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Television: Pick of the week

The Experimenter

BBC2 Tuesday, November 19, 11.30-11.50am

This science and technology series for seven-to-nine-year olds has now reached the four episodes on materials (available on one video). As usual, Sarah has help from her alien friend in conducting experiments with a cake, to show the effects of heat, mending a monster (paper, clay and plastic) and other work on the properties of materials.

Horizon: Stone Age Columbus

BBC2 Thursday, November 21, 9-9.50pm.

Horizon examines the notion that humans travelled from south west Europe to North America during the Ice Age, more than 15,000 years ago, and concludes with a resounding verdict in favour. The evidence comes in the form of axe heads and other artefacts, plus DNA. But, even with all that in front of them, many viewers might still remain sceptical. After all, if you were a Stone Age inhabitant of the Dordogne, would it really occur to you to paddle across the Atlantic in a skin canoe without a map? The modern Inuit helps to provide some of the arguments for the plausibility of the hypothesis and make this an absorbing film both for ancient prehistory and modern geography.

Science in Action

BBC2 November 19-21, 2-4am

Science is the featured curriculum area for the next two weeks on BBC2 (for overnight recording), with five programmes from the series Science in Action. The three being broadcast this week are on life processes, materials and physical processes, covering everything from microbes and photosynthesis, to gravity, friction and linear motion, via elements, compounds and states of matter. In each case, the topic involves the appliance of science in real-life situations. Videos, teachers' notes and further materials are available on or through the BBC website.

Film Focus

C4 Thursdays, November 21 and 28, 10-10.25am

This two-parter for 14-17-year olds looks at the films of Baz Luhrmann, opening with his touching romance, Strictly Ballroom. However, it is his version of Romeo and Juliet, that will make this of interest to teachers of English as well as those of media studies. How did Luhrmann set about transposing the tragic love story from medieval Verona, Italy, to modern Verona Beach, USA, while retaining Shakespeare's language? And does the mixture of Bard, candles and Di Caprio work? Both parts are now available on video (pound;19.99), together with The Making of a Blockbuster, which analyses all the stages in production of the James Bond film, The World Is Not Enough.

The Wild Child

Discovery Channel Monday, November 18, 9.35-10.35pm

Cases of feral children - who grow up without human care, sometimes in the company of animals - are extremely rare (fortunately, unless you happen to be a behavioural scientist). The most famous is that of Victor, the French boy discovered in 1800 living with wolves, who was the subject of detailed study by a physician, Dr Itard, which made the basis of Francois Truffaut's film L'Enfant sauvage. But there have been a number of cases since then, including Genie, an American girl so grossly neglected by her mother that at 13 she was unable to speak. Sadly, these examples tend to reinforce the idea that there are critical periods in human life, after which children lose forever the ability to acquire certain skills, notably language. Modern techniques of scanning show that there are marked physical differences in the brains of those who have suffered extreme neglect. This fascinating enquiry into the subject asks fundamental questions about what makes us human.

For full schedules: olswhatsontvindex.shtml

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