmic Calendar and the Cambrian explosion; the function of DNA in growth; genetic replication, repairs, and mutation; the common biochemistry of terrestrial organisms; the creation of the molecules of life in the Miller–Urey experiment; and speculation on alien life (such as life in Jupiter's clouds). In the Cosmos Update ten years later, Sagan remarks on RNA also controlling chemical reactions and reproducing itself and the different roles of comets (potentially carrying organic molecules or causing the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event).

Exobiology: the early years. The episode, devoted to the planet Mars, begins with scientific and fictional speculation about the Red Planet during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (H. G. Wells' The War of the Worlds, Edgar Rice Burroughs' science fiction books, and Percival Lowell's false vision of canals on Mars). It then moves to Robert Goddard's early experiments in rocket-building, inspired by reading science fiction, and the work by Mars probes, including the Viking, searching for life on Mars. The episode ends with the possibility of the terraforming and colonization of Mars and a Cosmos Update on the relevance of Mars' environment to Earth's and the possibility of a human mission to Mars.

This episode emphasizes anatomy and physiology: genes and the brain. The idea of intelligence is explored in the concepts of computers (using bits as their basic units of information), whales (in their songs and their disruptions by human activities), DNA, the human brain (the evolution of the brain stem, frontal lobes, neurons, cerebral hemispheres, and corpus callosum under the Triune Brain Model), and man-made structures for collective intelligence (cities, libraries, books, computers, and satellites). The episode ends with speculation on alien intelligence and the information conveyed on the Voyager Golden Record.

No comments:

Post a Comment