Starting with the first episode, ‘Planes’, we’re taking a look at this fascinating TV series, a co-production between BBC Four and PBS. What we found most interesting about Revolutions was how it frames the stories around humanity’s journey to the discoveries – it shows that our technological advances are much more deep rooted than we might imagine.

It takes more than one mind to change the world”, says Jim Al-Khalili, professor of theoretical physics, author and broadcaster, and presenter of the series. Indeed, these thought-provoking programmes explore how humanity has come together to break new ground.

The central theme the series turns on is the realisation that technology has changed our understanding of ourselves as uniquely intelligent. Our capacity for knowledge and learning has opened up new worlds of possibility in the way we live our lives.

It takes more than one mind to change the world

Jim Al-Khalili, professor, author and broadcaster
Across the episodes, Jim Al-Khalili tells the story of six “inventions that define our age“: aeroplanes, cars, rockets, smartphones, telescopes and robots. Each in their own way representing a cornerstone of both technological and social advancement.

What’s particularly interesting in this investigation is that these are not moments in time or peaks out of the blue. They’re backed by thousands of years of human history, which serve to put these epic discoveries in context. Technology is seen not as an ‘other’, but inherently human.

The first episode is ‘Planes’. It begins with our ancient obsession with being bound by gravity and brings us to the ubiquitous and seemingly everyday normality of these juggernauts of transportation.

But the journey meanders through a succession of tiny yet essential revolutions; via kites, Leonardo da Vinci, seagulls and scholars, the SS Great Britain and a mountain in Arizona.

What each tale does is make our path to discovery seem predefined and inevitable. They set out how our incurable curiosity has created technology to allow us to reach heights long dreamed of.

Revolutions: The Idea That Changed The World is available on BBC iPlayer.

Posted by:Sophie Sabin

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