NOVA Upcoming Summer & Fall 2007 Programming
PBS on Tuesdays @ 8 pm ET/PT (check local listings)
June 19, 2007 at 8 pm ET check local listings
NOVA takes viewers to the stark Australian outback in search of the elusive bones of one of the world's most bizarre prehistoric creatures-a giant predatory marsupial called Thylacoleo. A crack team of Australian scientists endures extreme weather, treacherous drops into a deep cavern, and the threat of fossil poachers in their search for a rare intact skeleton of the mega-beast. During the Ice Age a million or more years ago, Australia was home to a zoo of extraordinary giant animals, including 8-feet tall kangaroos, wombats the size of hippos, 3-feet diameter snakes, and a horned tortoise as big as a Volkswagen. But none was quite as bizarre or fearsome as Thylacoleo, the meat-eating marsupial lion. Pound for pound, this creature had the most powerful bite of any mammal, living or extinct. But even though it was the king of ancient Australian predators, Thylacoleo was eventually toppled from its throne, dying out along with all the rest of the outsized beasts. NOVA digs into the mystery of what finally overwhelmed the giant Ice Age creatures and whether early human hunters were responsible.
The Great Inca Rebellion
June 26, 2007 at 8 pm ET check local listings
The first NOVA/National Geographic television special goes to an impoverished suburb of Lima where an ancient cemetery crammed with mummies is excavated by Peruvian archaeologist Guillermo Cock. In a truly startling find, he discovers corpses that differ from all the rest. They have been hastily buried and disfigured by multiple, appalling wounds and fractures. Forensic experts help to determine that these remains are victims of a battle that pitted club-wielding Inca warriors against Spanish cavalry. The forensic evidence may be a decisive clue that helps explain a long-standing mystery about the Spanish conquest of Peru. How, in 1532, did a tiny band of Spanish soldiers crush the mighty Inca Empire, then the most powerful civilization in the Americas? Were the conquistadors' obvious advantages-steel arms, gunpowder, and horses-the key to their success, as is generally supposed? Or were disease and civil war more significant factors that were downplayed by the invaders? By uncovering new evidence from the Lima cemetery, NOVA and National Geographic reveal the untold final chapter of the conquest: not the Spanish walkover familiar from well-known accounts, but rather a protracted and complex war of astonishing brutality that almost led to the Spanish losing their precarious foothold in the Andes. A production of NOVA and National Geographic Television.
NOVA scienceNOW #4
July 10, 2007 at 8 pm ET check local listings· EPIGENETICS: Is DNA our destiny? Maybe not as much as we thought. A field called epigenetics is challenging the belief that all inherited traits are passed on by genes. The story poses the mystery of why identical twins can differ markedly in their susceptibility to disease even though they are born with the same DNA. The solution is that environmental influences make small chemical changes to DNA without altering the overall genome. The things we experience routinely, such as diet, stress, or exposure to chemicals, may trigger these switches and turn genes on or off, affecting our health and even influencing the traits we pass on to our descendants. As they pursue their novel investigation of epigenetics, researchers find they are tapping into a potent new strategy for treating disease.
· EMERGENCE: A general commands an army, a conductor conducts an orchestra, a queen bee rules a hive; by all appearances, order is usually imposed from the top down. But sometimes, it's bottom-up forces that count, a phenomenon that scientists call emergence. The seemingly coordinated movement of a school of fish or a flock of birds is not controlled by any leader; instead, it "emerges" naturally as each individual follows a few instinctual rules such as: go in the same direction as the other guy, don't get too close, and flee any predators. Emergence explains how crowds of humans pass each other smoothly in a crosswalk, and it may one day explain such baffling questions as the cause of consciousness and the origin of life itself.
· CERN LHC: NOVA scienceNOW explores the world's biggest and most ambitious science experiment: the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) now nearing completion at CERN, the international particle physics lab headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. Inside this 16-mile-long underground ring, giant magnets hurl atomic particles together at near-light speed. The debris leftover from these breakneck collisions may include the never-before-detected Higgs particle, a crucial last remaining puzzle piece from the standard model of physics. Higgs or no Higgs, physicists expect to see exciting new phenomena with LHC and perhaps even a glimpse of an entirely unknown form of matter.
· PROFILE: ARLIE PETTERS How does a poor kid from Belize get to be one of the premier researchers in the field of gravitational lensing-the study of warped light from far distant galaxies? Hard work and a thirst for knowledge help, as NOVA reports in its profile of Arlie Petters, Professor of Mathematics and Physics at Duke University. Petters' long journey from the shores of the Caribbean to the cutting edge of cosmology took him from Belize to a rough neighborhood in Brooklyn, where he immigrated with his mother as a teenager. Petters excelled in high school and then attended Hunter College, where he attracted the attention of the head of a scholarship program for minorities interested in the sciences. A doctorate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology followed. Throughout his amazing career, Peters has never lost touch with his Central American roots. He recently founded The Petters Institute there, which educates disadvantaged children.
NOVA scienceNOW #5
July 24, 2007 at 8 pm ET check local listings· SLEEP AND MEMORY: We spend about one third of our lives sleeping. Why? Believe it or not, scientists don't know for sure. But evidence is building that sleep plays a crucial role in strengthening memories and facilitating learning, not just in humans but in all animals. NOVA visits research labs at the University of Pennsylvania and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where scientists are peering into the brains of dozing flies and rats to understand the connection between sleep and memory. And at Harvard Medical School, host Neil Tyson tests his powers of learning on a virtual ski machine and a number-memorizing exercise, and then catches some z's. In both tasks, he shows that it's not practice that makes perfect, but practice plus a night of sleep!
· T-REX: This Fossil Is Colossal - All we know about dinosaurs comes from fossils. Thanks to paleobiologist Mary Schweitzer these old bones are telling us more than ever. Schweitzer defied the long-held belief that it was fruitless to search for preserved soft tissues in dinosaur remains; most experts held that such structures should have decayed away long ago. But by searching in the right kinds of samples, Schweitzer has found remnants of delicate structures such as blood vessels and red blood cells that miraculously survived for millions of years. Recently she examined one cross section of 68-million-year-old bone and announced her astonishing conclusion that it belonged to a pregnant Tyrannosaurus rex!
· KRYPTOS: The Unbroken Code Of Langley - Get out your pencils: the most mysterious of all codes in the most clandestine of all places has yet to be fully broken. "Kryptos," a coded sculpture in the courtyard of CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, contains a long string of seemingly nonsensical letters that conceal a message devised by sculptor James Sanborn.
Correspondent and supersleuth Chad Cohen gets cracking, covering the cipher techniques used by Sanborn and the success of amateur code breaker Jim Gillogly at reading portions of the text. The deciphered sections include a poem, a reference to something buried on CIA grounds, and an extract from an eyewitness report of the discovery of King Tut's tomb. A beguiling final coded paragraph remains a mystery. Solutions anyone?
· PROFILE: JULIE SCHABLISTKY: Julie Schablitsky is rewriting the history of the Old West. Last year the University of Oregon archaeologist presented evidence that members of the Donner family did everything but resort to cannibalism during their ill-fated California trek with a group of settlers in the 1840s (some of whom did taste forbidden flesh). Schablitsky is also shedding new light on one of the most poorly documented aspects of life on the frontier: the history of the thousands of Chinese laborers who built the railroads and did other backbreaking work. Written records connected with Chinese immigrants are scarce, but their history can be read from the objects Schablitsky is turning up in a typical Chinese settlement. In other innovative research, she is one of the first archaeologists to recover historic-period human DNA from an artifact-in this case a medical syringe that reveals clues about its several users.
Samurai Sword (w.t.)
October 9, 2007 at 8 pm ET check local listings
For over a thousand years the Samurai sword has dominated the battlefields of Japan, instilled fear and terror into every enemy it faced, and evoked a spiritual way of life that continues even today. With unparalleled access, NOVA travels deep into Japan's ancient foundries, follows the craft of the traditional sword-smiths and attends Samurai fighting school to reveal the art and science behind making what many call the perfect sword.
October 16, 2007 at 8 pm ET check local listings
In a provocative report from the frontiers of biology, NOVA explores new findings that call into question the long-held belief that all inherited traits are passed on by our genes. The fast-growing field of epigenetics investigates hidden influences that could not only affect our health today but that of our children and grandchildren far into the future. It now looks like the environment we live in makes small chemical changes to our DNA without affecting the gene's overall makeup. To put it another way, epigenetics adds another layer to our DNA that acts as a control system of "switches." The things people experience, such as nutrition or stress, may trigger these switches and turn genes on or off. These subtle changes can then be "remembered" and passed on from generation to generation, altering the traits we inherit. This would mean that the lives of your grandparents - the air they breathed, the food they ate, even the things they saw - could directly affect you, and that what you do in your lifetime could, in turn, affect your grandchildren. NOVA explores this fascinating new idea, interviewing top scientists in the field and following what could be a paradigm shift in the way we think about inheritance and our genes.
October 30, 2007 at 8 pm ET check local listings
What does it take for the average person to run one of the world's toughest road races? NOVA finds out in "Marathon" a one-hour special that's both a human story and an intriguing scientific exploration of the way our bodies respond to intense exercise demands. Filmed in cooperation with the Boston Athletic Association, NOVA has been granted unprecedented access to the Boston Marathon course, and will take viewers on a unique adventure inside the human body. Every year thousands of athletes from across the globe flock to Boston to run the city's Marathon, known worldwide as the ultimate test of stamina and endurance. In the summer of 2006, NOVA began following 13 hopeful novices as they took the first step toward completing the 26.2-mile race in April 2007. The group of participants includes a variety of people from diverse backgrounds - a young woman running in memory of her mother, who died in a tragic car accident; a working single mom; even a former NFL linebacker. The one unifying element is that not one of them is currently a runner. Over the 9-month training period, exercise and nutrition scientists and doctors at Tufts University use sophisticated technology to monitor the physical transformations that the participants have undergone. Intimate one-on-one interviews reveal the highs and lows along the way. The experience will demand a transformation of mind and body, and NOVA cameras will be there, following every step of the way.
Secrets of the Sputnik Race (w.t)
November 6, 2007 at 8 pm ET check local listings
The world changed fifty years ago on October 4th 1957, when the U.S. public heard the shocking news that the Soviet Union had successfully launched the first satellite, Sputnik I. Why didn't the U.S. beat the Soviets in this first crucial round of the space race? NOVA reveals an astonishing behind-the-scenes story of the politics and personalities that collided over the earliest efforts to get America into space long before the founding of NASA. Anticommunist witch-hunts drove some of the nation's most talented rocketry pioneers out of the country even as we welcomed Wernher von Braun and his former Nazi colleagues. With help from Walt Disney, von Braun's vision of future space travel swiftly captivated U.S. TV watchers. But even as he became the first media star of the space age, von Braun's attempts to build space probes were hobbled by inter-service rivalries. In American Sputnik, NOVA details the previously untold story of the technological and political missteps that made the U.S. lose out to the Soviets' bleeping electronic basketball.
Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial (w.t.)
November 13, 2007 at 8 pm ET check local listings
One of the latest battles in the war over evolution took place in a tiny town in eastern Pennsylvania called Dover. In 2004, the local school board ordered science teachers to read a statement to their high school biology students. The statement suggested that there is an alternative to Darwin's theory of evolution called intelligent design, the idea that life is too complex to have evolved naturally and therefore had to have been designed by an intelligent agent. The science teachers refused to comply with the order, and alarmed parents filed a lawsuit in federal court accusing the school board of violating the separation of church and state. Suddenly, the small town of Dover was torn apart by controversy, pitting neighbor against neighbor. NOVA captures the emotional conflict in interviews with the townspeople, scientists and lawyers who participated in the historic six-week trial, Kitzmiller, et. al. v. Dover School District, et. al., which was closely watched by the world's media. With recreations based on court transcripts, NOVA presents the arguments by lawyers and expert witnesses in riveting detail and provides an eye-opening crash course on questions such as "What is evolution?" and "Does intelligent design qualify as science?" For years to come, the lessons from Dover will continue to have a profound impact on how science is viewed in our society and how to teach it the classroom.
Produced by NOVA WGBH Science Unit and Vulcan Productions, Inc. Additional production by The Big Table Film Company.
November 20, 2007 at 8 pm ET check local listings
Erected by the ancient Greeks as a temple to Athena, the Parthenon has served as a church, a fortress, an ammunition dump, and the model for countless banks, courthouses, and museums across the world. It has been shot at, exploded, set on fire, rocked by earthquakes, looted for its magnificent sculptures, and subjected to restorations that have been termed "catastrophic." Surprisingly, despite so much abuse and renown as an icon of Western civilization, the question of how the Parthenon was built has been largely ignored until recently. Now, thanks to the Greek government's $10 billion restoration program, scholars are finally probing the enigmas of its planning and construction. Following months of negotiation to secure access, NOVA is currently shooting the inside story of the official restoration. The story reaches far beyond the challenges and controversies of conserving one of the world's best-known buildings. The researchers are now closing in on answers to some truly monumental riddles: How did the ancient Athenians build their great temple with incredible precision in a mere 8 years? How did they manage to incorporate subtle, eye-pleasing distortions into the Parthenon's layout, such that there are few straight lines or right angles to be seen? And, most baffling of all, how did they accomplish all this without an overall building plan or blueprint, which would be indispensable to a modern architect?
December 18, 2007 at 8 pm ET check local listings
In 1950, Russian and American fighters clashed over Korea in the fastest dogfights ever seen. This was the world's first jet war, pitting the two most advanced planes of their day, the American F-86 Sabre and the Soviet MIG-15, in furious air battles that pushed their pilots' skills to the limit. The epicenter of the air campaign was MIG Alley, a strip of airspace between the Korean-Chinese border. Flying higher and faster than ever before, American and British pilots had little idea of the hidden dangers that awaited them if they were shot down. Thirty-one Sabre pilots are believed to have survived crash landings, and the evidence suggests that a few of the pilots were captured and secretly imprisoned in Russia. In Missing over MIG Alley, NOVA follows the poignant and sometimes harrowing efforts of family members to trace what happened to pilots who went missing over half a century ago. The program combines forensic detective work with an in-depth look at why the Sabre and the MIG acquired their reputations as legendary fighting machines. With the help of dramatic reconstructions, rare archival footage, and interviews with veteran aces, NOVA puts viewers in the cockpit to experience the lethal split-second duels in the skies over MIG Alley.
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