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Tonight: Frozen Planet: Edge of the Earth

Tonight (Saturday, December 22) at 9:00pm ET/PT on Discovery, take a look back at the Frozen Planet documentary, coproduced with the BBC. If you missed it the first time, tonight is a sort of "greatest hits" hour, with some of the best sequences from the much longer miniseries -- including excellent narration by David Attenborough. This is why you have an HDTV: it's a set of scenes from the north and south tips of the Earth, filmed with incredible care. While some scenes are hilarious (most of the penguin material) and some are tragic (much of the musk oxen stuff), everything is photographed with the kind of insane how did they do that? quality.

There's a sequence involving a pebble-stealing penguin that exemplifies this film: without narration, it might not make sense. But with narration, music, and a remarkable combination of filming angles, it becomes a nearly human comedy about penguins trying to build their nests. The audio work also deserves a nod, as the penguins' squawks add an extra layer of weird hilarity.

While the special starts with a series of near-misses (in other words, predators fail), eventually we do get into sequences where prey animals don't make it. The film does not revel in gore, and shies away from closeups for the most part (one image of a seal being dragged down by a killer whale is particularly impactful, though). Because it is trying so hard to be tasteful and explain why the sequences are happening (so the predator groups don't starve to death), I'd say this one is thoroughly family-appropriate, though as always, if you have extra-sensitive kids you'll want to screen it first.

Criminal Penguins

Here's a clip from the Alec Baldwin-narrated version, showing a bit of that penguin story. Tonight's special is narrated by Attenborough -- while you may prefer one narrator over the other, the story is wonderful either way. Enjoy:

And if you get the Discovery Channel, tune in tonight! For more on the program, check out the Frozen Planet site, including the penguin cam and great photography.

If you're into the whole Blu-ray thing, check out Frozen Planet: The Complete Series (with the Attenborough narration). It's the kind of thing you can put on at parties and people will say, "Wow, nice TV."

Blogger disclosure: I was not specially compensated for this review. I did get to see an early version of the program, and it's worth your time for the penguin material alone.

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iStock
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infographics
All the Plastic Ever Produced, Visualized
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iStock

Humanity has a plastic problem. The cheap, durable material has become a vital part of our vehicles, food packaging, and even the inner structures of our homes. We’ve already produced 8.3 billion metric tons of the stuff, and most of it is sitting in landfills where it could take centuries to break down.

In early 2017, a study published in the journal Science Advances highlighted the literal weight of this growing issue. Researchers calculated that the bulk of all the plastic that’s been made by humans is equivalent to that of 25,000 Empire State Buildings or 80 million blue whales. Of that, only 9 percent has been recycled. The amount of plastic waste currently trashing our planet adds up to 6.3 billion metric tons, and the researchers don’t see our plastic addiction getting any less severe in the near future. By 2050, the plastic in our landfills is expected to hit 12 billion metric tons. You can see more alarming statistics from the study in the infographic below.

Infographic showing plastic production statistics.
University of Georgia, Janet A Beckley

Of all the trash we produce, plastic is some of the toughest to get rid of [PDF]. Scientists are looking into solutions, such as plastic-chomping caterpillars and germs, but for now consumers can do the planet a favor by investing in more reusable goods.

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Noriyuki Saitoh
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Art
Japanese Artist Crafts Intricate Insects Using Bamboo
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Noriyuki Saitoh

Not everyone finds insects beautiful. Some people think of them as scary, disturbing, or downright disgusting. But when Japanese artist Noriyuki Saitoh looks at a discarded cicada shell or a feeding praying mantis, he sees inspiration for his next creation.

Saitoh’s sculptures, spotted over at Colossal, are crafted by hand from bamboo. He uses the natural material to make some incredibly lifelike pieces. In one example, three wasps perch on a piece of honeycomb. In another, two mating dragonflies create a heart shape with their abdomens.

The figures he creates aren’t meant to be exact replicas of real insects. Rather, Saitoh starts his process with a list of dimensions and allows room for creativity when fine-tuning the appearances. The sense of movement and level of detail he puts into each sculpture is what makes them look so convincing.

You can browse the artist’s work on his website or follow him on social media for more stunning samples from his portfolio.

Bamboo insect.

Bamboo insect.

Bamboo insect.

Bamboo insect.

Bamboo insect.

Bamboo insect.

[h/t Colossal]

All images courtesy of Noriyuki Saitoh.

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