Watch Wonders of the Universe season 1 episode 4 (S01E04)
In the last episode of Professor Brian Cox's epic journey across the universe, he travels from the fossils of the Burgess Shale to the sands of the oldest desert in the world to show how light holds the key to our understanding of the whole universe, including our own deepest origins.
To understand how light holds the key to the story of the universe, you first have to understand its peculiar properties. Brian considers how the properties of light that lend colour to desert sands and the spectrum of a rainbow can lead to profound insights into the history and evolution of our universe.
Finally, with some of the world's most fascinating fossils in hand, Brian considers how but for an apparently obscure moment in the early evolutionary history of life, all the secrets of light may have remained hidden. Because although the universe is bathed in light that carries extraordinary amounts of information about where we come from, it would have remained invisible without a crucial evolutionary development that allowed us to see. Only because of that development can we now observe, capture and contemplate the incredible wonders of the universe that we inhabit.
Watch Wonders of the Universe season 1 episode 3 (S01E03)
In the third episode, Professor Brian Cox takes on the story of the force that sculpts the entire universe - gravity.
Gravity seems so familiar, and yet it is one of the strangest and most surprising forces in the universe. Starting with a zero gravity flight, Brian experiences the feeling of total weightlessness, and considers how much of an effect gravity has had on the world around us.
But gravity also acts over much greater distances. It is the great orchestrator of the cosmos. It dictates our orbit around the sun, our relationship with the other planets in our solar system, and even the way in which our solar system orbits our galaxy.
Yet the paradox of gravity is that it is actually a relatively weak force. Brian takes a face distorting trip in a centrifuge to explain how it is that gravity achieves its great power, before looking at the role it plays in one of the most extraordinary phenomena in the universe - a neutron star. Although it is just a few kilometres across, it is so dense that its gravity is 100, 000 million times as strong as on Earth.
Over the centuries our quest to understand gravity has allowed us to understand some of the true wonders of the universe, and Brian reveals that it is scientists' continuing search for answers that inspires his own sense of wonder.
Watch Wonders of the Universe season 1 episode 2 (S01E02)
In this episode, Cox discusses the elements of which all living things, including humans, are made. He explores the beginnings of the universe and the origins of humanity, going far back in time to look at the process of stellar evolution. He explains how these basic elements are related to the life cycles of the stars and the recycling of matter in the Universe, touching down in Katmandu and Rio de Janeiro.
Watch Wonders of the Universe season 1 episode 1 (S01E01)
In this episode, Brian seeks to understand the nature of time and its role in creating both the universe and ourselves.
From an extraordinary calendar built into the landscape of Peru to the beaches of Costa Rica, Brian explores the cycles of time which define our experience of life on Earth. But even the most epic cycles of life can't begin to compare to the vast expanse of cosmic time.
For instance, just as the Earth orbits the Sun, the solar system orbits the entire Milky Way galaxy. This orbit takes a staggering 250 million years to complete.
Ultimately, Brian discovers that time is not characterised by repetition but by irreversible change. From the relentless march of a glacier, to the decay of an old mining town, the ravaging effects of time are all around us. The vast universe is subject to these same laws of change. As we look out to the cosmos, we can see the story of its evolution unfold, from the death of the first stars to the birth of the youngest. This journey from birth to death will ultimately lead to the destruction not just of our planet, but also the entire universe, and with it the end of time itself.
Yet without this inevitable destruction, the universe would be without what is perhaps the greatest wonder of all; the brief moment in time in which life can exist.