THERE is, I found out this week thanks to the fascinating BBC series Human Universe, an underground vault in an Norwegian archipelago in the Arctic that contains seeds of well over a million different crops from almost every nation on Earth.

It seems, like much of the programme presented by the enormously enthusiastic astrophysicist, Brian Cox, like something from a science fiction novel.

Of course, were that the case there would no doubt be a bit of a sting in the tale – Soylent Green was people, after all.

But not in this case. As Brian rather meaningfully pointed out, among the donated seeds were examples from both North and South Korea, positioned next to one another at that.

This, he said, stopping mercifully short of breaking into a rendition of ‘We Are The World’, is a purely humanitarian-motivated exercise.

If, for instance, some natural or man-made disaster killed a crop in the outside world forever, it could be re-established by using the example kept in the ‘seed vault’.

The thing that struck me, much like one of the quests for clean renewable energy that Cox showed us (they’re trying to make a star, he announced gleefully to camera) is that there are actually people doing this sort of thing in the first place, largely overlooked by the general population.

It’s so easy to get preoccupied by the headline-grabbing firefighting that the world is engaged in – whether its battling the spread of Ebola, curbing the spread of religious radicalism, or frantically looking for ways to shut that gobby one from the Apprentice up before he can wreck any more coach trips with horrifying sing-songs – that all these incredibly forward thinking scientific endeavours go almost unnoticed, like some barely whispered underground movement. We should all know that this underground seed bunker exists beneath the Norwegian permafrost, surely, rather than having to be told about it by Brian Cox.

Halloween has recently brought all kinds of looks at the Gothic tradition on the BBC channels, with a big focus on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein over the weekend. And rightly so – as horror-tinged science fiction tales go it is a brilliantly conceived and timeless cautionary tale.

But it’s such a great story that its message about reckless scientific advancement often drowns out the flipside to the coin – the fact that science brings us wonders all the time and that it vastly improves our lives beyond the wildest dreams of mere Facebook and mobile phone addicts.

Anyway, if you didn’t see the programme it’s well worth a look on the BBC iPlayer.

Some cynics are a bit scathing about the boundless puppy dog enthusiasm of Cox, but if you give yourself over to it, it’s hard not to be swept away.

That business about creating a star was all part of an ongoing bid – happening right now, as you read this – to use coordinated laser beams to create fusion power. One day we were told, all the energy we need could be compressed into tiny pellets you can potentially carry around in your pocket and use as and when you need them.

That’s pretty mindblowing stuff. And if it came to pass it would also cut petrol station queues massively, so try telling me that isn’t something to get enthusiastic about.