Wonders of Life

Expanding Universe

Series 1 - Episode 2 Expanding Universe



If you like octopuses – and if not, why not? – be sure to catch the latter stages of this instalment as Brian Cox scuba dives off Florida with some splendid ones. There is one shot as we drift up to a big clump of seaweed and suddenly – whoomf! – part of it changes colour and an indignant octopus materialises before our eyes, squirts some ink and shoots off.

They are the smartest of the invertebrates, Cox tells us, with about as many brain cells as dogs – they’ve been known to use tools, for instance. This is all part of Cox’s dissertation on sensing: how organisms gather information about the world to help them survive. It’s a subject that takes him from hugging a massive catfish to making his own eye.


Professor Brian Cox travels across America encountering a diverse range of creatures that reveal how the senses evolved. In Kentucky, he explains how microscopic single-celled organism the paramecium can orientate itself through touch alone, and that catfish build a picture of their murky river environment through the taste buds that cover their bodies. Investigating the eyes of octopuses, Brian finds a link between the ability to process sensory data and intelligence, which may be evidence that humans evolved large brains in order to make sense of what they could see.

Cast & Crew

Presenter Brian Cox
Director Michael Lachmann
Producer Michael Lachmann
Series Producer James Van der Pool