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Revolutions: The Ideas that Changed the World

Series 1

The Car

Duration: 59 minutes

First broadcast: on BBC FourLatest broadcast: on BBC Four HD

'Like it or not, the car defines not just what we are able to do, but in many cases who we think we are.'

Jim Al-Khalili investigates how our innate drive to explore mobilised humanity and gave us the ultimate freedom machine, the car. Based on new research, he peers inside the original notebooks and sketches of the visionaries who, whether knowingly or not, risked death, poverty and ridicule to advance our species’ progression, bringing these stories to life using state of the art experiments, breathtaking drama and CGI.

It begins with a 9,000-year-old human settlement, 200 miles north of Siberia, where archaeologists have uncovered the earliest evidence of dogs. Those hunter-settlers had domesticated the European grey wolf in order to survive, breeding them to pull their sleds.

Dog sleds marked the beginning of powered transportation 6,000 years before the wheeled cart mobilised the rest of humankind, but that next step was not down to the invention of the wheel. We learn that it was to a revolution in metalwork and the introduction of the bronze chisel, which made the wheel and axle possible.

The car’s story is one of necessity, opportunity and survival. We experience biblical floods and the destruction of English mines. We recreate experiments that went horribly wrong. There are backfiring cannons and mutilated sailors. And there is the story of an obsessive Scottish genius who made the first precision man-made machine. All this leads us to the disastrous story of Carl Benz, regarded as the inventor of the motor car. Only, he could not sell a single one and plunged into depression. That is until his wife Bertha went on a secret expedition and transformed the motor car into something people wanted.
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Jim Al-Khalili
Interviewed Guest:
Alice Roberts
Interviewed Guest:
Danny Forster
Interviewed Guest:
Robert Hurford
Interviewed Guest:
Jutta Kleinschmidt
Interviewed Guest:
Jay Leno
Interviewed Guest:
Chris Geddes
Interviewed Guest:
Richard Kaner
Executive Producer:
Iain Riddick
Executive Producer:
Ben Bowie
Nat Sharman

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