Planet Knowledge

Planet Knowledge is a free to watch video on demand channel on Freeview HD, Youview and Smart TV’s – On channel 265. Also available for all leading smartphones and tablets using iOS and Android.

Latest Shows

The Weather Business

From what we eat to how we travel; the cost of our clothes, energy bills and council tax, even the medicines chemists stock and the sporting events we attend, our climate impacts them all. With unique and unprecedented access to the UK Met Offices Exeter Headquarters at its busiest time of the year, The Weather Business follows the work of its staff; from the call centre to the forecasters, the super computer to the aviation desk, the meteorologists working on-site with customers to the press officers holding the fort at the HQ and gain an unparalleled insight into the vital role that the Met Office plays in the lives of individual and business nation-wide.


Episode Length: 00:24:00

Year: 2015

Episodes: 4


 

My Saga

My Saga follows the journey of Adam Harris, who several years ago was struck down with a brain tumour, and transformed something tragic into something positive. With the love of his family and his passion for Star Wars, he overcame this adversity to be given a chance to live a dream with his son, Jack Anakin Harris. This father and son have now embarked on a journey together to explore the bonds between generations of fans, as they document and experience the build up to the release of Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens.


Episode Length: 01:00:00

Year: 2018

Episodes: 1


 

A face for Lucy’s ancestor

Researchers discover remarkably complete 3.8-million-year-old cranium of Australopithecus anamensis at Woranso-Mille in Ethiopia.

The 3.8 million-year-old fossil cranium represents a time interval between 4.1 and 3.6 million years ago, when A. anamensis gave rise to A. afarensis. Researchers used morphological features of the cranium to identify which species the fossil represents. “Features of the upper jaw and canine tooth were fundamental in determining that MRD was attributable to A. anamensis“, said Melillo. “It is good to finally be able to put a face to the name.” The MRD cranium, together with other fossils previously known from the Afar, show that A. anamensisand A. afarensis co-existed for approximately 100,000 years. This temporal overlap challenges the widely-accepted idea of a linear transition between these two early human ancestors. Haile-Selassie said: “This is a game changer in our understanding of human evolution during the Pliocene.”

Working for the past 15 years at the site, the team discovered the cranium (MRD-VP-1/1, here referred to as “MRD”) in February 2016. In the years following their discovery, paleoanthropologists of the project conducted extensive analyses of MRD, while project geologists worked on determining the age and context of the specimen. The results of the team’s findings are published online in two papers in the international scientific journal Nature.

Discovery of the cranium

The Woranso-Mille project has been conducting field research in the central Afar region of Ethiopia since 2004. The project has collected more than 12,600 fossil specimens representing about 85 mammalian species. The fossil collection includes about 230 fossil hominin specimens dating to between more than 3.8 and about 3.0 million years ago. The first piece of MRD, the upper jaw, was found by Ali Bereino (a local Afar worker) on February 10, 2016 at a locality known as Miro Dora, Mille district of the Afar Regional State. The specimen was exposed on the surface and further investigation of the area resulted in the recovery of the rest of the cranium. “I couldn’t believe my eyes when I spotted the rest of the cranium. It was a eureka moment and a dream come true”, said Haile-Selassie.

Geology and age determination

In a companion paper published in the same issue of Nature, Beverly Saylor of Case Western Reserve University and her colleagues determined the age of the fossil as 3.8 million years by dating minerals in layers of volcanic rocks nearby. They mapped the dated levels to the fossil site using field observations and the chemistry and magnetic properties of rock layers. Saylor and her colleagues combined the field observations with analysis of microscopic biological remains to reconstruct the landscape, vegetation and hydrology where MRD died.

MRD was found in the sandy deposits of a delta where a river entered a lake. The river likely originated in the highlands of the Ethiopian plateau while the lake developed at lower elevations where rift activity caused the Earth surface to stretch and thin, creating the lowlands of the Afar region. Fossil pollen grains and chemical remains of fossil plant and algae that are preserved in the lake and delta sediments provide clues about the ancient environmental conditions. Specifically they indicate that the watershed of the lake was mostly dry but that there were also forested areas on the shores of the delta or along the side the river that fed the delta and lake system. “MRD lived near a large lake in a region that was dry. We’re eager to conduct more work in these deposits to understand the environment of the MRD specimen, the relationship to climate change and how it affected human evolution, if at all”, said Naomi Levin, a co-author on the study from University of Michigan.

A new face in the crowd

Australopithecus anamensis is the oldest known member of the genus Australopithecus. Due to the cranium’s rare near-complete state, the researchers identified never-before-seen facial features in the species. “MRD has a mix of primitive and derived facial and cranial features that I didn’t expect to see on a single individual”, Haile-Selassie said. Some characteristics were shared with later species, while others had more in common with those of even older and more primitive early human ancestor groups such as Ardipithecus and Sahelanthropus. “Until now, we had a big gap between the earliest-known human ancestors, which are about 6 million years old, and species like ‘Lucy’, which are two to three million years old. One of the most exciting aspects of this discovery is how it bridges the morphological space between these two groups”, said Melillo.

Branching out

Among the most important findings was the team’s conclusion that A. anamensis and its descendant species, the well-known A. afarensis, coexisted for a period of at least 100,000 years. This finding contradicts the long-held notion of an anagenetic relationship between these two taxa, instead supporting a branching pattern of evolution. Melillo explains: “We used to think that A. anamensis gradually turned into A. afarensis over time. We still think that these two species had an ancestor-descendent relationship, but this new discovery suggests that the two species were actually living together in the Afar for quite some time. It changes our understanding of the evolutionary process and brings up new questions – were these animals competing for food or space?”

This conclusion is based on the assignment of the 3.8-million-year-old MRD to A. anamensisand the 3.9-million-year-old hominin cranial fragment commonly known as the Belohdelie frontal, to A. afarensis. The Belohdelie frontal was discovered in the Middle Awash of Ethiopia by a team of paleontologists in 1981, but its taxonomic status has been questioned in the intervening years.

The new MRD cranium enabled the researchers to characterize frontal morphology in A. anamensis for the first time and to recognize that these features differed from the morphology common to the Belohdelie frontal and to other cranial specimens already known for Lucy’s species. As a result, the new study confirms that the Belohdelie frontal belonged to an individual of Lucy’s species. This identification extends the earliest record of A. afarensisback to 3.9 million years ago, while the discovery of MRD nudges the last appearance date of A. anamensis forward to 3.8 million years – indicating the overlap period of at least 100,000 years.

MAX PLANCK INSTITUTE FOR EVOLUTIONARY ANTHROPOLOGY

Header Image – The cranium was discovered in 2016 at Miro Dora, Mille district of the Afar Regional State in Ethiopia. Credit : Yohannes Haile-Selassie, Cleveland Museum of Natural History

The beginnings of trade in NW Europe during the Bronze Age

People in England were using balance weights and scales to measure the value of materials as early as the late second and early first millennia BC. This is what Professor Lorenz Rahmstorf, scientist at the University of Göttingen and project manager of the ERC “Weight and Value” project, has discovered.

He compared Middle and Late Bronze Age gold objects from the British Isles and Northern France and found that they were based on the same unit of weight. This confirmed the hypothesis of the research team of the project that there was already expertise in using standard weights and measures in many regions of Europe at that time. The results were published in the journal Antiquity.

Until now, it had often been assumed that trade during the Bronze Age in northwestern Europe was primarily socially embedded – for example as in the exchange of gifts. The existence of precise units of measurement, however, enabled people even at that time to compare exact ratios of material values of different goods such as metals, possibly also wool and grain.

They were also able to calculate profits, to create currencies and to save up measurable quantities of metal. “Obviously, the exchange was already based on the economic interests of trading partners,” explains Rahmstorf, director of the Institute for Prehistory and Early History at the University of Göttingen. “So it is clear we are talking about real trade.”

What is surprising about the statistical analysis of the unit of weight that has been identified, is that it is very nicely compatible and possibly even identical with the dominant East Mediterranean weight of that time. This would be an indication that knowledge about standard weights and measures has been widely disseminated and possibly passed on through travelling traders.

It was already known that people in the technologically advanced, literate cultures of the Eastern Mediterranean and Western Asia – for example Greece, Egypt or Mesopotamia – used such weights and scales as an aid. However, these findings now indicate that such value measurement systems already existed in many if not all parts of prehistoric Bronze Age Europe. “The results of our research show that we have so far underestimated the complexity of the early commercial transactions during the Bronze Age in Europe,” said Rahmstorf.

UNIVERSITY OF GÖTTINGEN

Header Image Credit : Gold flange twisted spiral torc (around 15cm long; 367.1 g) from Castlemount, Dover, Kent, England. – British Museum

The Immortals

A fascinating profile of athletes who’ve lead their sports to new levels of performance and entertainment. The series covers the greats from sports including football, golf, tennis, athletics and boxing. These titans demonstrate how their sport can be beautiful.


Episode Length: 00:26:00
Year: 2018
Episodes: 29


This documentary is available to watch for FREE on Planet Knowledge, a free to watch video on demand channel on Freeview HD (Channel 265), Youview, Samsung connected TV’s, selected smart TV’s, tablets and smartphones using Android or iOS.

  

Julius Baer: The Business of Formula E

A series of five beautifully shot, high-end documentaries that appeal to both motor sport fans and mainstream audiences alike covering inception and growth of the most exciting Motorsports series around.


Episode Length: 00:26:00
Year: 2017
Episodes: 5


This documentary is available to watch for FREE on Planet Knowledge, a free to watch video on demand channel on Freeview HD (Channel 265), Youview, Samsung connected TV’s, selected smart TV’s, tablets and smartphones using Android or iOS.

  

Shocking Lives

Perspectives on unusual experiences show love and hope can be found in unexpected places.


Episode Length: 00:45:00
Year: 2013
Episodes: 3


This documentary is available to watch for FREE on Planet Knowledge, a free to watch video on demand channel on Freeview HD (Channel 265), Youview, Samsung connected TV’s, selected smart TV’s, tablets and smartphones using Android or iOS.

  

Inside Man

Morgan Spurlock investigates intriguing topics of our times by digging deep to learn how the real story unfolds from the inside.


Episode Length: 00:45:00
Year: 2013
Episodes: 8


This documentary is available to watch for FREE on Planet Knowledge, a free to watch video on demand channel on Freeview HD (Channel 265), Youview, Samsung connected TV’s, selected smart TV’s, tablets and smartphones using Android or iOS.

  

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