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Unlocking the Universe

Unlocking the Universe

  • Premiered: 
    January 21, 2010
    (Click date to see TV listings for that day)

  • Network: BBC4
  • Category: Series
  • Genre: Documentary
  • Type: Live Action
  • Concept: 
  • Subject Matter: Historical
  • Tags: science

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Plot Synopsis

Host Jim Al-Khalili, a professor of theoretical physics, covers the entire history of the elements in three one-hour episodes, unravelling the stories of the chemical pioneers who plumbed their secrets and moved us into the modern age. Al-Khalili starts with the ancients who believed that earth, wind, water and fire were the four basic elements and the alchemists who even questioned the notion of elements. In the second hour, Al-Khalili tells the stories of 19th century chemists -- Boyle, Lavoisier, Mendeleev and many others -- who first showed the existence of atoms and elements and then created order out of the seemingly chaotic arrays of elements by developing the Periodic Table of the Elements. Finally, Al-Khalili jumps into the 20th and 21st centuries, showing how chemists have battled to control and combine elements while other scientists have attempted to command the extreme forces of nature and create brand new elements. Science aired the U.S. premiere of this series on Monday, July 25, 2011 at 8pm ET, showing all three episodes on the same night.

Other Titles

  • Aired in the UK with the title Chemistry: A Volatile History