Mankind Rising

2012, Science  -  44 min Leave a Comment
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Mankind Rising is a computer animated re-imagining of the biological evolution of humanity, beginning with the genetic makeup of the first primordial cell and ending with the emergence of the first bipedal species, Homo erectus.

Beginning 4,000 million years ago, the evolutionary timeline is illustrated here in great depth, tracing the first instance of cell division through the appearance of the first water worm 550 million years ago. The development of the first brain enabled early species to gain sight, one of the first major milestones in early biological development. The first segment of the film takes viewers underwater before emerging onto land, where the story turns to our reptilian and mammalian ancestors.

In addition to the many miracles of biology that have enabled our existence, the film highlights the other factors that have made humanity's survival so spectacular, such as numerous predators and natural disasters of immense scale. A volcanic eruption 225 million years ago lasted half a million years and eliminated 95% of the species on Earth, yet our ancestral species prevailed. Small, shrew-like mammals that superseded the dinosaurs traveled across the continents, spreading seeds and therefore food sources and life across the planet.

This ultimately lead to the appearance of primates, perhaps the greatest turning point in our evolutionary history. Over the course of the next ten million years, however, climate changes decreased the size of forests and impacted the availability of food, creating yet another shift in the biological makeup of Earth and its inhabitants. The need to travel greater distances and obtain a broader variety of nutrients required yet another step in evolution, paving the way for Homo erectus, who demonstrated an ability to problem solve, use tools, communicate, and manage fire. From here social constructs such as family and competitive behavior came forth.

Mankind Rising uses computer graphics and voice-over storytelling to create a dramatic narrative that is on par with the videos one might watch in a high school science class. It walks the viewer through the entire early history of mankind, shining light on the countless challenges and obstacles that were faced along the way.