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The Human Spark

What is the nature of human uniqueness? Where did "The Human Spark" ignite, and when? And perhaps most tantalizingly, why? In this three-part series, Alan Alda takes these questions personally, visiting with dozens of scientists on three continents, and participating directly in many experiments - including the detailed examination of his own brain. Bringing his trademark humor and curiosity to face-to-face conversations with leading researchers, he seeks "The Human Spark" - from archaeologists finding clues in the fossilized bones and tools of our ancestors; to primatologists studying our nearest living relatives to explore what we have in common and what sets us apart; to neuroscientists peering into his mind with the latest brain scanning technologies.

Episode 1 - Becoming Us
Where and when did the Human Spark first ignite? Alan Alda confronts the puzzle of why our ancestors got the Spark and evolved into us, while the first humans to leave Africa for Europe - the Neanderthals - never did.

Episode 2 - So Human, So Chimp
Alan Alda joins researchers studying our fellow apes - mainly chimpanzees, our closest living relatives - to discover both what we share with them, and what we have that has evolved since we went our separate ways.

Episode 3 - Brain Matters
Alan Alda gets a highly detailed scan of his brain. This image is the starting point for a search within his brain - as well as the brains of others - for the essential components of the Human Spark.


Related Links
Walking with Cavemen
This talks about the story of human evolution from Australopithecus afarensis to Homo sapiens.
Becoming Human: Unearthing Our Earliest Ancestors
This is a three-part NOVA's documentary series investigating the recent discoveries transforming our understanding of our human origins.
Planet of the Apemen: Battle for Earth
This film tells the story of how Homo sapiens once shared the Earth with other species of hominid, and how, against all the odds, we survived.
Origins of Us
This is a BBC documentary series presented by Dr. Alice Roberts, showing how we evolved away from our ape cousins to become the adaptable, successful species we are today.
The Great Human Odyssey
This is a three-part CBC documentary series hosted by anthropologist Niobe Thompson, exploring the unlikely survival and the miraculous emergence of Homo sapiens as the world's only global species.
First Peoples
First Peoples is a five-part PBS documentary series about how Homo Sapiens migrated across the continents and populated the Earth.
Evolution
At a dig in South Africa the discovery of a small piece of ochre pigment, 70,000 years old, has raised some very interesting questions.