From the Editor
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Andrew Cohen took over the editorship of Horizon in May 2005. Since then, Horizon has been evolving. Take a look at Andrew's ideas for the strand and find out what our broadband site is all about.
Horizon has been on air for 42 years. Where does the series go from here?
For something that has been around for 42 years, it's always got to evolve and change and invigorate itself. And I think that over the last year that's what we tried to do.
The important thing about Horizon - and this hasn't changed throughout its history is that we are just trying to take the most interesting, the most contemporary, the most, sort of, sometimes controversial scientific ideas and take them to as wide an audience as possible. And as television has evolved over the years, so has Horizon.
Horizon was one of the first places to do drama-documentary, sort of combining science and drama with life story. Many series have been born from experiments that take place on Horizon.
SIR LAWRENCE BRAGG
Can someone tell me what Crick and Watson are up to?
They're building a model of DNA.
SIR LAWRENCE BRAGG
I don't know anything about DNA.
I think it's one of Crick's hunches.
SIR LAWRENCE BRAGG
I don't like it, Crick should be getting on with his PhD thesis.
And so all I'm trying to do now, is to find new forms, new ways of making science documentaries and that means that we may be taking the same content but we're trying to deliver it in a way that feels new and invigorating.
Science and scientists
How sciencey should a science series be? How do we want to portray scientists?
Horizon isn't a programme that is made for scientists or people who already have an interest in science only, what we're trying to do is make the films as accessible as possible but still keeping the content and the material that we think is important to communicate at the very core of the films.
One of the things that we're trying to do is to - rather than interviewing scientists and just squeezing them into films, I think to understand actually what they're talking about you have to understand them as people a little bit more. So generally in the way that we're making the films, we are allowing more freedom to really spend time with these people and to get an idea of what makes them tick. And I think that if we get that right, that really helps you understand what they're trying to say even more, I think gives you the rounded picture.
In 27 years the number of Solar System objects had grown from only 2000 to over 120,000.
We really are in bad shape, I would say, and it's really rather ridiculous to consider four people trying to cover the whole subject. We are going to crack one of these days because we are going to revolt and decide we aren't going to work eighty, a hundred hours a week. If all of us did it then, then clearly the place would crack of course. That would be the day somebody would find something heading straight at us and it would come maybe on a Friday evening, a long holiday weekend. Nobody would know about it until Tuesday morning unless of course it hit the earth on Sunday and nobody saw it coming.
What is the Horizon broadband site all about? What can I expect from it?
You'll be able to really engage with a subject that you've seen or haven't seen on television. It's really using the fact that this is a way of navigating around material that's completely different to watching a 50-minute television documentary.
One of the things to do when you get on an aeroplane, isn't just to do your seat belt up, but particularly I think when the cabin crew demonstrate how to do it, have a go at doing it...
It just enables us to use material in a different way, it enables us to shoot material in a different way. So the package you see is not just sort of what ends up on the cutting room floor, it's what we're trying to make into an experience.
What's really wonderful about the broadband site, particularly for someone who has worked around Horizon for so many years now, is the fact that we can finally go back to that archive and start getting material available for people to look at. And that will be something that builds up over the months and years to come, where we get more and more of the Horizon archive onto the site.
And one of the most exciting things is that we're going to have material that is specifically designed for you to interact with on the broadband site, and that it's shot, and it's cut just for it to appear on the broadband site which I think is a very exciting development for us.
From the Editor
Have a listen to Andrew's thoughts on some of the films on air this autumn.
Chimps are People too
'Chimps are People too' is presented by Danny Wallace, a non-scientist. Why go down this route?
So here's the thing, right. I don't want to sound petulant about this but it does seem as if my new colleagues in the world of scientific research aren't really on side, it's slightly frustrating. It just seems like everytime I say anything to them, you know I can say, "Chimps, do they have culture?" And they'll say, "Yes, yes, Danny they do." And I'll say, "Do they have language?" And they'll say, "Yes, yes Danny, they have language." And I say, "Well, does that make them people then?" And they say, "No, Danny, you're clearly insane!" And I'm back to square one. I'll be honest, I don't really know what my next move should be...
Horizon has very occasionally had presenters before but never really used them as laymen rather than as professionals. So we've used scientists in the past to be guides, but, it felt like a chance to attack a subject that has been covered before but in a completely new way, and to essentially send Danny on a mission to challenge the scientists and to, for him to look and to see as a non-scientist, what the conclusions he would come to.
And so it's a very different way of approaching material that we have dealt with over the years but I think it's a very thought-provoking way of approaching it, and really divides people in how they react to the idea - are chimps people or aren't chimps people. Some people just say that's completely ridiculous and how can you possibly say chimps are people, and actually, the evidence points maybe somewhere in a greyer area.
'Human v2.0' imagines life in 20-30 years time. What happens when you ask scientists to look into the future?
Films like Human v2.0 - some of that content is incredibly complicated, but the essence of the film is really simple. And it's about saying that in 20 or 30 years time computers are going to be as powerful as the human brain, if not more powerful. What is that going to mean for human life?
I believe my children's children are going to be able to in the future download their thoughts, store their memories and interface with machines...
And it's amazing when you actually take the shackles of scientists in terms of just things that are going on now and the predictions that they make are really extraordinary. Some of them are quite scary, some of them are quite funny, but all of them have these, sort of, visions that essentially mean our life, human life is going to completely change in the next 30 years.
Pandemic: Case Zero
'Pandemic 2007' investigates what might happen during a bird flu pandemic. Is this film just scaremongering?
Take a film like pandemic - I think it will be a chance for people to understand for the very first time what it will mean if there is a bird flu pandemic. And it is, you know, deadly serious and something that I think has affected all of us in the making of this film and something that I think people will be quite surprised about.
Just try to breathe slowly..
I can't.. I can't..
They're gonna fix you up at the hospital...
You can think of an influenza infection as a sort of war. But this is a war that takes place over hours to days. The body attempts to stall the enemy, the virus. It causes the membranes in our cells, particularly the cells lining the lungs to become leaky and for fluid to come out of the bloodstream and into the air sacs. We can't eat, we can't drink and eventually we can't breathe...
There has been an awful lot of scaremongering in the press, and so we've taken a long time to go through all of the available research and data to work out exactly what the best predictions are, what will happen if bird flu does turn into a pandemic flu virus.