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Growing Up in the Universe

Premier :: 1991-01-01

on BBC

Genre :: Documentary

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Oxford professor Richard Dawkins presents a series of lectures on life, the universe, and our place in it. With brilliance and clarity, Dawkins unravels an educational gem that will mesmerize young and old alike. Illuminating demonstrations, wildlife, virtual reality, and special guests (including Douglas Adams) all combine to make this collection a timeless classic.

Latest Episode

Series 1 - Episode 5 - The Genesis of Purpose
Aired - 06 December 1991

Episode summary:

Dawkins opens by talking how organisms “grow up” to understand the universe around them, which requires certain apparatus, such as a brain. But before brains can become large enough to model the universe they must develop from intermediate forms. Dawkins then discusses the digger wasp and the set of experiments conducted by Nikolaas Tinbergen of how the digger wasp models the local geography around its nest. He then talks about the limitations of the digger wasps’ brain and concludes that only the human brain is sufficiently developed to model large-scale phenomena about the world. He then shows a MRI scan of a human brain (later revealed to be his own brain) and describes how an image develops from the eye onto the visual cortex.

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