The Brain: Our Universe Within
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The Brain: Our Universe Within

1994, Science  -   29 Comments
Ratings: 6.30/10 from 27 users.

The Brain: Our Universe WithinForty years ago, American anthropologist Doctor Ralph Selecki explored the caves at Shanidar where he unearthed an image of ancient man that profoundly changed the way we saw our ancestors.

The professor discovered a skull - a Neanderthal skull. Strangely, it was covered with microscopic pollen from the flowers of thistle, groundsel, spiraea and hollyhock, among others.

The same pollen dust covered the rest of the weathered skeleton, suggesting that his family and friends had deliberately gathered the flowers and laid them in bunches on the dead body.

These mourners left behind the earliest known signs of man's awareness of death. Based on Doctor Selecki's findings, Neanderthals seemed to possess what we have come to call a mind.

Complex and deeply mysterious, the human brain is an odyssey unto itself. Take this journey into the inner workings of the mind with the guidance of scientist Dr. David Suzuki, the host of this riveting Discovery Channel documentary.

This series explores the way the brain evolves from birth to adulthood; how memory works; how humans recover from brain injury; and the origins of creativity and identity.

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7 years ago

Much love for David Suzuki.. but.. cripes does the constant music make this documentary impossibly annoying.

7 years ago

I think most of what man thinks about ancient man is almost all wrong. Man had only the wheel and fire for 500,000 years. Then he had tools and almost no refinement for 50,000 years. Then in just 7000 years we have traveled to the moon and back, put ships on mars, now past Pluto and out of our solar system ? (everything in about 1500 years ?)

Man's DNA was manipulated. Then [he] began to search and learn even more and created modern industry. That's when a mere 150-200 years ago, [he] was about to get off his horseback...and remain no longer, stuck on the ground.

Fred Bazzeeda
9 years ago

video doesn't work. please clean up.

10 years ago

The video is not available.

11 years ago

does anyone else miss the days when the discovery channel actually played documentaries about science and history. same with the history channel!

11 years ago

how old is this doc? seems to be from the early 90's judging by the poor quality and crappy animations

12 years ago

@E.Bartleby and @Julian K

The soundtrack is amazing. It was composed by Joe Hisaishi who is a Japanese composer. He is a musical genius. Look his stuff on youtube. The soundtrack was released on CD titled "The Universe Within II: Brain & Mind".

It came out in 1994, not 1998, and was produced for the Discovery Channel. It originally came out in 1993 over in Japan titled "Kyoi no Sho Uchu Jintai II No to Kokoro". The Japanese release is 6 episodes, the Discovery Channel version is 5, and the second episode is missing on youtube, "Perception", which is there are only 4 episodes to watch. The facts and research for this miniseries are from 1993, which is why it's kind of outdated. But the CG animation is way ahead of it's time for 1993. One of the animators won an award for the CG animation, the one shown in "Memory", illustrating LTP. Look up on youtube "siggraph '94", it's the first result.

Both the Japanese and Discovery Channel version are absolute masterpieces, and some things might be out of date, they are still masterpieces.

12 years ago

Does the plasticity of a young brain to make new connection, makes babies/kids more gullible? It seem like it's more advantageous to have a more flexible brain, but there should be an evolutionary advantage to have a less flexible brain when one is of adult age.

12 years ago

The doc still operates with the incorrect notion that evolution is linear. Humans are "highly evolved" and sea squirts are "lower animals." This is incorrect, both humans and sea squirts have evolved to fit our respective ecological niches perfectly, we are both "highly evolved" -- complexity is not superiority. After all, there are animals with more chromosomes than humans, are they superior to us? Inferior? These are the wrong questions!

What one could say about a sea squirt is that it is more similar to ancient animals, whereas humans have no ancient analogues.

It's very flattering to be told things like "the human brain is the most complex structure in the universe!" --but this isn't a scientific statement. It's amazing how much better contemporary popular science is about presenting the non-linear nature of evolution.

12 years ago

Solid insight on the working of brain. Presented well. Enjoy.

12 years ago

Step 1: Take your favorite 90s racing game. Any console.
Step 2: Replace soundtrack with music from this series.
Step 3: Notice no difference :P

Interesting doc, though, seriously. Slightly outdated which is to be expected, but we're on the internet. It's not hard to fill the gaps and update the info!

12 years ago

@ Stephen

Beginning with the immediate ancestors of humans anthropology traces the developement of humans until the present. Anthropology differs from other related fields in that it is much more broad in both geographic and philosophical scope.The aim of anthropology is to better understand the mental processes that drive us as human beings. It attempts to gain knowledge of mans mind set through study of his culuture, language, religion, politics, and even morphology. Of course it has soemthing to say about how and why man thinks as he does.

Obviousely they are not doing direct research on the physical or chemical processes or structure of the brain, so I doubt they will come up with a technical explanation of consciousness. But they have much to tell us about how our consciousness expresses itself both overtly and subconsciously.

Don't be confused by the fact that ninety percent of the anthropologist you see are digging up bones or studying some egyptian temple or writings, the field has become very specialized. When I tried to major in anthropology they asked what kind. I'm like anthropology you know, they told the only degree I could get in general anthropology was one geared toward education. If you want to actually practice you have to declare a specialty, like paleoanthropologist or something. Some people study just ancient politics or economics, but when you see a paper in the feild you will see that they relate what they have discovered to man in general. They ask themselves, "O.K. what does the fact they buried their dead like this tell us about how they thought?" It is all about how man thinks and why.

12 years ago

very interesting documentary. sadly but you have to fight a lot with your own attention to ignore the utterly horrible annoying soundtrack that is constantly running.

12 years ago


Good point on the age of the doc, I didn't bother to look that so thats my mistake. I still feel pointing out that we are not descended from Neandrathal was a fair point to make, however, as it is still a very common misconception that they are our ancestors.

Regarding Anthropology...
I didn't say that I am entirely against Anthropology, I just do not feel the field of Anthropology is to explain the Human mind. We have hard sciences that are far better equipped to answer such a fundamental question. IE (Cognitive Science, Molecular Biology, Neurochemistry, ect...) These fields are actually close, in my opinion, to answering some of these deep and fundamental questions about the human mind. To sum it up.. that is why I made the Astrology/Astrophysics comparison, strong words but no disrespect intended. I do believe Anthropology, in conjunction with Archeology, can tell us much about the early cultures and how they evolved, but not much about how the brain works. Since the title of this documentary is "The Brain: Our Universe Within" I feel that is a fair critisism.

Overall, however, great doc... I enjoyed the presentation and CGI (way ahead of its time for 1998 IMHO). I especially enjoyed the presentations on the plasticity of the human mind when recovering from injury. I was touched by the Japanese man who was caring for his wife and the struggles they go through as she recovers. While not directly related to the brain, I felt like I was getting a glimpse into an honorable culture and a great man. We can all learn something from this doc.

12 years ago

NICE, i love dr.zook

12 years ago

@ Stephen

This series is from 1998, like many other older documentaries on the site, some of the information is slightly outdated, that's the beauty of science! I always check the title in google to see when the documentary was made, it gives you a heads up on what to expect.

"Anthropology just doesn't have anything to add to the origin of Consciousness." The work of Anthropologists is vital! Physical anthropology, social anthropology, archaeology and anthropological linguistics all have vital clues to add to the origin of consciousness and humanity itself. I'm not exactly sure why you're so against anthropology :(

@ what about the chimps!

"The neanderthal awareness of death doesn’t strike me as that important anymore considering chimps mourn their dead."

The Neanderthals were found in some cases to have buried their dead, and even tossed symbolic items into the grave. It was the application of the different pollens to the body that made the example in this film unique and clearly very different then any chimp mourning process. Since the time of this documentary, many new discoveries have been made that have greatly changed our views of what Neanderthals and Homosapiens were capable of. They were far more intelligent and innovative much earlier then we had ever thought!

12 years ago

Sorry ignore that. I need sleep and I feel really stupid right now.

12 years ago

Vlatko will please try to find and post the documentary "how beer saved the world" its awesome and from discovery.

12 years ago

@ Stephen

I haven't watched the doc yet, but well said.

whoopi goldberg
12 years ago

pretty much anything with David Suzuki is worth a watch!

what about the chimps!
12 years ago

The neanderthal awareness of death doesn't strike me as that important anymore considering chimps mourn their dead.

12 years ago

The part about Neandrathal isn't accurate.

1st - They seem to suggest that Neandrathal is an Ancestor of Homosapiens. This isn't accurate. We are related to, but not decended from, Neandrathal. Genetic analysis has proven this.

2nd - The current scientific understanding is that Neandrathal showed very very few signs of Learning and Culture in 250,000 of Evolution. They developed tools 100,000 years before modern humans and never innovated on their original designs. There are a tiny minority of studies that seem to suggest otherwise, but far more examples that fit into this understanding. To suggest we drop this perception on the basis of 2 Individuals discovered in a single location by a single Anthropologist (not even a science) simply isn't scientific.

Anthropology just doesnt have anything to add to the origin of Consciousness. I would liken this approach to asking an Astrology Expert to comment on Astrophysics.

That part aside... the Doc gets much better after the Neandrathal misunderstanding presented.

12 years ago

very informative serie, clear explenations and helpful visuals

12 years ago

3 hours, 23 minutes WOW this is long im going to have to come back to this impossible for me to watch this ATM
but looks like another good one well done Vlatko