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Neanderthal Apocalypse

   2015    History
40,000 years ago the steppes of Eurasia were home to our closest human relative, the Neanderthals. Recent genetic and archaeological discoveries have proven that they were not the dim-witted cave dwellers we long thought they were. In fact, they were cultured, technologically savvy and more like us than we ever imagined! So why did they disappear? We accompany scientists on an exciting search for an answer to this question and come to a startling conclusion... A climate change due to a cataclysmic event.

One Voice in the Cosmic Fugue

   1980    Science
Sagan discusses the story of the Heike crab and artificial selection of crabs resembling samurai warriors, as an opening into a larger discussion of evolution through natural selection (and the pitfalls of intelligent design). Among the topics are the development of life on the Cosmic Calendar and the Cambrian explosion; the function of DNA in growth; genetic replication, repairs, and mutation; the common biochemistry of terrestrial organisms; the creation of the molecules of life in the Miller-Urey experiment; and speculation on alien life (such as life in Jupiter's clouds). In the Cosmos Update ten years later, Sagan remarks on RNA also controlling chemical reactions and reproducing itself and the different roles of comets (potentially carrying organic molecules or causing the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event).
Series: Cosmos

Weapons of Mass Extinction

   2014    Nature
Asteroids strike, planets collide, black holes blast out death rays, volcanoes erupt and ice engulfs the planet. These are the universe's weapons of extinction. They've happened before - wiping out entire species, and they will happen again. Are we next?
Series: How the Universe Works

The Survivors

   2006    Nature
Some 65 million years ago, the dinosaurs were wiped out when their gene machines failed to cope with the cataclysmic changes that followed a comet's collision with Earth. But with extinction came new life, and surviving mammals evolved to seize the territory left vacant by the vanquished. The concluding episode explores the factors that make winners and losers in the game of life, and poses the question: Who will triumph in the long run?
Series: Triumph of Life

The Lost Worlds of Planet Earth

   2014    Science
This episode explores the palaeogeography of Earth over millions of years, and its impact on the development of life on the planet. Tyson starts by explaining that the lignin-rich trees evolved in the Carboniferous era about 300 million ago, then explains on the nature of plate tectonics that would shape the landmasses of the world and the asteroid impact that initiated the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event, leaving small mammals as the dominate species on earth. Earth's landmasses are expected to change in the future and postulates what may be the next great extinction event.
Series: Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey

Worst Days on Planet Earth

   2011    Nature    3D
Earth may seem like the most hospitable planet in the solar system. But look again. Startling new discoveries reveal the blue planet has been plagued by more chaos and destruction than scientists once imagined. Stand on the Earth billions of years ago as a primitive planet called Theia slams into it. Shiver as our entire globe is frozen over like a gigantic snowball. Feel the heat as mammoth volcanoes scorch the landscape and darken the sky. From a cosmic gamma ray burst frying away the ozone layer to an Everest-size asteroid slamming into the ocean, we'll reveal new information about how these unparalleled events drove life to the brink of total extinction. Out of this continuous devastation, how has our planet--and life--got to where it is today? Are the worst days behind us--or lurking in the distant future?
Series: The Universe