The Cell
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The Cell

Ratings: 7.93/10 from 41 users.

The CellIn this three-part BBC series, Dr Adam Rutherford tells the extraordinary story of the scientific quest to discover the secrets of the living cell. The first part, The Hidden Kingdom, explores how centuries of scientific and religious dogma were overturned by the earliest discoveries of the existence of cells, and how scientists came to realise that there was, literally, more to life than meets the eye.

The second part, The Chemistry of Life, episode explores how scientists delved ever deeper into the world of the cell, seeking to reveal the magic ingredient that can spark a bundle of chemicals into life. Their discoveries have brought us to the brink of being able to create life for ourselves.

The third and final part, The Spark of Life, reveals how our knowledge of cells has brought us to the brink of one of the most important moments in history. Scientists are close to repeating what has happened only once in four billion years - the creation of a new life form.

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45 Comments / User Reviews

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  1. Bilbo Bagginski

    @ Scientist

    That was by far the most idiotic statement I've ever read. The depth of ignorance contained within your post could only be described as an abyss of some of the darkest and unfathomable stupidity ever to be spoken on the internet and I've been traversing the web pretty much since day one. The shallowness of your fundamental knowledge couldn't possibly provide an euglena with enough liquid to thrive in. My suggestion would be to ask for a refund from each and every educational facility that has scarred your mind over the years. If you've attended any, that is. I'd sue for every penny spent, even on school lunches or class trips. It is absolutely uncanny that after even just basic High School education anyone could pose a question that would require me to remind myself of breathing. I often wonder, how folks such as yourself cross the street without getting plowed by incoming traffic.

  2. leonard

    Where can i buy this three part series on dvd / blu ray?
    I can not find it anywhere ???

  3. me

    google it ?

  4. bluetortilla

    Three minute teaser? Fine, I've really had it with the greedy BBC and all their copyright crap. You want money for education? I hope you end up in a wormhole.

  5. Matt Kukowski

    Watch all three... think and do not prejudge. This information is comprehensive and becoming more and more complete. Theory confirmed by observation. We are all ATOMS. All atoms that interact with other atoms always exhibit the same properties. (Example: You will ALWAYS get water with 2 Hydrogen and 1 Oxygen combine... ALWAYS! )

    This means that I think Aliens in fact look just like us in almost every way. The patterns are all the same throughout the Universe. The great mysteries are coming to an end. Welcome to you, welcome to God. You were it all this time... just did not figure it out. Amazing!

    1. Livio Oboti

      quit dope, please. Christian Science is an obscene oxymoron.

    2. gwhosubex

      "do not prejudge"... followed by illogical, unsubstantiated claims. hokay.

      you can use that phrase, but it isn't a get out of logic free card.

  6. Neville Jones

    The implication of what is mentioned in this documentary series is massive.

    Like this fact; all live on earth come from one family tree, one cell, so what life would we find on other plants?, would alien life be apart of the same cell family?, most of what we are comes from comments and asteroids, would we need to leave our solar system to find alien aliens, that is, life that has a totally different make up, cells, DNA.

    Another interesting point if we can make diesel from modified cells, then we should not have an oil crises in the future!? but should we still use oil that pollutes the environment?

    Great stuff

    1. Livio Oboti

      the fact that aminoacids are found in asteroid material doesn't imply that life comes from space. moreover getting free oil from bacteria (actually it is not free but requires expensive technology) doesn't imply that humanity would get a benefit from a world full of diesel-working machines.

  7. derek

    wow! did u guys saw the thing with the DIESEL production by bacteria???? Why its not known all over the world???

  8. sumedh musale

    loved the doc..! thanks Vlatko :)
    I recommend this documentary to all the "CREATIONISTS" to understand the basic forms of life and how we can "cook a living cell" from scratch!
    This documentary had strengthened my belief formation of life the way Darwin assumed. Once the question of origin or formation of living cell is solved then there would be only one more unsolved mystery i.e understanding the physics 100%. AFTER THAT WE CAN BE GODS ;)

  9. Caspar William

    george church is the don. "of the hook!" lols

  10. azilda

    my computer is becoming the "Universe Sit Here"....and thanks to Vlatko...a most interesting encyclopedia of research and opinion is being populated right here on this site.
    I am fully addicted to learning through condensed documentaries...for sure this does not replace travelling on long years of Scholar Ship but what it is allowing me is an overview of what was discovered in all fields of life by the great minds of the world in the best institutions there are. Some are surely scientific to a point i cannot grasp but perhaps just listening to them imprints my cells with the information the way a computer gets loaded.
    Do i feel smarter after a viewing a doc. like this? I would say yes. Could i explain what i learned in words? Not yet, because i have not learned the language those many years of attendence would have taught me.
    (and i am french, my accent can be heard and read)

  11. Cristian

    There is not such thing as "random" or "coincidentce". It's obvious that all life form has the same pattern at it's basis. And i'm a very scientific person but with deeper understandings of divinity that religious books has. Try to see it big and you'll figure it out.

  12. Nabil

    I'm downloading this documentary now.

  13. Radam Deys

    The question of "first self-replicating" molecules, or the first "Cell", or an organism are not the real question at all.

    The question is the "First Cause", It -may- have the traces in big-bang or at a frame before that instant.

    While it is easy for atheists to *believe* that "First Cause" was a non-living, unconscious, unintelligent agent that was the "base" of First Cause.

    It is equally easy for theist to *believe* that "First Cause" was a conscious & intelligent agent was the 'trigger'.

    One can assume different names for the agen, call it God, or Flying Spaghetti Monster, or Invisible Pink Unicorn, or whatever -they are just variables being assumed to something. One can even like to call it "X" or "Y" in parallel to "unknowns" being assumes in Algebra.

    I am a theist, and see this is the real crux of the debate between theist & atheist - and definitely not the "fancy" fairy stories and magic mythological stories that comes along with super-heroes and likes of scripts of modern-day disaster-movies.

    1. Steve Greenfield

      Who said that nothing at all existed before the big bang? That is a straw man argument.

  14. Anthony

    this was a very good doc I enjoyed it immensely, the process by which random or chaotic chemical reactions could lead to the formation of complex self reproducing organisms, we are given a tantalising glimpse of this process well worth watching.

  15. Waldo Skipsey

    Nice doc. In the beginning The sun was shining,the storms had abated somewhat and there were mud puddles everywhere with green slime on their surface. Today, billions of years later,- we call it algae. This process probably continues on other planets in the Universe whether or not we believe it.

  16. Tim Osman

    So he used a strand of DNA to make a ribosome? That doesn't seem synthetic to me. If he MADE a ribosome, I would have been impressed. And them maybe explain why ribosomes, mitochondrea, endoplasmicreticulum and the like even have a job to do. I mean manipulating DNA I'm sure is usefull, but I'm not sure if it answers the question...Why? It answers 'how?', but not 'why?'. For what purpose was the cell created other than to devide? Isn't it easier not to devide? Maybe it's not. Great doc! This is highly recomended, watch the whole thing, it just gets better and better.

  17. DeathSSghosT

    as we move further and further from the spiritual to the scientific, it seems that the everyday regular person becomes more and more uncertain. and maybe that uncertainty comes from the fact that we are in transition from the spiritual to the scientific. i just hope we move from this uncertainty to reason a little faster before we do something terrible to ourselves.

  18. Breadthing

    "no wonder he stopped going to church" my favorite line of the series

  19. Paleontontologist

    I studder when I get excited. That should read, of course, Paleontologist.

  20. Paleontontologist

    I just finished watching the whole series and found it to be very enlightening. There were so many things I didn't understand about cells and genetics. I had tears of joy seeing Prof George Church at Harvard help Dr Rutherford to create a synthetic Ribosome from synethic DNA and then watching the synthetic Ribosome make a glowing protein from part of a fireflie's DNA. So very exciting.

  21. William Bjornson

    The prose above of "medical" and "scientist" do little to justify their self-chosen labels, methinks. The cell is a community. It is a community of persistent molecules. If you were to trouble yourselves with learning a little basic chemistry and get Darwinism out of your mind and natural selection in its place, you would get a better perception of how this thing we call Life works. It's all quite simple, actually, just a basic unit iterated and interactive. Commensalism is almost as basic as natural selection (which may even occur on the level of universes) as can be seem at all levels of biological organization. The spontaneous formation of stable molecules is well documented in chemistry and, as an example, useful DNA is being pulled out of 20-60 thousand year old Neandertal bones... In a soup of simpler molecules at 2-300 C temps at a thermal vent, say on a clay substrate, just one self-reproducing strand of RNA is all that is necessary out of the stupendous number of reactions occurring at any second. Under earthly conditions, life is not just an accident but almost a certainty, just a persistent chain reaction of sorts. It's hardly necessary to invoke meteorites except for the lazy minds who prefer a diet of authoritative vomit to actually digesting the physical evidence themselves. I do not mean to be disparaging of people who mouth stupidity in forums of this sort. They are simply deformed minds attacking things they have been directed to attack by their masters. Still, it's sad to have to confront the reality of my own species. It messes with my own denial of humanity's primitiveness and lack of justification for continued existence even though, by both the very rules of natural selection and the requirements of system homeostasis, these auto-responders are necessary to these obligate communal systems in which we survive and are necessary to our 'success'. Sigh.

  22. Life.Is.The.Alien

    Truly amazing. When we consider that a few great individuals often not respected - have achieved by producing such paradigm shattering evidence is awesome. While 99.9% of humanity languishes still shackled by ancient (false) religion, superstition, a culture of stupidity, non-discrimination that results in lowest common denominator equality... the truth seekers, the realists, march forward. What should be held holy is the truth and insight that controlled variable experiments bring... and a reductionist view of the world - always question origins. As Humans gain further access to the data and technology in this information age - the world will either destroy it's self, enter a new 'enlightened and sustainable age.' OR manage to escape the cradle of earth suffering from the jealous tragedy of the commons.

  23. Experiment Designation

    All life on earth comes from a common ancestor. Now that is really amazing.

  24. Yavanna

    Capricious.... Well it depends; I`m still waiting for an answer from Gemini but thanks for the offer :P

  25. Capricious

    Yavanna, will you marry me ? :)

  26. noname

    Awesome, thank you for all the nice documentaries :)

  27. biologist

    Regarding some aswers, The doc never said that humans come from actual apes. It explains we come from an ancestor as the other apes species do.

  28. Yavanna

    Strange you should say that: virtually every discussion involves Darwin in some way. I have books on the shelf regarding him but no on TDF directly telling his story. Though most relate.

    You could start here:

    "PART 1: David Attenborough on Darwin - by Nature Video"

    DA is my fave biologist

    ALso well worth buying a copy of origin of species - It costs peanuts off Amazon.

  29. Tom

    Can someone upload some documentaries about Charles Darwin ??? :) That would be amazing!

  30. Yavanna

    Scientist "The answers lie with the apes in Uganda."

    Elaborate please - too mystical for me to pick the bones from. Speak straight/

  31. Stupid

    we are so near to adams wish to become god aaa!!!

  32. tkingsky

    Regardless of personal opinions of creation/gods/creator, this is an awesome and informative doc...I excitedly anticipated each part. I do agree, the meteorite was contamined upon entering earth's atmosphere and wonder if these types of experiments could be caputred (meteorite) and performed on the space station. This is what a really good documentary does...leaves you pondering, imagining and asking more questions....Thanks

  33. T-2012

    "The Truth Will Always Make The Devils Face Blush."

  34. Yavanna


  35. Scientist

    The answers lie with the apes in Uganda.

  36. Yavanna

    Forget whether your god exists or not. Watch this doc.
    “Let there be light?”. My ass."

    This is the doc to end all docs - <3 Joo Joe!

    "Where and how did the first cell itself create itself from?"

    Obviously God did it! Derr it's obvious - it must be magic because you do not understand. "scientist" - What an odd handle for somebody who is not. Fill the gaps God did it... or the pink unicorn.

    Seriously - this is a superb doc. Forget the questions; look at the answers.

  37. Scientist

    Challenge not the scientific hypothetical. Worry not when they plugs holes with "coulds". That's actually scientific.

    A monkey decided enough is enough: "I am not going to suck on shoots and nibble at ticks. I now need cooked food." So he, of course over millions of years, sorted out how to cook, and then found he didn't need certain bones, told his DNA to stop programming redundant bones and stuff, and ultimately, with perfection, became man.

    So now what's not possible with that?

    Only that I for the last 35 years have wished and wished and wished to grow back hair on my bald head because I live in an extremely cold country, and grow taller because I'd really like to; but clearly I'm wishing the wrong signals to my DNA. I'm going to ask the monkeys how to do it right the next time I visit Rwanda.

  38. medical

    He's only an M.D., with no credentials listed,no wonder he makes so many untruthful statements. DNA does not cause life! You can manipulate genes, but you cannot control what the cell does with it. You have to admit, you cannot create life itself or control it with gene manipulation. So if life is from a common cell, show me how to make a man from a monkey. Oh, he then admits it "could" have come from another planet! He explains that a meteorite, had DNA on it...but fails to think it "could" be contaminated by the earth's atmosphere and impact. He's so airy fairy in his thinking.

  39. Scientist

    Where and how did the first cell itself create itself from?

  40. Joe_nyc

    Forget whether your god exists or not. Watch this doc.
    "Let there be light?". My ass.

  41. Capricious

    Highly recommend watching this series in its entirety. It is by far the most comprehensive biological documentary I have ever seen.