March 19, 2011

Earth Story: The Beeb's forgotten geology gem

I love it when I'm made aware of a documentary or TV miniseries about geology that I hadn't known existed, and I was just recently introduced to the BBC series called "Earth Story", an 8-parter released in the late 90's. A professor showed it in my historical geology class, using an old VHS tape of the program from the university archives. He used it to bring attention to such features as Banded Iron Formations and Stromatolites, and such events as the Rodinian Snowball Earth and ELE's. It's a perfect fit for a class on the evolution of the planet, and certain episodes would fit well in structural geology, geomorphology, paleontology, and geophysics classes, among others.

Naturally, I looked up the rest of the documentary on youtube, and lo and behold found a user's channel with virtually all of them available for ready consumption. I get easily addicted to geo-documentaries that are well presented, and Earth Story has an eloquent Englishman (zoologist Aubrey Manning), beautiful locations and brilliant animations, all prerequisites for a good doc. The series is well structured, with each part highlighting a piece of a particular whole of the history of Earth in geological terms, whilst building a story around revelations about certain phenomena. It has something for everyone, be you a geoscientist of one of the 4 major spheres, or an interdisciplinary. Without further ado, below is a sampling of the available episodes:

This part on Climate change examines Pleistocene glacial advances. Some of the interesting things you'll be informed about include coral reef terraces, foraminifera, smoothed tillite, Carbon cycle & the Carboniferous, Milankovitch cycles, and my favorite of using ice-core samples to reveal Pb atmo concentration during Roman times.

This part on Deep time discusses topics such as unconformities, geothermal gradient, ammonites, radioactivity's role in geochronology, pre-Earth meteorites, Archaean cratonic pillow basalts, lithified mud pools.

This part about volcanoes and the lithosphere examines mantle plumes, plate tectonics, seismic anisotropy, isostatic depression & rebound, mantle mineralogy, mantle convection, the Deccan Traps, Curie point.

This part on mountain formation looks into sea floor uplift, buoyant crust, slickensides, Gondwana's breakup, crustal thickening/thinning, geodesy, lithospheric flexure, serrate/entire leaf edges.

Above is just a small sample of the entire series. Thanks to Kurdistan Planetarium for supplying the videos online. Readers, enjoy!

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