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The beginning of the universe. (Photo via BBC)

Have you ever come across a documentary on the telly and an hour later you felt much, much smarter? It’s almost like, “How did I not know this before!? I’d like to learn more about what happens when a star explodes.” Not that you’re going to start lecturing at the nearest university, but you’ve definitely upped your chances at the next round of Trivial Pursuit. If you fancy getting your smart on you can do so with free and discounted iTunes episodes of some of our favorite BBC earth and natural history documentary series as BBC America maneuvers through the Summer of London.

1. Wonders of the Universe
Professor Brian Cox breaks down the complex and vast universe explaining that three minutes after the universe began there were only two “ingredients” in existence which were clouds of hydrogen and helium. Over time those clouds collapsed forming stars and the heavier elements were held in the hearts of stars. The elements were released once the star hit its expiration date.

2. Walking with Dinosaurs
Visit the world 160 million years ago with computer generated images and animatronics illustrating how scientists believe life and habitat were shaped. The Diplodocus species make a grim journey heading to the surf hoping to find a nesting site. The heat and lack of water weed out the weaker animals. The herd itself helps provide a barrier to predators.

3. The Blue Planet
A school of humphead parrotfish descend on the coral reef to feed. Their jaws are so powerful they can bite through rock. The rock and coral they swallow emerges later as fine sand. On a single reef they can produce tons of it in a year ultimately creating alluring islands. The island is then typically colonized by animals and plantation.

4.) Life in the Freezer
David Attenborough is surrounded by approximately 80,000 Macaroni Penguins chirping away. The lifeless island is jam-packed with penguins and virtually nothing else. This is only a tiny proportion of the massive population in South Georgia which is estimated to be more than 10 million. The birds (Aves to be exact) are fighting to claim their nesting area.

5.) A Year in Tibet
A young woman allows a glimpse into her life in Tibet after being newly married. She rises early in the morning then fetches the water, milks the cow and works in the field. When she has “free time,” she weaves and cooks dinner. Right after being married her husband left to work in another town. In a year’s time she will marry his brother and he will become her second husband. She laughs nervously as she describes her fate.

(And yes, Planet Earth is also available on iTunes!)

Feeling smarter yet! What area of study interests you most?

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By staff