on 27 September 2006
There are not many documentaries on Geology, and BBC has turned this one into a masterpiece. Basically, it tells the story of how the earth became what it is now, and how the earth is forever changing in a very informative and entertaining manner. I am sure this dvd would be used to teach some geology students, since it packs in so much information. The presenter is very pleasant and I really enjoyed watching this dvd. I would highly recommend it, there are not many documentaries that you have to just keep watching since you just keep learning and enjoying..a big thumbs up from me.
on 14 November 2007
I was enthralled by this series when it was originally broadcast on TV. I waited years for it to come out on DVD, putting up with an increasingly fuzzy VHS home recording, even writing to the BBC to implore them to publish it. So imagine how pleased I was when it was eventually released on DVD!
Aubrey Manning's velvet broadcasting style takes the viewer on a deceptively deep and fascinating journey into one of the great mystery areas of science - the nature, composition, origins and working mechanisms of our home planet. Seemingly inaccessible principles are covered effortlessly, principles which are difficult to find anywhere except in the most specialist text books. The mechanics of plate tectonics, subduction and ocean floor spreading, mantle convection, mountain root drop, rebound and flow away, all are explained clearly in a relaxed, informative and entertaining style. How else would we learn so delightfully of the large scale fluid behaviour of seemingly-solid rock, the long term carbon cycle, the role of water in maintaining the dynamic nature of the Earth's deep interior, the unique partnership between life, water and geology which has given us the one habitable world we know of.
You know this stuff is good for expanding your mind, but it's so nice and easy and great to watch. It's like eating bran that tastes of chocolate, spinach that tastes of lemon sorbet, exercising that feels like a caress.
A truly great documentary series, a must have for all science lovers. I would award 6 stars out of 5 if I could!
on 27 September 2007
I saw this series a number of times on cable and actively sought it on DVD, only to find that the BBC had not put this magnificent series on disk. Well, the oversight's been recitified, and not too soon!
If you really want to understand what makes our planet's geology tick, then you must see this documentary. Where does lava come from? Where do continents, indeed mountains, come from? Why is Greece sinking and Scandanavia rising? Most importantly, what is the relationship between life on Earth and its geology? Did you know that life itself has made and kept this world habitable for itself for perhaps billions of years? I didn't - till Aubrey made it clear. This is perhaps the most valuable point made in the entire series.
After watching the series about half a dozen times however, I can't help but feel that there is an episode missing. What drives and fuels Earth's Great Engine, and what is its (and consequently our) future? It's hinted at, but it requires more attention, as well as Aubrey's gentle, inquisitive narrative, (combined with insightful research ;-)) to bring to life this final piece of our planet's life story.
Yet another masterful BBC documentary series.
I gave up biology and chemistry in my fourteenth year. I carried on with physics but failed the `O' level. I did well in geography, but my interests at school were more geared towards arts and languages. At university, I did some modules on the philosophy of science and on geology. And I have always had an intuitive regard for landscape history, in which geology is a prime ingredient. In addition, from childhood days I have pondered on the creation of the universe and of the Earth.
Why am I telling you this? Because I think it is important to know where I am coming from in order to appreciate the review that follows, to judge whether I am being too naïve. I do not have a detailed scientific background to comment on the veracity or otherwise of the theories proposed in this series. On a number of occasions, it seemed to me that supposed causal links relying on chemistry and physical forces were not described in enough detail for me to grasp in any depth. But on a general level, the series met my intellectual expectations.
I learned a lot; no, I learned a hell of a lot! I learned just how fragile our life is on this planet, how it could quite easily be wiped out by some cosmic event or by an eruption of one of those huge concentrations of magma that exist under, say Iceland or Yellowstone Park. I also learned how much our evolutionary development has been subject to so many chance conjunctions or oppositions of factors. But I guess the real lesson learned is the one which its presenter and `guru' expresses at the end of his journey, namely how the relationship between life itself and the planet that we occupy has ensured the continuing presence of living organisms, for example in keeping the planet cool enough for evolution to do its work.
The presenter is Aubrey Manning, Emeritus Professor of Biology at the University of Edinburgh, and what a marvellously engaging character he proves to be. Not at all patronising or with his head in the clouds, he has a wonderful tendency to appear as if he is taking you by the hand and slowly and surely demonstrating to you, in the company of other learned colleagues outside his own area of study, the fascinating insights to be gleaned from the Earth's story. Flying all over the world, reporting from Greenland, South Africa, Australia of the mid-Atlantic ridge, his well-intoned words are accompanied by superb photography and stirring music (composed by Deborah Mollison).
The series was originally broadcast in 1998. Whilst the final two episodes raise the spectre of carbon dioxide levels and climate change, there is no direct link made with present worries about global warming. Indeed, the arguments used might lead one to conclude that the vast differences in the planet's temperature merely show present high levels to be part of a natural cycle. But this series is a history covering huge and unimaginable time-spans, and is not really concerned with the minute timescale - a mere 250 years - that has seen the onset of the industrial revolution to today. It would have been interesting to have had maybe some kind of DVD extra in which Aubrey Manning might expand on this issue. Perusing entries on Google indicates that his concerns are more urgent than may have previously been the case.
Each of the eight episodes was produced and/or directed by a different person, so whereas there is an overarching conception throughout the series, there are noticeable differences between each programme. Some are better than others. But overall I was extremely impressed with this marvellous series. One of my friends, who is a senior lecturer in geology, also rates it highly. You will too.
Sit back comfortably in your armchair and let this enchanting and beautifully filmed mini-series excite your imagination as it travels through the 4.6 billion years since the Planet was formed. Journey to the corners of the globe, to the depths of the oceans and to the peaks of the high Himalayas in the company of men and women who explain clearly the elegant scientific theories which support the Planet's story to date. Then further still; to our Moon and the planets of Venus and Mercury.
Every single person involved in this visually stimulating presentation should be highly praised for a great job, well done, none more so than Professor Aubrey Manning whose easy enthusiasm is most infectious!
My only disappointment is that I had to wait so long to view this little masterpiece. Don't know how I missed its original showing!
on 17 December 2008
If you never knew that the earth's core was a thousand degrees hotter than the sun, that there have been twenty one ice ages during the last 2 million years, or present carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are at a record low in earth's history, then this is the series for you. It is simply brilliantly put together, beautifully presented, and represents a real intellectual tour de force. The computerized graphic animation is superb, and the numerous interviews with scientists in the field provides the whole series with a strong sense of authority. I can recommend this series no higher!
on 3 August 2010
This has to be the best geological series ever. Aubrey Manning assumes the guise of a student who is asking the questions and a procession of experts provide the answers. Stunning locations and breathtaking scenes illustrate the essay as it unfolds. Fasten your seatbelt before beginning this masterly journey through geological time.
on 23 April 2015
In the interests of disclosure, I love Earth Sciences and have read and studied various aspects of the subject for a number of years; therefore, I am somewhat biased in favour of the topic.
In recent years, Professor Ian Stewart has brought a number of programmes to television such as Rise of the Continents, How Earth Made Us, How to Grow a Planet and as a professional geologist and media communicator, he has really done an excellent job of breathing life into a subject which many might view as rather boring. In fact, the subjects that make up Earth Science are anything but boring; but that's just my opinion.
However, prior to `The Rock Star' Stewart coming onto our screens, a more reserved and somewhat traditional presenter, but nonetheless most engaging with his enthusiasm delved into the world of Earth Sciences with an outsider's eyes; those of a professional biologist, namely, Professor Aubrey Manning.
Sometimes, scientific presenters can move outside their areas of core competence with dire consequences. They either end up making silly mistakes, which anyone familiar with the subject quickly identifies or they try too hard to convince us that they have become `instant experts.' Aubrey Manning does neither. He approaches his role as an experienced scientist being led through a number of topics in Earth Sciences which he does not pretend are anything less than amazing to discover their inner secrets. His guides are specialists in their respective areas, whether they are oceanographers, geologists, palaeontologists, climatologists, volcanologists or other biologists and others. Credit must also go to the producers and directors who put the story together which is mirrored in a book by the same title (which is well worth buying if you want to look in more detail at some of the topics discussed on screen).
The series consists of 8 episodes which are each approximately 50 minutes long. Although a common thread throughout the episodes involves the story told by the rocks of Earth; the story told is much more. The episodes are:
1. The Time Travellers
2. The Deep
3. Ring of Fire
4. Journey to the Centre of the Earth
5. The Roof of the World
6. The Big Freeze
7. The Living Earth
8. A World Apart
The sequence of episodes allows Manning to lead us on his journey from an appreciation of the background historical development of our scientific understanding of the earth, starting in the 18th century and coming up to the end of the 20th century with its modern interpretations and theories.
As Manning says towards the end of the final episode, his journey, gives one an appreciation of the complex and symbiotic kinds of relationship which exist between our atmosphere, the hydrosphere of our oceans, seas and rivers (both in liquid and ice form), the biosphere both on land and in the water and crucially, the lithosphere - the world of rocks involving plate tectonics, mountain building and erosion, deep ocean seafloor spreading and many other issues. Although these topics are central to many more advanced study courses on Earth Science, the Earth Story provides a visually stunning and interesting overview of how this relationship came to be discovered during the past few hundred years. It also helps one to appreciate that through Deep Time ranging back to Earth's early formation some 4.6 billion years ago, Earth has been in a process of continual change, which is ongoing all around us.
Although as humans we can never experience such deep time directly, the episodes presented in Earth Story help one to appreciate the complex dance that is taking place on our planet. If the subject is relatively new territory, it can open one's eyes to a dynamic environment that consists of a number of highly sensitive systems. If the topic is well known to you, the programme helps bring alive, topics which may be less easy to visualise within the text of a book.
Although the programme was originally transmitted on television back in 1998, one should not be put off by thinking it is somehow dated. Whilst it may lack some of the fancier computer generated graphics available in 2015, the illustrative graphics are clear and adequate. More importantly, the range of places visited in the programme from the tops of mountains and volcanoes to the bottom of deep ocean trenches (in both documentary footage) and interviews of scientists in such locations by Manning provide the viewer with an illuminating and powerful overview of our Earth Story.
For this reason, I still rank the programme as "One of the Best Earth Science Popular TV Presentations" still in existence today.
on 10 May 2010
Aubrey Manning does an excellent job in this eight episode documentary. The first episode deals with the formation of the planet and through the other episodes we are gradually taken through an account of the geological evidence that leads eventually to an understanding of the processes that cause continents to "drift". The interplay between life on the planet and the physical state of the earth is compelling and informative viewing. The presenter does not give an oversimplified account of the subject, but leads the viewer to an increasing understanding of what would be a difficult subject if simply read in a book. The medium of moving pictures is indeed a powerful one.
I have bought several copies to give to interested family members and have strongly recommended it many others.
on 2 December 2009
Decent science documentaries are a thing of the past now, hijacked by special effects monkeys and producers who've had it drummed into them that "science is boring, so keep it light". So this series, from the late 1990s, may prove the last great science series that the BBC made.
Like Attenborough's early documentaries, "Earth Story" is perfectly pitched at the genuinely curious non-specialist viewer. The presenter, Aubrey Manning, is a biologist who, by his own account, wanted to understand more about geology so as to deepen his understanding of his subject. To have him present the series was a stroke of genius: he comes to the subject fresh and with a palpable sense of wonder, yet intent on understanding it in depth.
Manning gradually builds up a picture of how the landscape and biosphere of the earth reached their current state, from volcanism via creation of the mid-ocean ridges to plate tectonics. What is so impressive is the seamless tying together of the history, the epistemology and the practice of geology into a single narrative. There is enough detail to satisfy the more intellectual viewer, yet enough of a bird's-eye view to keep the more casually interested engrossed. Lastly and not least, the film of some of the most beautiful landscapes on the planet is quite stunning. What a wise decision it was by the producers to restrict computer effects to animated diagrams illustrating geological processes - it wouldn't happen now.
I can't praise this series highly enough. Whatever you want from a science documentary, this will deliver more. It rocks in every sense.