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Jim Al-Khalili's Guide to Life, the Universe and Everything

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Renowned physicist and professor, Jim Al-Khalili, takes viewers on a journey through the weird and wonderful microscopic world of quantum mechanics, exploring how it is behind both the large scale structure of the universe and the fundamental processes of life. This is a guide to answering one of the biggest mysteries of all—how did we get here?

Episode 1, The Power of Uncertainty
Jim first explores how the famous uncertainty principle of quantum physics was discovered. He dives into an extraordinary period scientific creativity in the first half of the 20th century. At this time, thanks to geniuses like Albert Einstein, Max Planck and Paul Dirac, the strange laws of quantum mechanics were uncovered. One consequence of this was the revelation that it’s impossible to know for certain what’s happening in the microscopic world at subatomic scales. This then led to the idea that the vacuum, nothingness itself, far from being empty, was in fact seething with energy. In the second half of this film, Jim explores the origins of our universe and discovers an unexpected connection between the microscopic and the macroscopic—it turns that the energy fluctuations of the vacuum are the seeds of the galaxies that make up our universe.

Episode 2, From Simple to Complex
Jim continues his quest to uncover how complicated living organisms can come to exist in our universe. He starts with the story of how we came to learn that universe is vastly bigger than anything we’d ever imagined. Rather than consisting of just the Milky Way galaxy where the earth resides, it consists of trillions more galaxies. So, though life is unlikely, the universe is big enough for it to happen. Jim then returns to earth and investigates another mind-blowing consequence of quantum physics. This is the idea known as “quantum tunnelling”. It means that subatomic particles can mysteriously disappear in one place and appear other. Astonishingly, it’s possible that just such strange behaviour could have led to the creation of DNA molecules—the blueprint for all life on earth. In the final part of this film, Jim shows how the strange laws of chaos theory allowed very simple systems of cells to become complicated creatures like us!

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