Forces of Nature with Brian Cox

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The Pale Blue Dot

Series 1 - Episode 4 The Pale Blue Dot



“The earth is painted by photons that rain down on us from the sun,” purrs Brian Cox. It’s a Cox-ian way of putting it – poetic, yes, but with sciencey heft, too, because the programme goes on to explain how those photons spark into life and how that fires up the colours we see (and those we don’t).

That means those five-year-old-child questions like “why is the sea blue?” are answered once and for all – via Cox scuba-diving in Iceland – along with why grass is green and why the (beautifully filmed) northern lights do what they do.

Then there are the pretty vignettes Cox scatters like baubles to draw us through his story. Most striking this week is the tale of a blind child in rural Bangladesh having an operation to remove his cataracts. It feels almost like a charity promo film, but the sight of a boy laughing as he sees for the first time is still extraordinary.


The physicist concludes his journey by examining the effects of light interacting with the Earth, travelling to Iceland to witness a moonbow - the band of colours released when moonbeams are refracted by the spray of a waterfall. He then visits the site of an enormous outpouring of lava to explain why hot things glow red, and reveals how the different colours of light energy from the sun transform the plains of the Serengeti in Tanzania and drive the migration of humpback whales to the Caribbean each year. Last in the series.

Cast & Crew

Presenter Professor Brian Cox
Director Stephen Cooter
Executive Producer Andrew Cohen
Producer Stephen Cooter
Series Producer Danielle Peck