Remember that awesome Wonders of Life series trailer I reblogged from Metousiosis a while back? Well, unbeknownst to me, the show, featuring Professor Brian Cox, has already started playing on The Science Channel! I discovered this by accident when I stumbled across a replay of the “Endless Forms Most Beautiful” episode early this morning, just in time to see the part reflected in this amazing clip:
Isn’t that just freakin amazing? And what a stroke of luck it was to find that clip so easily!
However, it was what professor Cox said next that made my jaw drop! Sadly, I wasn’t able to find a clip for that part. But I thought it absolutely worth the effort to piece together his statement from a Wonders of Life: Preview Subtitles page (bold emphasis mine):
“Mutations are an inevitable part of living on a planet like Earth. They’re the first hint at how DNA and the genes that code for every living thing change from generation to generation. Mutations are the spring from which innovation in the living world flows. But cosmic rays are not the only way in which DNA can be altered. There’s natural background radiation from the rocks, there’s the action of chemicals and free radicals. There can be errors when the code is copied.
“And then all those changes can be shuffled by sex, and indeed whole pieces of the code can be transferred from species to species. So, bit by bit, in tiny steps from generation to generation, the code is constantly randomly changing. Now, whilst there’s no doubt that random mutation does alter DNA, evolution is anything but random. It can’t be, because the chances of something with DNA as complex as this appearing by luck alone are vanishingly small.
Imagine you just changed one position in the code at random, a random mutation. There are four letters, A, T, C and G, so there are four possible combinations. If there are two places in the code, there are four combinations for each one. So that makes 16. If there are three, then there are 64 possibilities. By the time you get to a code with 150 letters in it, then there are more possible combinations in the code than there are atoms in the observable universe.
“Now, a hippo has a code with around three billion different letters. So the number of combinations of those letters, the chances of producing that code at random, are absolutely, infinitesimally small. It’s impossible. So there must be a non-random element to evolution… ..a natural process, which greatly restricts this universe of possibilities, and shapes the outcome.
“We call it Natural Selection.”
Wow, Brian Cox really has a way with words. That statement just blew me away!
If you’d like to check this show out, the schedule for upcoming episodes is at The Science Channel. The “Endless Forms Most Beautiful” episode will be rebroadcast, yet again, on Wednesday, August 21, at 5AM (ET/PT). You’d better believe my DVR is set!