Can Science Make Me Perfect? With Alice Roberts (2018) Movie Script

The human body is fantastic, but
it's far from perfect.
Millions of years of evolution have
left us with littered with glitches
and flaws, of which I'm just too
painfully aware.
In my opinion, the human body is
long overdue a makeover.
Nobody designed the human body.
It evolved with no plan in mind,
and, like other animals,
we've got useful adaptations -
but we've also inherited plenty of
That's why we have ears that go
My ears aren't working properly, it
feels as though I need to pop them.
..throats that can choke us,
and skin that is easily damaged.
That is shocking.
But what if we could shed that
evolutionary baggage
and seize the best that nature has
to offer?
There we go, the toes curl round.
Exploring the entire animal kingdom,
I want to find out how evolution has
solved problems we face
in different ways.
Release the guinea fowl!
Go on, go on, go on, go on, go on!
Do apes have the pain-free backs
we've always wanted?
Can an octopus open our eyes to
better vision?
Now, that is much better.
And could a marsupial teach us
something about childbirth?
Having a jelly bean-sized baby,
that's amazing.
Using the best of these animal
I'm going to create a lifelike model
of me that will be a total rethink
of the human body.
So, you want to do something a
little bit like this?
Oh, wow, look at that!
Each improvement will highlight our
and reveal how changing body parts
could mean compromises.
So, the mouth needs air from the
lungs in order for us to speak?
Can I create a body better than
my own,
and what will she look like when I
come face-to-face
with my perfect body?
The human form is incredible -
the result of millions of years of
muscle and other tissues working
together in miraculous harmony.
Our bodies have helped make us one
of the most successful species
on the planet.
But are they perfect?
I'm an anatomist, I am fascinated by
the structure of the human body,
but the more I delve into it, the
more I realise
what a cobbled-together, hodgepodge
of bits and pieces it really is.
The human body is far from perfect.
Ironically, our technological and
social progress
has created new problems for us.
Thanks to modern medicine and with
good diet and exercise,
we can expect to live decades longer
than our ancestors.
As we get older, we start to suffer
from bad backs, joint pain,
failing senses, even our hearts can
become unreliable.
And if you focus in on each of those
you just can't help feeling that
they could be better designed.
I've been writing about this for
some time,
but now my outspokenness has
provoked a response.
I've been summoned to the
Science Museum.
I'm here to see an old friend,
Roger Highfield.
Roger! Hey, Alice!
Hello! Good to see you! But this is
no social call.
You're always complaining about how
the human body
isn't really optimised, how it's
kind of trapped by...
Do I always do that?! ..that we're
not as well-designed,
you know, whinge, whinge, whinge.
So, Alice,
I want you to put your money where
your mouth is,
and look at your own body, figure
out the flaws in it,
and then I want you to rebuild
to create a model of yourself, a
perfect Alice.
A physical model? A physical model,
so we can see what perfection
looks like,
and then we want to put that model
on display in this case
for our million or so visitors to
this gallery each year
to have a look at. It's going to be
right there, in the Science Museum?
It's going to be right there.
It's going to be the perfect you.
I'm up for it. I accept the
How long have I got?
You've got about three months, so
not that long.
This is an imaginative exercise,
but in tackling this project,
I'm not going to give myself
completely free rein,
because that feels like cheating.
I'm going to stick with biological
but what I am going to do is allow
myself to rewrite some of that
evolutionary history, or at least to
get rid of the evolutionary baggage.
I think of the human body as a
which has been renovated over time,
and some of its features are just a
bit odd now,
so I'm going to take it right back
down to ground level
and build it again, from the
bottom up.
Natural selection only weeds out
anything that reduces
the chances of survival and
It's only perhaps now, as we demand
more quality from life,
that we're aware of our failings.
But the animal kingdom is full of
alternative forms...
..different ways that nature has
tackled the same trials of life
that humans face.
This is quite a challenge that the
Science Museum has set me,
but as I attempt to redesign my
own body,
I have got the entire natural world
to provide me with inspiration.
To keep my design grounded in
I'm going to call on the talents of
anatomical artist
and designer Scott Eaton.
Scott is an expert at recreating
accurate human and animal anatomy,
producing sculptures or models for
the art world and CGI industry.
He's agreed to help me produce the
blueprint for Alice 2.0.
Well, Scott has asked me to meet him
here at this industrial estate
on the edge of London, and I think
this is the building.
I'm pretty excited about this,
because this is the start of making
the new me.
At this special effects studio,
a bit of hi-tech photographic
wizardry takes place.
Scott? Alice, hi.
Hello. Come in, come in.
Can I come through here? Try,
be careful!
Squeeze in! Well, this is an
amazing rig.
Ah, we have a lot of cameras set up.
To provide a visual base to work
from, Scott must first capture
exactly what I look like in
three dimensions.
Oh, my goodness, OK, how many
cameras have we got here?
Looking around, there are about 130
cameras in this rig.
And each one of them is trained on
this spot in the centre,
so I presume that's where I've got
to stand?
Yep, that will be your position on
the platform,
kind of your little pedestal.
So, 130 eyes all trained on me?
OK, Alice, for the first kind of
we're just going to do a standard
anatomical reference pose,
so elbows out, and try to get your
forearms going down vertical.
Yeah, that's it.
OK, I'm good to go.
That was quite bright!
Relax, relax, relax.
OK, in three, two, one.
And the last one I think we'll get
you to do is stretch out,
like you're pushing on a wall.
Like I'm in a case. That's it,
that's it!
Three, two, one.
Great, thanks, Alice. So weird!
A bit of data crunching and 130
photos are combined
into a single 3-D image.
Alice, so there you are.
What do you think? Oh, that's
It's really strange.
It looks like a solid object when
you pull out,
and then when you go in, you realise
that I'm just mapped
as a cloud of individual pixels.
Oh, it's great!
OK, Alice, so we have the data now,
what are we going to do to it?
What I want to do is talk to plenty
of other people.
I want to talk to other anatomists,
I want to talk to surgeons -
who are always patching up the
human body -
and then I'll get back to you with a
wish list of ways of modifying me.
OK, let me know, let me know.
So, where to begin?
Well, since the model is based
on me,
I've decided to get deeply personal.
Well, the best place to start
looking for flaws in the human body
is actually right here,
so I'm going to take an extremely
detailed look inside my body.
I've come to seek the help of a
master at exposing hidden flaws,
consultant radiologist Iain Lyburn.
Iain, I want to have a look inside.
There are a few areas that I
want to focus on.
Right. And I just want to see how my
body's bearing up, you know,
after 44 years of wear and tear.
OK, so the plan is to get into the
MRI machine... Yeah.
..and sort of slice you, lots of
different slices,
lots of different angles, check out
all the different structures inside,
and make sure you're surviving and
doing well.
So, I'm approaching this with a bit
of trepidation,
there is a possibility that we might
find something unforeseen.
There'll be some sign of something,
some ageing process.
The MRI sees right through me,
collecting data on all the tissues
in my body.
But it's my skeleton, and most
specifically my spine,
that catches Iain's attention.
So, looking at the spine here,
the vertebral bodies,
the bony bits of the vertebrae,
are these squares.
Yes. And then in between them,
we've got the slightly pulpy
cartilage discs.
That's right, yes, yes. They're like
the shock absorbers in between
the vertical bodies, slightly
softer, more spongy discs.
This disc here, I don't like the
look of that.
No. The height is narrowed, so the
disc is slightly squashed,
but also it's lost some of its water
content, so it's dehydrated,
and that's a sign of it being
It's a bit like a doughnut, we talk
about it like a doughnut,
because there's a nice sort of
rounded edge, and in the middle
there's the jam, and it's the jam
that comes out at the back
and squashes onto your nerves and
causes trouble.
OK, so it is pushing out the back,
so this is what we would describe,
surely, as a slipped disc,
or the beginning of a slipped disc?
Very near the beginning of one.
So, it's a slightly protruded disc
but not actually squashing anything
This explains my years of back pain.
But I'm not alone.
It turns out that bad backs are
Spinal problems and bad backs are a
huge problem for this country.
We spend well over 1 billion a
year on treatment
for spinal disorders.
Wider than that, it has a huge
implication for the nation
as a whole, with over 12 billion,
13 billion a year spent
in missed days from work because
of back pain and spinal disorders.
And, in fact, if you look at chronic
pain as an entity,
about 30% to 40% of patients who
suffer with chronic pain,
it's originating from the spine.
So why are our spines so
The challenge the spine faces is
that it has to move
in many directions, at the same time
it has to bear the weight
of the body and the torso.
This puts huge forces throughout
this structure.
To balance our upper body over
our legs,
our spines evolved a series of
But this shape created specific weak
We tend to see the wear and tear at
the points within the curves
of the spine where there is the most
amount of movement and flexion
extension, which in the neck is
around the mid-cervical region,
and in the lumbar spine is at the
very base of the spine,
where the curve is at its most
About 95% of spinal problems in fact
from the lower lumbar spine region.
As we get older, the structures
within our spine fail.
That then leads to the pain,
and that then leads to the
disability caused by it.
So, why hasn't natural selection
weeded out bad backs?
Well, back pain doesn't really start
to affect us
until we're in our fifth or sixth
decade, and I'm afraid,
once you've passed your
genes on,
evolution doesn't care quite so much
about you.
The ageing process exacerbates a
fundamental problem in our spines.
But perhaps a close look at our
evolutionary past can provide a path
to a possible solution.
So, I've come here to Twycross Zoo
to meet some of our closest
living relatives in the animal
and to find out more about our own
evolutionary journey.
Here to meet me is Dr Emily
and some monkeys who can take our
backs back in time.
What monkeys represent really nicely
is how we would have been
a long time ago,
so we're going back
40 million years or more,
and so we would have been
running around the tree tops on
four limbs.
What this does is it brings your
body centre of mass down
lower towards the branch, and lessen
the risk of you swaying,
and over-balancing, and toppling off
the branch.
For millions of years,
our ancestors' spines worked in a
horizontal position.
As our ape ancestors got larger and
they held their bodies in a more
upright position, climbing,
and then even standing on two legs,
up in the trees.
But our spine problems really began
around 7 million years ago,
when our ancestors started to do
less clambering in the trees,
and more walking on the ground.
To walk more efficiently,
our lumbar spines lengthened and
became more flexible,
but that made the backbone weaker.
So, our spine is longer and we've
also got this curvature?
Yeah, it's a slight recipe for
because we perhaps don't have the
muscle support to be able to support
that part of our spine, so that
causes quite a lot of the problem.
In terms of a durable design, humans
have perhaps taken a wrong turn.
So, maybe we could learn something
useful by studying the alternative
spinal arrangements of our primate
What chimpanzees do is they're
moving in a lot of different ways,
in an upright posture...
And then they're clambering, hanging
from their arms,
bearing their weight on their feet?
Yes, and so they're adapting
themselves to that upright posture,
and that comes with a lot of
anatomical changes...
Thank you for that! We're not
In a chimp, the lumbar spine is
straighter, shorter,
and entrapped by the pelvis on
each side,
making for a more stable structure.
They're flinging themselves around
the trees and doing all these
different behaviours that they need
to do to be able to move
around the forest canopy.
That support might actually be to do
with reducing the injuries
that they might get in that part of
the spine as a result.
I'm now thinking that chimps might
hold the key to the solution here.
We might be better off switching to
a stiffer, shorter lumbar spine.
So, if I was going to re-engineer
the human spine to be more
chimpanzee-like... If you had a sort
of slightly more entrapped,
shorter lumbar spine, that was a bit
you'd get a huge amount of support
and stability,
and potentially have reduced risk of
all the different maladies
that come along with that.
You wouldn't be able to walk quite
as nicely as we do,
quite as efficiently as we do,
but chimpanzees,
when they're walking bipedally,
do actually have a little bit of
opposite rotation, in that vein.
And I'd avoid my slipped disc,
I think.
Exactly, yes. You may do, yeah.
Not making any promises!
Time to pass on my first redesign to
artist Scott.
So, this is your den! Hey, Alice!
Come in.
Hello! How are you? Good to see you.
OK, then, Scott, what have you got
for me?
OK, well, I have you loaded into the
You might recognise yourself,
I hope!
The colour is there, the form is
It's quite freaky!
It's quite... It is strange,
because there's something quite
spooky about it.
I'm obviously used to seeing
photographs of myself,
and I'm even used to seeing myself
on film,
but there's something quite
different about this.
That's the starting point,
and then we can do anything we want
to it, really.
I've got a good idea of where I want
to start with this,
and it's the spine.
I think that there are problems
there that we could try to fix
that are actually quite personal
to me,
but also generally quite important.
I've got a slipped disc.
OK. And this is a really common
problem for humans.
OK. So, I think this is a poor bit
of design
that we could look at fixing.
It's the structure of the spine
which predisposes it to this
the fact that you've got this curve.
OK, so you want to work on
some of the lumbar region?
So, you want to do something a
little bit like this?
Wow, look at that!
That is actually moving back.
This is amazing, this is like
some kind of
really radical virtual surgery.
Scott is now able to incorporate
elements of chimpanzee
into my upgraded spine.
We have five lumbar vertebrae.
Chimps have four.
Right. They're also really well
supported at the bottom here,
so you can see the way that the
pelvis comes up on either side.
So what do you think, shall we...?
Can you pull the pelvis up a bit?
OK, so let me, let me just see...
That's amazing. That's a variation,
right there.
It's odd, it's going to make me more
Yeah, let's see. chimps are.
So, I've lost the small of my back,
I've lost my waist.
It's also going to change
functionality, isn't it?
Bringing the pelvis closer to the
ribcage is going to mean
that I don't have as much rotation
Is that worth it for the
stabilisation of the spine?
Maybe, maybe it is.
We'll see. It looks weird, it looks
completely weird to me,
I'm very familiar with human
I'm very familiar with chimpanzee
and that's a kind of...hybrid.
Well, it'll look even more weird
when we fit your body
to this underlying skeleton. Yeah!
Then it will look weird.
The new me has received its first
Straightening and strengthening my
lumbar spine is a subtle change,
but it could make life dramatically
more comfortable.
Now, it's time for the next
Our backs aren't the only parts of
our bodies that have suffered
from our ancestors' preference for
walking upright.
As we became more bipedal,
the strain of supporting the body
fell from four legs to just two.
That's a lot of weight passing
through just a few joints... judo competitor Rhys Thompson
knows to his cost.
I planted my foot to try and move my
He pulled me in a certain direction,
my foot slipped, replanted,
and his weight came down on my knee.
Initially, I felt, like, a snap.
I thought I'd done something.
I couldn't get up, and then I
struggled to walk after.
Rhys had ruptured his anterior
cruciate ligament,
a key element in the crowded
mechanics of the knee.
The important thing to understand
about the knee joint
is it's a very complicated join, by
comparison to many others.
It moves a little bit like a hinge,
slides backwards and forwards,
but it also turns.
So, it's inherently unstable.
Rhys broke the anterior cruciate
which is this ligament in the centre
of the joint at the front.
The way these ligaments break is
usually through a pivoting motion,
so the knee rotates.
The foot is fixed on the ground, and
the body rotates around the joint,
and this explodes.
Sportspeople are especially prone to
ligament damage.
But the forces that the knee
and the complexity of its structure,
means there's a lot to go wrong.
The thin layer of protective
cartilage lining the bones
takes much of the punishment.
Two pieces of normal cartilage
rubbing over one another
are more slippery than two ice cubes
rubbing over one another.
The problem is it has no ability to
repair or heal itself,
so over time, it gradually
wears out.
It's only in the last 50 years or so
that we've doubled our life span,
we now live until we're 100, and so
our joints, I'm afraid,
can't quite cope.
When the cartilage wears away, you
get arthritis.
Successful surgery means Rhys is
now on the road to recovery.
OK, head back and relax, I'm just
going to make it move.
But by the time we pass 45,
nearly 20% of us will suffer from
arthritic knees,
rising to almost a quarter by the
time we pass 75.
The knee is clearly a prime
candidate for my next redesign.
If we look at the knee joint,
and explode it,
we can just see how much anatomy
is in there.
All these ligaments, all these bits
of cartilage,
each one of those is another
component that can go wrong.
So, I think we could simplify this
even more.
I think we could make it into a very
simple hinge joint.
However, I think what we need to do
is look at the whole leg.
I don't think we can just pull the
knee out on its own,
I think we've got to look at the
entire lower limb,
and see if there's something quite
radical we could do
to save some of the stress on these
Could we learn something from other
successful bipeds?
Birds, the descendants of dinosaurs,
have been at this game tens of
millions of years longer than us.
Their legs evolved very differently
to our own,
so could they have discovered a less
damaging way to treat their joints?
I've come to the Royal Veterinary
College campus
to meet Dr Monica Daley.
Hello. Hi. Are you Monica? Yeah, hi.
Hi, nice to meet you.
Nice to meet you, too.
Come and meet my team. This is
Hannah. Hannah, hello.
Monica and her team are bird
locomotion specialists.
Hello. That's a lovely guinea fowl.
This is one of our flock, he's going
to run for us today.
He's a performer? Yes. An athlete?
Yes. I've been working with guinea
fowl for over ten years now,
and I have spent my career trying
to, basically, trip birds,
as they're running!
That sounds really mean!
It does, but they're very, very
good, and it's actually rare
that they ever fall down. Have you
managed to trip them up?
Occasionally. A couple times in a
So, if you were to compare us
running with a guinea fowl running,
who's better?
Guinea fowl. Really? Yes.
Monica is keen to rope me in.
An extremely important part of this
experiment involves this,
and I have been commissioned to use
this instrument in order
to make the guinea fowl run,
but no bird will be harmed during
the filming of this sequence.
In the wild, guinea fowl can travel
over 20 miles a day
in search of food, so they are
optimised for running.
Right, release the guinea fowl!
Go on, go on! Run, run, run, run,
run, run, run, run!
The force plates detect the impact
of the bird's feet,
while high-speed cameras capture its
every move.
Go on, go on, go on, go on, go on,
go on!
Thank you very much. Well done! I'm
sorry about that...
I'm sorry. It is just a mop.
It's very disgruntled with me.
So, there's the bird running.
And you can see the force plates,
the rectangles, in the runway here.
And you can see the bird running
along, a nice, bouncing gait.
It's beautiful.
The pressure pad data reveals that
bipedal birds proportionately
put their leg joints under far less
stress than we do.
We have the ground reaction forces
here, so this is measuring how hard
the leg is pushing against the
so in this running guinea fowl,
you see a nice, characteristic
single peak.
Yeah. But it's a nice, slow peak,
so you don't see a very rapid
loading of the leg,
because they have a very soft gait.
If we were to look at a human
how would it vary from this?
If you were to compare this to
you'd see a very rapid rise in
the force,
so there's very rapid loading of
the bones,
because we have a very straight-leg
very heavy legs,
so when they come into contact with
the ground,
you see very large and rapid impact
These powerful, sudden impact forces
are one of the reasons human knees
and ankles are vulnerable to damage.
So, what is it about these birds'
legs that puts such a spring
in their step?
To explore their anatomy in detail,
Monica needs to get something from
the freezer.
So, what's this bird, then, Monica?
Well, this is the left leg of
an emu.
Is it? It's huge!
It's huge. Yeah.
Here you have the calf muscles, and
then ankles down here.
So, that is the equivalent of our
ankle, but it's right up there?
Up in the middle of the leg, yeah.
So, this is all essentially foot.
Right, shall we have a look under
the skin, then? Yes.
Time to make use of my skill as an
It's kind of what you find on
chicken drumsticks, isn't it?
Yeah, well, it's exactly what you
find on chicken drumsticks!
Emus weigh up to 60kg, and can hit
speeds of up to 30mph.
But you rarely hear of them ripping
a cruciate ligament
or twisting an ankle.
Their anatomical secrets are now
The fleshy parts of the muscles are
all high up in the leg,
controlling movement lower down via
long tendons.
So, these tendons that start here,
all the way up here,
go all the way out to the toes.
Wow, so look how long those tendons
are, then.
So, I'm going to pull on them here.
There we go. And the toes curl
Just to prove it.
But, importantly, these tendons also
take pressure off the joints,
acting as enormous shock absorbers.
The Achilles tendon is the tendon we
actually use quite a lot during
running to store elastic energy.
Yeah. But it's much, much bigger
These are springy, aren't they?
They're elastic.
They're stringy, very, very
compliant tendons,
so these stretch a lot.
The leg works almost like a pogo
The force of each step is absorbed
by the stretching tendon,
which then recoils back to pop the
bird into the air.
It makes running very efficient.
With ankles lifted right up off the
these birds make the most of their
shock-absorbing tendons.
Being able to respond passively,
like birds can do,
to an unexpected bump means that it
can have an intrinsically fast
response, and it's intrinsically
more stable.
And when you say "responding
you're simply talking about the
stretch and...?
Just the stretch of the tendon,
and the response is entirely due to
the stretch of the tendon,
and how that transmits up the leg.
I think I've been tinkering with
human anatomy up to this point,
but I am so persuaded by the
efficiency of this bird design,
this time I'm going to go for
something a bit more radical.
It's time to go back to my designer,
Scott Eaton.
I've got something rather extreme,
so I don't know if it's too extreme.
So, I was wondering about doing
which is a bit more birdlike. OK.
So, it's going to be a really
radical departure,
because the human lower limb is
really different from the bird's.
This is a big, complicated redesign.
I think the first thing to do is to
kind of modify the length
of the femur. This is just going to
be kind of an approximate sketch,
and we'll refine this later...
So, I've kind of imagined all these
in my mind's eye,
and now actually seeing it
happening, it's just bizarre.
We've kind of done a quick
modification of the femur.
We have the tibia in place.
To resolve the rest is going to take
a bit of time.
We're going to have to stretch out
the foot.
This lower segment here is going to
be basically a really lengthened
metatarsal, isn't it? The whole of
that segment there.
A really lengthened and reinforced
And how many toes am I going to end
up with, do you think?
Three toes? I'm going to estimate
that you end up with three toes.
Yeah. One order for bird legs,
coming up!
The addition of bird legs is a
I will lose the mobility of my feet,
so useful in climbing,
but those enormous tendons should
take the pressure off my joints,
keeping me happily mobile for years
to come.
I'll send you some more stuff...
In order to keep me focused on the
science, for the rest of the build,
Scott has banished me from his
Can you send me updates?
No. No, no, no, it'll be a surprise.
All right, I'm up for that.
Brilliant. All right?
Thanks for stopping by. No, it's
been brilliant, thank you very much!
OK, I'll see you again soon, Alice.
See you soon!
Skeletal weaknesses aren't our only
Dig deeper, and you discover more of
evolution's oversights.
The heart is the most active muscle
in our body,
but unlike other muscles, it never
gets tired.
By the time you hit 90,
it will have generated almost
4 billion heartbeats.
But some basic flaws in its design
mean that many of us
won't get that far.
It's time for me to get to the heart
of the matter,
with the help of cardiologist
Dr Alex Lyon.
Alice, here's your heart on the
So, every pulse you feel, it's due
to this lovely organ,
the heart, contracting to pump the
You have 100 billion little muscle
cells making up
this pumping chamber, and I can tell
this is lovely and healthy.
Oh, good. It's just amazing to see
it in real-time, isn't it?
It is. It's fantastic. It's a
beautiful structure.
There are a few things that I think
we would like to change,
if we could.
According to Alex,
there's a big problem with the
arteries that supply the heart
itself with oxygenated blood.
One of the biggest problems is
heart attacks
caused by coronary blockages.
We all have two main coronary
one on the left and one on the
and our left coronary artery starts
as this common trunk,
and then divides into two important
So, we really have three big
arteries supplying our hearts
with all our blood.
Our problem is that every part of
the heart muscle only receives
blood from one artery, so if one of
the big three block off,
then that causes a large heart
attack and the heart muscle dies.
Every seven minutes, someone in the
UK will have a heart attack.
Coronary heart disease remains one
of the biggest killers
in the country.
It does seem crazy to have two
blood vessels supplying the heart,
but for each part of the heart
muscle to only have supply
from one of those vessels.
I agree, and there are some species
which actually have a much
more clever coronary system, with
lots of little connections
between the different arteries,
which we call collaterals.
So, here is an example of the
coronary anatomy of a dog heart,
and you can see that each part of
the heart muscle
gets its blood supply from lots of
different routes,
so if you blocked off one artery it
would still receive the blood
from the other side.
So, that would mean if you had a
clot coming down
this blood vessel here,
it's got branches coming from the
other vessel too,
so it's OK? If we're designing a
perfect heart for you,
I would like your coronaries to have
lots of collaterals,
like a dog's heart,
so that you're protected if you ever
have a blockage of the coronaries
that you don't then suffer a heart
So, dog-like coronary arteries?
That's right.
So, it turns out we can learn some
useful tricks
from man's best friend.
Like the lumbar spine, this is a
very subtle change,
but one that could transform
countless lives.
This could be a simple redesign,
but there are more structural
additions I could make
to improve the circulation of the
Our upright bodies make the steady
flow of blood a challenge.
There's the heart, up there.
In red, we're seeing the arteries
which are carrying blood away from
the heart, and in blue,
the veins, which carry blood back to
the heart.
And this is where we get the problem
in the legs, of course,
because the blood's coming all the
way down here to the feet,
and then it's got to get all the way
back up again to the heart.
As we age, the circulatory system
can have trouble
overcoming the force of gravity.
When blood begins to pool in the
legs, it can cause varicose veins,
and deep-vein thrombosis.
It's clear that the circulation
needs some assistance.
It is helped a bit -
the muscles of the calf help to
pump the blood
through the deep veins.
And there are valves in the veins,
as well,
to keep the blood flowing in one
But I think we could improve this.
I think that rather than just
relying on the muscles
outside the veins, why don't we put
some muscle into the veins?
So, rather than just having these
thin walled veins...
..maybe at a couple of places we
could add a bit of muscle
into the walls, and create what is
effectively another tiny heart.
Add a couple of valves in like this,
then we've got a little pump.
I mean, this is essentially how the
heart forms in the embryo, as well.
It just starts off as a fairly
simple vessel,
with contractile muscle in its walls
to pump the blood through.
So, I think that this is relatively
easy to achieve.
In terms of the exact positioning of
these extra little hearts
in our leg veins, I'm going to leave
that up to Scott.
But I think this could be part of
the solution
to varicose veins and DVT.
I'm banished from his studio, but
Scott is hard at work,
turning my ideas into reality.
The big kind of requirement that the
body always has to fulfil
is it has to protect really
important organs.
So, to protect these new little
pumps that we're putting in,
the obvious place is to put it in
this area
called the femoral triangle, kind of
on the inner surface of your thigh.
And here is the corresponding area
on her.
Depending on how lean she is in her
new form,
you'll be able to make out possible
evidence of it.
So, reasonably well-protected, all
things considered.
Scott is my virtual architect,
but responsibility for building the
Science Museum sculpture
goes to top prosthetics and special
effects expert, Sangeet Prabhaker.
I mainly work in the film industry.
I create creatures and monsters,
fake people,
but I don't think that's quite the
same thing.
I think this is quite a unique
unlike anything that I've done
Scott's virtual designs are
made real
with the help of Sangeet's 3-D
If we were just working from
drawings provided by Scott,
we would easily spend six or seven
weeks, I think,
just working on the sculpture.
But since we're working with
we can get something together in
about a week
that is way more accurate than most
human sculptors
could ever achieve.
Sangeet's first challenge is my
spindly bird legs.
They will have to support the whole
What we have here is our left foot,
and believe it or not,
that is the entire foot.
The tricky thing is getting this to
stand, right?
And not have any visible supporting
structure underneath.
It's a bit of a challenge, but, I
mean, that's what we do, right?
Everything we make is a prototype.
Everything - by definition -
we make hasn't been made before.
So, that's our craft,
it's always being adaptable,
and finding new, efficient ways of
putting things together.
So far, in my imaginary redesign of
the human form,
I've been correcting flaws that
generally only show themselves
with age.
But the problems with our design can
go deeper than that.
The flawed blueprint of the human
body means that some
totally natural processes can be
gravely damaging.
I'm in hospital today for a minor
and it's to correct a small injury
that was essentially caused
because my body wasn't up to the
mechanical demands
being placed on it.
It's a hernia, and I can show it to
you - it's just here.
I don't know if you can see this
lump just there.
I can certainly feel it,
and I can push it back in.
It's not fatal, but it's
and it's quite painful at times.
So, we need to keep it on the
As far as I'm concerned, this really
is a flaw in the design
of the human body.
It came about as an unfortunate
side-effect of a completely natural
process that up to half of the adult
population can go through -
As my belly swelled with my second
child inside,
my muscles separated a little bit,
and then the seam between them tore,
and that is the origin of the hernia
that, hopefully,
I'm going to get corrected today.
So, it is fixable,
but wouldn't it be brilliant if it
didn't happen in the first place?
It's estimated that up to 20% of
pregnant women experience
some type of hernia,
but it can be much worse.
Giving birth is perhaps the most
dangerous natural process
experienced by any animal.
For much of history, at least 2% of
women died giving birth.
Our babies' large heads have to fit
through a fairly narrow gap
in the pelvis.
But there's no reason why women
should put up with this...
..because an intriguing alternative
exists in some of our close cousins,
the marsupial mammals of the
southern hemisphere.
I've come to the Natural
History Museum
to meet marsupial expert, Professor
Anjali Goswami.
Hi, Anjali. Hey, Alice.
Anjali is using laser scanners to
create a 3-D virtual catalogue
of this particular group of mammals.
We are trying to gather really
high-resolution data
for a wide variety of marsupials,
to try and reconstruct their
evolutionary history.
And we have a nice fossil record
for them,
going back to 125 million years ago.
That's a long time!
I mean, that's way back into the
time of the dinosaurs.
Absolutely. Yeah.
The most noticeable difference
between marsupials
and placental mammals like us is the
process of birth.
How big are they when they're born?
Maybe a jellybean size would be
appropriate for a kangaroo.
That is minute!
I would have liked to have given
birth to something
the size of a jellybean! I am right
behind you, I absolutely agree.
It seems terribly unfair that we
have this
difficult birthing process,
and yet, you could just have a nice,
little baby that was this big,
and go about your business most of
the time.
These marsupial jellybean newborns
look very underdeveloped,
but Anjali's scans show that parts
of their bodies
are unexpectedly well-developed.
It looks equivalent to about,
I don't know,
a seven-week-old human embryo,
but, at that point, the embryo in
the human has no bone.
So, it's got bone around the jaws,
it's got bone in its little, tiny
forelimbs here.
In many ways, you can think of
placental birth as -
for the embryo, at least, or for the
baby - as really cushy
compared to what a marsupial has to
do at that really early stage
of development.
These newborns must immediately
spring into action,
their arms pull them along as their
noses follow a scent trail
to the safety of their mother's
What is the pouch actually made of?
Well, it's essentially a skin flap
that's covering up
the mammary glands.
So, inside the pouch,
the mother will have a certain
number of nipples.
Once they latch on, the newborns are
sustained by energy-rich milk.
But this way of delivering nutrition
isn't as efficient
as our placental system,
especially if you want to grow a
brain like ours.
So, it's not just the equivalent of
human gestation, plus lactation,
it's actually going to be even
longer than that?
Oh, yes, it won't just be nine
months extra,
it'll be years and years extra.
Years of carrying a baby in a pouch?
If you want them to have a big
brain size.
And there is another compromise to
OK, so I hadn't really
thought about that.
The... The solution,
if we import this into humans,
means that we are probably going to
have to move the nipples down
off the chest, onto the belly,
inside the pouch.
That's probably true. But I still
think the pro of having
a jellybean-sized baby...
That's amazing.
I've been expecting your call.
So, what do you have?
This time, it's all about the
problems associated with childbirth.
I'd quite like to have a pouch.
Oh, wow!
It means that the baby can come out
when it's really tiny,
and it's just easy to carry it
You can just keep it in the pouch.
Uh, yeah, that's, that's...
That is going to have its own
If we move the teats down into
the pouch,
then, obviously, I don't need
breasts any more.
Mmm, yes. I knew you were going
in that direction!
I'm not sure how I feel about giving
up breasts, but I think...
..on the whole, it's worth it.
Well, we can do anything, you know,
you just have to ask,
and you just have to bear with the
In my search for perfection,
I've made some dramatic changes.
To strengthen my spine,
I've adopted the more stable design
of the chimpanzee.
I've taken the shock-absorbing legs
of a bird,
and added a few extra hearts.
And now I'm getting a marsupial
and saying goodbye to my breasts.
When I finally get to see this new
me, will I even recognise her?
A lot of the changes I've been
making so far
have been about correcting design
flaws in the body,
but there's something else I can
look at doing,
and that is improving function,
enhancing performance,
boosting my abilities.
I've already looked at our skeletal
and circulatory systems,
so to improve athletic performance,
it's time to focus in on our lungs,
and ask the question, are they
really doing a good job?
That's it, keep going...
At Middlesex University,
Dr Lizi Bryant works to help top-end
athletes improve their performance.
OK, ready? And it's going to go up
again now.
Keep pushing, this is a really,
really good effort.
With the VO2 max test,
we are trying to get an athlete or
an individual
to work to their absolute maximum,
and the reason we're doing that is
because we want to know
what that individual's capacity is
to intake oxygen and utilise it
within the muscles.
Oxygen is transported via our blood
to every single cell of the body.
You've got one more in you!
It feeds the chemical reactions that
keep us going.
Keep it going, keep pushing!
Well done.
But the first challenge is to get
oxygen into the blood...
Great effort, well done. ..and that
is the job of the lungs.
You OK? Yeah.
Great effort, well done.
You can improve your lung function
to a certain degree,
but you will definitely hit a
and you won't be able to improve it
any more,
and one of the reasons for that is
because of the mechanisms
of the lungs.
The lungs are trying to perform more
than one function.
The lungs do two jobs, in terms of
they do the ventilation,
bringing the air from the room into
your lungs,
and then they do the respiration,
which is the gaseous exchange from
the oxygen in the air
into your blood.
The way that air flows into our
lungs means they are not
as efficient as they could be.
The tidal flow basically means we
bring air into our lungs
and we take air out of our lungs.
By constantly having to reverse the
process of bringing air
in and out of the same channels,
we are unable to get that constant
stream of oxygen into the blood.
We have to get rid of the air with
the carbon dioxide in,
and then we can replace the oxygen.
So, it limits the amount of oxygen
that we can get into our blood.
For the most efficient system,
for us to be able to perform at
high intensities,
I think if we could have a mechanism
where we had maybe
a one-way system, that we could have
a constant supply of oxygen,
therefore our muscles are getting a
faster supply of oxygen, as well,
then that would be definitely more
Having lungs like this, with a
tidal, bidirectional flow of air
through them is something that we
share in common with all mammals.
But a little bird told me it doesn't
have to be that way.
Flight demands a constant effort
from wing muscles,
needing an uninterrupted high level
of oxygen...
..and birds achieve this through an
ingenious design.
I've returned to see Monica Daley at
the Royal Vet College,
where she's brought something else
out of the freezer.
OK, Monica, what have we got
this time?
A swan. A swan?
Monica shows me something
Squeezing the abdomen of the bird
has a weird result.
So, if we pull this up a little bit
and compress...
SWAN WHEEZES can hear it breathing.
Oh, my goodness, that's so strange!
To find out what's happening, we're
going to have to look inside.
I'm painfully aware that we're
dissecting a swan here,
does that mean we're in trouble with
the Queen?
No, we'll be OK!
This swan was donated to us from a
wildlife park.
On inspection, a key part of its
anatomy seems to be missing.
This is just so odd.
So, I can identify the heart easily,
there's the liver down there,
but, in a mammal, I'd expect to see
the lungs wrapping around,
so where are they?
They're actually quite small,
so they're all the way at the back
These lungs are tiny! The lungs are
quite compact and small,
because they don't inflate and
deflate during breathing.
Monica reveals the source of the
swan's strange wheezing.
Its body is full of air sacs.
If you look here, you can see the
sort of deflated balloon tissue.
It's very thin.
See that air sac, there?
Let's open that up, then. OK.
Oh, deflated the balloon...
There we go. And we're into another
air sac. Just very thin-walled.
Yeah, and it's lined with this
incredibly thin membrane,
which is like clingfilm, isn't it?
Their entire body cavity is filled
with these air sacs,
and they act like bellows to
ventilate the lungs.
And it's the breastbone rocking
forward and back
that ventilates the system, and acts
as a bellows,
inflating and deflating these
air sacs,
pumping the air over the lungs.
The air sacs do the job of moving
the air around the system,
pushing it in one direction through
the lungs...
Meaning that gas exchange is much
more efficient
than in mammalian lungs.
In a mammalian lung, you're
inflating and deflating,
you can never get all of the air
so that you're always mixing old
air and new air.
Birds don't have that problem.
If I was to redesign a human body
along these lines,
then I'd end up with smaller,
more efficient lungs,
but I would have to accommodate
air sacs.
Room for air sacs, yeah.
Hello, Alice. So, this time,
it's the respiratory system.
I've been looking at how other
animals do it, in particular, birds,
and they've got a series of
air sacs,
which feed into the lungs.
OK, that's interesting.
So, maybe a slight increase
in the chest cavity?
Who knows? I think there might be a
slight increase, but, on the whole,
gas exchange is going to be much
more efficient.
These lungs, combined with my
bird legs,
will make me quite the long-distance
Improving lung function is all
very well,
but our breathing arrangements are
not without other pitfalls.
We often think about how we've
evolved from apes and monkeys,
but we can understand even more
about the human body
if we go back further,
to a time when our ancestors were
all swimming in the oceans.
The air-breathing lung didn't
evolve from nowhere.
Inside many fish is an air sac -
the swim bladder.
It's a natural buoyancy device, and
it buds off the digestive tract.
It fills with gas, which it derives
from the blood.
As air-breathing amphibians evolved
from fish,
other sacs budded off from the
digestive tract,
the origin of our lungs.
But it's not all happy ever after.
The fact that our lungs are an
offshoot of our digestive systems
means that, occasionally,
it can all go wrong.
The digestive tract and the
respiratory tract -
your windpipe leading
into your lungs -
are intimately related to each
They meet at a junction in the
and it's guarded by a trap-door
valve called the epiglottis.
This valve closes tight
as we swallow,
and it's the main barrier stopping
food or drink
dropping into our lungs.
So, this is a recipe for choking.
At the Wellington Hospital
in North London,
I've come to meet Professor Martin
Birchall, and his patient,
Angela Phillips.
Angela's trap-door valve was
gravely compromised
when she suffered brain damage four
years ago.
I had a subarachnoid haemorrhage,
and then I had a stroke after that.
For two years, I couldn't eat
anything, or drink anything.
Because of her problems with
Angela had to be fed through a tube.
Angela, in effect, by having a
stroke that's affected
this key crossing point in the
between the airway and the
swallowing pathway,
highlights this innate weakness in
the human body.
Martin is keen to examine how the
mechanics of Angela's throat
are working, four years on from
her stroke.
He's asked her to drink a contrast
medium of barium sulphate,
which reflects X-rays differently
to human tissue.
Are you OK with this image?
On this moving X-ray, the liquid
shows up as a black fluid.
With this scan, Angela's problem is
still all too clear.
We can see a lot of it actually does
go down the gullet,
does go down the right way.
We can see it going down the
right way there,
but quite a lot of it is being held
up in this top area here.
So, the epiglottis isn't doing its
job, is it?
It's not behaving like a trap door,
and we're getting some of this black
contrast fluid coming right down
into the entrance of the larynx, the
voice box.
The trap-door effect of the
is just not happening for her.
And do you think there's any more
you can do, then,
to help her, at this stage?
We've already identified,
just from today's exercise,
that turning her head slightly to
the left does improve
certain textures going down.
Angela's condition illustrates an
extreme version
of the design problem we face.
So, perhaps it would be better if we
get rid of this junction altogether.
You might think that dolphins have
come up with a solution.
They breathe through nostrils on the
top of their heads,
but, on the inside, they've got the
same problem as us.
The airway passes through a junction
with the digestive tract.
I need to go for a completely new
design, never seen before in nature.
This should be easy to fix, surely?
It's a ridiculous design
that we've got the airway
and the passageway for food
crossing over.
We should be able to separate
them out.
My idea is for a throat bypass.
So, we could completely separate
the food's coming down from the
mouth into the oesophagus,
the air is going from the nasal
down through these double trachea
into the lungs.
Yeah. The mouth has a dual function,
We use it primarily for keeping
ourselves alive by eating,
but we also, as humans,
use it for speech.
If you put the windpipe somewhere
else, it's not going to do that.
So, the mouth needs to have air
from the lungs coming through it,
in order for us to speak? Yeah.
If we're going to speak like human
beings, yeah.
It does. Surely, we'd be better
off with gills...
So, if we're going to keep talking,
it's going to have to be a
So, I've got an idea for how to
do this.
So, here's a tiny little valve -
it can be very small,
it's a one-way valve, so that you
can, if you want,
force air out through here, and it
can come out through the mouth,
and you can speak. Absolutely, I
don't see why not.
You know, I've actually thought of
something else
that this would work
really well for.
Speaking as a middle-aged man,
this would be really helpful in
avoiding snoring,
which is a massive problem.
We can separate the airways from the
We've solved snoring.
So, I think we've done it.
I think we have.
We're pretty pleased with this new
But Scott is not so sure, because
the neck is already jam-packed.
You have food, you have air,
you also have veins and arteries,
and it's all coming through
this really constricted passageway,
and then,
to complicate things further,
that same passageway has a huge
amount of mobility
so that you can flex and extend
your neck,
and also a huge amount of rotation
to both sides.
I would honestly have to look at all
the mechanisms more closely
to see if it's the best way.
By retaining the lower single
and adding optional bypasses just
around the throat,
Scott has found a compromised but
workable solution.
With less than three weeks to go
before the Science Museum's
Sangeet and his team are making
Here, we've now joined all the
printed elements,
so what we're now doing is using a
filler paste to go over
the joins of each of the printed
pieces, to create a nice,
seamless transition between all
these elements.
As a team here, we are experienced
in creating lots
of famous creatures
and monsters for movies,
so it's nice to do something that's
neither entirely human
nor entirely animal.
The design itself is pretty
I think Scott's done a beautiful job
of designing this, so it's nice.
All that's left now is the head.
The eye.
Often touted as the prime example of
refined biological engineering...
..but perhaps it's not all
it's cracked up to be.
OK, here's an experiment,
and this one requires some audience
So, please stand up,
and now, cover your right eye
with your right hand,
and stare at this cross.
Don't look at me, look at the cross,
and I want you to move back and
forwards in front of the screen,
and, eventually, you'll find
that my head disappears.
So, this is very strange indeed.
You've discovered a blind spot.
Don't worry.
Everybody's got it, it's perfectly
normal, but it's odd.
What is going on here?
I've come to Moorfields Eye
Hospital to get a closer look
at what's causing this visual flaw.
I'm handing my eyes over
to consultant ophthalmic surgeon
Badrul Hussain.
Mr Hussain? Yeah! Dr Roberts,
nice to meet you.
Hello. I'm Badrul, please, please.
Let's get through, we'll start doing
our tests.
If you pop your chin on the
and your forehead against the bar,
please. OK.
OK. Can you see the light? Yeah.
Very good. OK, stay as you are.
Very, very good.
Wide, wide, wide. There's going to
be a flash.
Whoa! Yeah. Very good.
OK, very good.
Well done. You can sit back.
Ooh, that was quite bright.
Thank you.
Badrul's team has taken a photo of
the back of my eyeball - my retina.
The retina is the innermost layer of
the eyeball.
Buried inside it are light-detecting
cells, known as rods and cones,
that allow us to see.
But they're not distributed evenly.
There is one particular
So, this is where you've got that
density of colour receptors.
Yeah, yeah, so the macular is the
tiny little spot here
with this concentration of
light-sensitive cells.
That's where most of your vision
comes from,
your clear, detail vision.
But close to the highly-sensitive
macular is an area
that looks a complete mess.
A nexus of crazy pipework.
Both the blood supply and the nerves
connecting the light-detecting cells
to the brain run across the front of
the retina,
and pass through a hole at the back.
This area that you see here,
this is where all the wiring exits
the eye to get to the brain.
There are no photoreceptors in this
so that you've effectively got no
vision in that area.
This is the cause of our mysterious
We don't usually notice, as our
brains cleverly fill in the gap,
but, clearly, our retina is wired
back to front.
I think this is a design flaw.
I think it's ridiculous to have the
wires coming off... front of the retinal
light-detecting cells,
and then having to pile over here.
Pile up in such a way that there's
actually no room
for any photoreceptors at that
and so you've got a whole area of
the retina
where you cannot detect light.
We share this back-to-front design
of our retina with all the other
vertebrates - fish, reptiles,
amphibians, birds, mammals,
we've all got it this way.
It goes very deep in our
evolutionary history,
but it doesn't have to be this way.
More than 500 million years ago,
the spineless ancestors of squid and
octopi evolved eyes
completely independently.
Evolution led their eyes to form a
very similar structure
to that of the vertebrates, but the
retinae of these cephalopods
are the right way round, so no blind
spots for them.
By adopting the retinal design of
the cephalopods,
I will be rectifying an evolutionary
glitch that has been hanging
around for 500 million years.
But perhaps our vision has bigger
problems than blind spots,
because modern habits are stretching
our eyes to their design limit.
We evolved from monkeys and apes who
were active during the day.
But, increasingly, we seem to be
spending a lot more time awake
at night, and our eyes are just not
very good at dealing with low light.
Now, we can modify our environment,
but that causes light pollution,
so what if we were to modify
ourselves instead?
Now, that is much better.
Image intensifiers work by turning
infrared light into visible light,
giving objects instant luminescence.
But by changing the design of
our eyes,
we could achieve this with visible
It's simply a matter of scale.
As they evolve to live or hunt in
nocturnal animals often have
noticeably larger eyes.
Their enlarged pupils allow more
light to hit the retina,
increasing visual sensitivity.
Hey, Alice. So, here's another
one for you, then.
I've been looking at eyes and I
think our eyeballs could be better,
so they could let more light in and
we could trap more light, as well.
And I think the eyeballs need to be
about 20-25% larger than they are
at the moment. I... You know,
I think that's just big enough that
they will look really interesting.
There's no doubt about it.
You're going to have
big old cartoon eyes.
Our distant relations,
the Neanderthals,
actually had bigger eyeballs
like this.
But we'll be the first vertebrates
ever to operate
without a blind spot.
Sight isn't the only sense I want to
tinker with.
As we age, our hearing is often
the most vulnerable to failure.
Perhaps this shouldn't be
The ears of our hominem ancestors
evolved to help them survive
and communicate on quiet grasslands.
Ears haven't developed to deal
with the high-decibel noises
we now encounter on a daily basis.
The African savannah was never
THIS loud.
I've come to the University of
Salford to check on
the true state of my own ears,
seeking the help of acoustic
engineer Professor Trevor Cox.
Trevor, I want to find out about my
and I'd like to test how good it is.
Well, you need a really quiet place
to do that,
and I've got just the room for you.
So, after you. In this room here?
Yeah, it's this peculiar space.
Whoa, where are you taking me,
Trevor? This is bizarre.
What on earth is this room?
Well, welcome to the anechoic
This is an acoustic isolation room.
I feel like I'm underwater.
It feels as though my ears
aren't working properly.
It feels as though
I need to pop them.
Well, if you really want to hear
how weird it is,
you need to really close the doors,
to block out the outside world
It's very strange. The silence
when we are not talking is dead.
All the foam wedges you can see
above you and around you
and even on the floor
are absorbing everything I say,
and, normally,
when you listen to my voice,
you hear not just the voice
coming direct from me to you,
you hear reflections from the walls
and the floors and the ceiling.
People come in here
and it's a really peculiar sense,
a bit like almost being travel sick,
and it's because you can see a room,
but you can't hear it,
and your brain, your two senses
are a bit out of kilter. Yeah.
And, therefore, people kind of go,
"No, this is a bit unpleasant,
can I go?"
Yeah, I am not entirely
happy in here, I must admit.
It is a bit unpleasant.
I wouldn't want to spend much time
but it's the perfect environment
to check my ears.
So, how are you going to
test my hearing, then?
We're going to do a really simple
test where we start off with a tone
and move it gradually
up in frequency
and see how high a frequency
you can hear.
OK, so I have to tell you
when I can't hear it?
Yeah, I want you to say
when you can no longer hear it.
So I'll start it off. All right.
I can hear that.
So, that is right in the middle of
the speech range.
And I will just keep dialling it up.
Can still hear it.
Yeah, I can still hear it.
Yeah. Yeah.
Yep, I can still hear that.
Can still hear that.
It's weird,
but I can still hear it.
It's gone.
So you could hear
almost 15,000 hertz.
Is that good?
Well, when you were 20,
you probably could hear
up to 20,000 hertz.
The problem is, with hearing,
you have this age-related
hearing loss
where the inner ear slowly loses
some of its sensitivity
and it starts at high frequencies
and works down.
You're better than I am.
I stopped at about 10,000 hertz,
I couldn't hear it any more,
because I'm probably about
ten years older than you are.
The inability to hear
like my younger self
comes down to
the anatomy of the ear
and, in particular, to the cells
that turn vibrations into sound,
inside the snail-shaped organ
known as the cochlea.
Hair cells inside
the beginning of the cochlea
are responsible for detecting
high-frequency sound.
But they also bear the brunt of all
sound waves entering the inner ear.
As a result, they're usually
damaged before the rest
and that's why we lose
high-frequency hearing first.
But according to Trevor,
there could be a simple solution.
There is a way
I can make it audible to you.
What I can do is turn up the volume.
Yes. Yeah, OK.
I can hear that quite clearly now.
If you can't, well, sorry -
I'm afraid your hearing
is even worse than mine.
So, what you have
is a loss of sensitivity,
so when the sound is loud enough,
you can hear it,
and that's what hearing aids
essentially do, they amplify things,
so you can get it into a range
where you can actually hear things.
There is a natural way that we could
increase the volume of sound
without a hearing aid, and that's by
increasing the size of our ears.
The more sound waves we can trap,
the louder the sound we hear.
And that is Trevor's suggestion.
It also has the advantage of focus.
So, Trevor, what's this all about?
So, this is a typical problem
you have.
You are in a noisy cafe or bar
and you are trying to
pick out the speech
from the noise that is around,
and I can see you are
slightly struggling.
I think I am actually only
really hearing every other word,
and I'm filling in gaps, but I'm
struggling without looking at you.
But in front of you
you've got these devices -
if you were to put those on,
does my voice become more clear,
with the headphones and funnels on,
than it does without?
As I talk quietly, can you hear the
difference as you put those on?
Maybe my speech will suddenly
become... Oh, that's...
Yeah, that's...
That's really different.
I'm just going to pick up this,
because this is a parabolic
microphone, so the viewers,
the listeners at home will be able
to hear a similar thing
to what I'm experiencing.
And if you were to rotate that,
so it's not facing me any more,
so it hasn't got that...
VOICE FADES OU ..and that volume level
should drop off,
and if you point it back to me
and then it should focus and amplify
the sound and it should be louder.
So, I'm really won over
by this idea.
This is making quite a big
difference to my hearing.
But I do need to come up
with something
that is slightly less ridiculous.
Mobile ears are a common adaptation
in the animal kingdom,
and one that's more feasible in
humans than you might have thought.
Scott's aware of an anatomical
that could make them
a simple adaptation.
The interesting thing
about our ears is that,
kind of looking at
our evolutionary past,
we have a set of ear muscles kind of
left over that we no longer use,
but if we brought those back into
play and kind of rewired them,
and maybe augmented them,
we could, you know,
quickly kind of reintroduce
mobility in our own ears.
With large mobile ears,
I will collect more sound
to compensate for
my hair cells' decline,
and have an enhanced ability to
focus on sounds I'm interested in.
It's time for my final touch.
The largest organ of all - the skin.
Our skin is an incredible
protective sheath -
elastic, waterproof
and temperature controlling.
It is a fantastic shield,
but it has its limits.
Especially when assaulted
by UV light,
the high-energy component
of sunlight.
To see how my skin
has been bearing up,
I've come to a specialist
London clinic
where I will be checked out by
Dr Anita Sturnham,
who is going to give me
a hi-tech facial scan.
OK, if you remove yourself
from the scanner.
Your scan is now done,
so we're looking at the deeper
layers of your skin.
This is hidden damage.
And so this is your UV damage
in the deeper skin layers.
That is shocking.
You have a distribution of UV damage
throughout the facial region.
You have slightly more damage
than you should for your age.
So, that's over the last six months?
And that is over winter? Exactly.
So we must remember that it's not
just about summer protection,
it's all year round.
High-energy UV rays from the sun
can cause havoc to our cells,
attacking their DNA, causing
dangerous mutations to develop,
which can lead to cancer.
So, that picture of the damage
in the dark layers of my skin
looks horrendous.
So, what does it represent?
When you have UV damage,
what's happening is those UV rays
enter the skin,
they penetrate through
the epidermis,
which is like your protective
brick wall,
and they enter this layer here,
called the dermo-epidermal junction.
You have immune cells
called melanocytes -
their job is to protect your skin
from UV damage.
When they get a signal
that there's damage happening,
you get melanin production.
When you tan, you're experiencing
an immune-like reaction
to the damage being wreaked
by UV light.
The brown pigment, melanin,
acts as a physical shield,
but it's slow to appear and not
highly effective.
Does that mean that any tan at all
is actually going to be
associated with damage?
Any tan at all is bad for you.
The fairer skin types, we know,
are more at risk of that damage
becoming more severe,
so you're more likely to get burned
rather than tanned,
you are more likely then to get
an increased risk of skin cancer,
particularly the severe skin
cancers like melanoma.
Because of the danger of UV
in the Tropics,
our African ancestors
were all dark-skinned originally.
But as some human populations moved
north to less sunny latitudes,
the evolutionary pressure
for dark skin lessened.
So, in some ways, it seems annoying
that paler skin ever evolved.
We'd have been better off
staying with dark skin.
Absolutely. From a UV damage
perspective, yes.
We know, from some studies, that
the paler the skin tone you are,
the more effective you are
at making things like vitamin D
versus darker skin tones,
so there are some evolutionary
benefits to being paler, as well.
If dark skin confers some protection
against UV and skin cancer,
but, at the same time, perhaps makes
vitamin D synthesis less efficient,
then wouldn't it be brilliant
to be able to turn it on and off?
So, if I was trying to make vitamin
D, I could make my skin paler,
and if I were wanting to protect
myself from the UV, I could go dark.
Some cephalopods and reptiles have
colour-changing capabilities,
used mainly for camouflage
and communication.
But there's another type of animal
that may have developed
the perfect sunshade system
I'm looking for.
London Zoo's Dr Chris Michaels
has a few lurking at the back of
one of his tanks.
Frogs change colour
for lots of different reasons.
Sometimes it could be camouflage,
sometimes it could be
to attract the opposite sex.
And, sometimes, it's to protect
themselves from sunlight,
specifically UVB radiation.
To protect themselves from sunlight,
amphibians use the same
melanin pigment as we do,
but it's contained in a unique type
of cell called a melanophore.
So, this is a Majorcan midwife toad,
and you can see on its skin
these dark spots,
and the dark spots are where
the melanin-containing cells,
the melanophores,
are especially densely packed.
Amphibians can rapidly adjust
the apparent colour of their skin
by changing the size of those cells.
Our melanocytes only produce melanin
slowly when stimulated by UV light.
But the amphibian melanophore cells
are always filled with melanin.
They simply inflate like balloons.
In order to make them go darker,
all they have to do
is expand those cells.
Those then expand and the frog is
immediately darker
because that melanin is on show,
and that can happen over hours
rather than over days to weeks
as you would get in people.
It's really, really quick to occur,
so whereas humans
may get skin burns,
in that same time the frog
would have gone brown already.
And the system works just as well
in reverse.
If we had these amphibian
melanophores in our skin,
we could provide ourselves
with an instant shield
from the worst of UV light,
whilst also allowing for
optimal vitamin D production -
the perfect skin
for a globetrotting modern human.
This improvement comes just in time,
as Sangeet is reaching
the end of the sculpting process.
The brief I have been given is
to create kind of
adaptive froglike skin
that can very quickly change colour.
I have gone for a kind of look
that suggests she started off
as a light-skinned person,
and I suppose the idea is she
has got a very healthy skin tan,
but what I'm trying to do
is just localise that,
to suggest that she is able to tan
very quickly in some areas
and yet in other areas
I'm keeping it much lighter.
Paintwork takes a couple of weeks,
at least, really.
To give you an estimate of, you
know, how little paint we're using,
there's probably less than
half a cup of paint
spread out this entire model.
And the best part about it is
knowing that when I am
done with this, the job is done.
With the model almost complete,
artist Scott has come to Sangeet's
studio to get a sneaky peek.
Hi, Scott, how you doing?
How's it going? Yeah, very well.
Good. All good. She's outside,
do you want to come and look?
All right. Let me put my bag down.
So, here we are.
Wow, look at that.
The marsupial pouches.
It is a thing of its own, isn't it?
The hands look great.
The hands are beautiful.
That looks amazing.
Here's the last piece.
Wow. I am really looking forward to
seeing Alice's reaction to it.
She will have kind of the shock of
seeing her in a different way.
I think she is going to fall in love
with her new legs.
I think she's going to like it.
I think she is going to like it.
Yeah, I think she's going to
really like it.
It's been three short months
since the Science Museum
set me this challenge,
and now, the night of the big reveal
has arrived.
As the crowds gather, it's time to
finally meet the new me.
I have not seen anything of it.
I haven't seen any photographs,
I haven't seen anything
since very early on in the project
when I was talking to Scott
in his studio.
And it's over there with a veil
over it.
So, I'm intrigued,
but I'm also slightly fearful
about what it actually looks like.
Hundreds of people have turned up.
This experiment has clearly
sparked the interest of the public.
Hello, everyone.
Welcome to the Science Museum.
Alice came into this gallery,
met me,
we were talking about something that
she has complained about endlessly
in articles and books,
and it sort of struck me,
well, why doesn't she come up with
the perfect Alice?
Now, I can't wait to see
what is behind that curtain.
It's now time to introduce...
Alice Roberts.
Thanks, Roger.
So, this has been
an extraordinary project.
I have been terribly excited
about this for a month.
But I'm also really nervous,
and I'm interested to see
what you think, as well.
OK, right, help me with this, then.
Five, four, three,
two, one...
Oh, my goodness.
No, I can't look at her.
Oh, this is really strange.
She's so different,
and yet in some ways so realistic.
The thing I find weirdest
is the face, actually,
because it does look like my face,
but those eyes have changed
the geometry of it.
No, it's not the weirdest thing,
is it?
The baby is the weirdest thing.
That is the weirdest thing.
But it's very, very cute
at the same time.
Alice 2.0 is amazing.
To counter the faults of our flawed
transition to standing upright,
she has got a chimp's
sturdy lower back
and the shock-absorbing legs
of an emu.
To improve blood circulation, she
has got tiny pumps in her thighs.
and the graceful lungs of a swan.
Her neck houses
a choke-proof windpipe.
And to ensure
a pain-free childbirth,
she nurtures her baby
in a marsupial pouch.
Her senses have been transformed.
with large mobile ears and
light-sensitive super-sized eyes.
This could be a human
fit for the future.
I am blown away
by the artistry here.
I mean, both of you.
It's just astonishing.
It's weird, I'm...
I think it is coherent.
Yeah. There's enough structure that
it would be mechanically sound.
She looks like
she could just walk away.
Yeah, for a moment you are able to
suspend your disbelief and... Yeah.
..get wrapped up in something
that you can see in front of you.
It's lovely. I can't believe
how absolutely brilliantly well
it's all come together,
and it's down to you.
So thank you so much.
But what does the public think?
I don't think, in our culture,
that is what you imagine
the perfect body to look like.
But maybe it should be. Exactly.
See that first thing in the morning,
I would run a mile,
faster than an ostrich.
If I were to think about the
favourite part of her,
I would have to think long and hard,
and it definitely wouldn't be
the massive eyes looking at me.
I would probably do a lot
to spare the sheer horror
of what I expect childbirth
to be like,
therefore the pouch
is a winner for me.
Same with me.
I think the part I disliked most,
if I can say that, is the legs,
because they look so very different,
so animal-like.
When I saw the legs,
I was astonished.
I think the legs were just
so different, so amazing,
something I wouldn't have thought
about. And exciting!
Creating the new me has been
a fantastic journey.
But along the way, I've had to make
a whole series of compromises.
I've provided stability and
durability to my spine and legs,
but I've sacrificed mobility.
I've made childbirth easier,
but I'll be carrying this baby and
producing milk for it for years.
And with those powerful
and reliable new organs,
I may have created
a corresponding new set of maladies
that I can only begin to imagine.
This journey has given me
a renewed appreciation
of the true complexity
of designing a working body
and of evolution itself.
I set out trying to
achieve perfection,
and I'm not sure
that's what we have done.
We've looked at all those
different problems
that are in our bodies
and tried to fix them,
but every single time we nudged
something in a particular direction,
we lost something else.
So, it's been a lesson
in trade-offs.
It's also been a lesson in...
Actually, what evolution
has provided us with
is a package that works.
You can't take those
individual elements out,
fix them, and put them back in.
It has to work as a coherent whole.
But, nevertheless, I think we've
created something
which is different,
which is beautiful in its own way,
and deeply, deeply strange.