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After Life - The Strange Science of Decay

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School Bd/College/University DVD: $149

Subjects: Biology, Science

Grade Level: JrH-Adult
Producer: BBC
Closed Captioned: No
Running Time: 50 mins
Country of Origin: Great Britain
Study Guide: No

Copyright Date: 2011
Available in French: No

The ability of nature to decay and recycle is fundamental to all life on Earth. Discover one of nature’s most important processes: decomposition.

For two months in summer 2011, a glass box containing a typical kitchen and garden was left to rot in full public view within Edinburgh Zoo. In this resulting documentary, presenter Dr George McGavin and his team use time-lapse cameras and specialist photography to capture the extraordinary way in which moulds, microbes and insects are able to break down our everyday things and allow new life to emerge from old.

The film reveals the incredible science of taphonomy, discovering what happens to organic matter as it starts to decompose. Whole new ecosystems of life invade, each more bizarre, richer and more complex than you would ever expect.

Discover the micro organisms involved in turning milk sour – lactobacillus; what makes meat smell – pseudomonas; and what makes fruit and vegetables go that velvety grey – botrytis cinerea.

Microbiology gives us insight into the part played by bacteria, yeasts and fungi. Biochemistry reveals how the chemical processes in living organisms cause change. Entymology reveals the vital role of insects in the great cycle of decay. The film also explores the incredible sciences behind preservation, from new food packaging and chemical additives to UV radiation and osmotic pressures.

Beautifully shot and in unprecedented detail, After Life watches the familiar turn into something so fantastically alien it’s hard to believe we share the same world. Time-lapse photography and sophisticated 3-D imaging techniques visualise a journey through the heart of decay, revealing what happens in a way not available to the naked eye – from the towering branches of Aspergillus mould that sprouts from the surface of an orange to the spread of slime mould across a loaf of bread.

Links: www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b012w66t

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