susanreads: Pooh with his head stuck in a honeypot, "Oh Bother" (oh bother)
I've been watching Operation Snow Tiger (it finished a week ago, but I built up a bit of a backlog during Springwatch).

The researchers are trying to find a particular tiger in the reserve, and Liz Bonnin says they're splitting up to improve their chances, and I hear "Let's split up, that way it's bound to get one of us." and sure enough ... they were checking a camera trap and found that it had been triggered by one of their colleagues, on foot on his own, and the very next shot was a tiger (not the one they're looking for). And then they were going to pick up their colleague before sunset, which is when tigers like to hunt apparently, but they had trouble with the vehicle.

*sigh* Didn't any of you people ever play D&D? Don't you watch movies, for crying out loud?

*needs a headdesk icon*
susanreads: Dreamsheep with UK flag (UK sheep)
I posted in 2010 about Lost Kingdoms of Africa, a BBC(4) series, presented by art historian Gus Casely-Hayford, about pre-colonial centres of civilisation in Africa. A new series starts tomorrow evening, repeated late at night and on Thursday night. (I love BBC4's system of repeating things hours and then days later, now that digital switchover makes it harder to watch one while recording another.)
susanreads: my avatar, a white woman with brown hair and glasses (Default)
Serengeti, the first programme in BBC Four's new series Unnatural Histories, told me a lot of things I never learnt in decades of wildlife documentaries and environmental activism.

I knew that colonial governments set up parks to protect game animals from "poachers" or subsistence hunters (who had co-existed with the wildlife for centuries, if not longer) whereas the actual threats to animal populations were from "white" hunters who were just killing for fun and macho cred. I didn't know that the low human population in eastern Africa, when those colonial governments started paying attention, was a result of a major natural and humanitarian disaster caused by invaders from Europe: Rinderpest. "Explorers" saw starving environmental refugees whose herds or plough animals had died; they didn't look for the civilisation that had been there a generation earlier, in dynamic balance with the ecosystem.

So the colonial governments came along, saw this romantic pseudo-pristine landscape without all those pesky people, and tried to preserve it in amber. But the ecosystem itself, before and after the arrival of humans, had changed many times with the natural variations of climate. The current path of the wildebeest migration has not been the same for time immemorial, and it will need to change again if it's to survive.

The programme is available for another 17 days (region-locked to the UK, probably). The next episode is about Yellowstone.
susanreads: silhouettes of trees against a night sky with meteors (meteors)
The answer given at the end of the programme is Yes, of course, but it's not just about the cycle of coral spawning and tides encouraging the first animals onto the land. Among other things I didn't know, it seems the moon's gravity stabilises the Earth's tilt, so the reliability of the seasons also depends on it.

Maggie Aderin-Pocock, who I've posted about before, now gets to present a whole programme. It's fairly full of gosh-wow enthusiasm (At school I struggled, because I'm dyslexic. But then I discovered science [...] today I build satellites. It's a mix of engineering and physics and I love it), and includes basic info about tides and seasons among the special effects and theories of the origin of life. One of her things is promoting Real Science to Young People, and although it was shown on BBC2 in the evening I guess the show was made for kids.

If so, one thing I noticed is particularly cool: when she interviews other experts so they can explain things Maggie presumably knows but the target audience doesn't, like people do on these documentaries, about half of them are women. They include marine biologist Dr. Anne Cohen and astrobiologist Dr. Lynn Rothschild. Showing women scientists at work ftw: probaby more effective than just telling girls they can do it too.
susanreads: snowy landscape with mountains (snow (mountains))
the episode on the (natural and cultural) life of The Himalayas:

David Attenborough talks about the legend of the Axis Mundi; here is Mount Kailash, source of three of the greatest rivers of Asia; here are Buddhist, Hindu and Jain pilgrims; here are prayer flags, and paper prayers being wafted up to the summit where the gods live ...

The summit, David Attenborough tells us, is so sacred that it has never been climbed.

... I'm thinking, Don't tell everyone! Some People will insist on climbing it!

(I guess it's harder to reach than Uluru.)

PS: If you've seen it (or if you haven't), can you guess what annoyed me about "Plant Pioneers of the Himalayas", the ten-minute bit at the end? (apart from the fact that they can't seem to schedule a 50-minute programme nowadays without rounding it up to an hour with DVD extras.)
susanreads: Dreamsheep with UK flag (UK sheep)
Lost Kingdoms of Africa is presented by art historian Gus Casely-Hayford, not by the usual white celebrity. That'll be why it's on BBC4, not BBC2. It's also why I thought it would be worth recording, and I wasn't disappointed.

The first programme is about Nubia, the black African kingdom south of ancient Egypt (we don't know their name for themselves; "Nubia" may have been an insult). The Egyptian and Greek scholars of the time dismissed them as barbarians; colonial historians found the ruined cities and pyramids, and assumed they were copied from Egypt. A Sudanese archaeologist shows us where they actually came from, and where they went; Gus C-H talks to the people who live there now, and traces their cultural influences in present-day Africa. Bonus critique of colonial history ftw.

It's repeated at 8pm on Sunday, still on BBC4, and the next episode is on Tuesday.

Also looking forward to: series 2 of Being Human, Sunday on BBC3; series 2 of Survivors (yes, it's rubbish, but I expect it to be more fun than Heroes), next Tuesday on BBC1.

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