NOVA traces Earth's geologic evolution. The program chronicles the formation of Earth from solar system dust particles that coalesced and became one of the four rocky planets closest to the sun.
NOVA chronicles the discoveries that led to scientists' current understanding of how the universe was formed. The program describes the serendipitous discovery of the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) radiation, a faint energy signal believed to be left over from the big bang.
NOVA explores the search for extraterrestrial life. The program describes the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI), a program that scans star systems for radio transmissions from advanced extraterrestrial civilizations and introduces the Drake equation, created by SETI founder Frank Drake, which attempts to quantify the probability of intelligent life in the Milky Way galaxy.
NOVA reports on the different ways scientists explain how life emerged on Earth. The program relates the discovery of extremophiles—bacteria that thrive in harsh subterranean and deep ocean environments similar to those believed to have existed on primitive Earth and describes an attempt to determine when life began on Earth by searching rock formations in Greenland for higher-than-expected ratios of carbon 12 to carbon 13 (in ratios currently only known to be created by life processes).
Examine the complex case of Typhoid Mary, a cook that was quaratined for life against her will in the early 1900s.
Who were the first Ameicans and where did they come from?
Archeologists excavate Stalag Luft 3, the site of the greatest WWII prisoner escape. Prisoners of the camp are also interviewed.
Isreal's remote Cave of Letters holds clues to a Jewish uprising against the Romans.
The great PBS science series Nova scores another hit with Mars: Dead or Alive, capturing all the excitement surrounding the Mars rover landings of early 2004. Originally broadcast just as the first of the twin rovers (”Spirit” and “Opportunity”) was experiencing temporary communication problems with Earth-bound mission controllers, this riveting hour-long episode chronicles the risky $820 million Mars Exploration Rover (MER) project from design to touchdown, dramatically illustrating (through the use of detailed simulations and sophisticated computer animation) the considerable chances of failure–a nail-biting gamble considering that fully two-thirds of all previous Mars missions never reached their destination. Through rigorous testing and initial failure of the MER parachute system to the celebrated transmission of pristine photos from the “Spirit” landing site, we see just how intensely complex and emotionally involving the missions are, especially for Cornell University astronomer and lead MER scientist Steve Squyres and his devoted team of colleagues at Pasadena's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Careers are on the line as technical problems accumulate, and one feels the same mixture of dread, anxiety, and elation that accompanied the historic return of Apollo 13. A bonus interview with Mars-mission pioneer Donna Shirley puts everything into resonant perspective, celebrating science and the MER missions as an essential human endeavor. Inside NASA's risky field trip to the Red Planet. Two-thirds of all spacecraft previously launched to Mars never reached their destination. Now, in a pioneering and risky mission, twin rovers named Spirit and Opportunity hurtle toward Mars at 12,000 miles per hour, with Spirit scheduled to touch down first. In the final “six minutes of terror” a parachute will open, giant protective airbags will inflate around the lander, and retrorockets will fire for a few seconds before Spirit is cut loose, bouncing its way to what everyone hopes will be a safe landing. To survive, Spirit will have to function perfectly. It will also have to be lucky, since there's no way of knowing when a sharp rock or a gust of wind will ruin your day on Mars. Only then will Spirit be able to roll off the lander and begin its mission as a robot geologist, searching for clues that can tell us whether this harsh and barren planet was ever a place that could have supported life. Join NOVA for a tense and dramatic behind-the-scenes chronicle of the $820 million Mars Exploration Rover (MER) project, developed at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. Beginning a year before launch, NOVA's cameras follow MER scientists and engineers through a gauntlet of potentially fatal problems such as shredding parachutes, punctured airbags, and short circuits, any one of which could scuttle the mission before the rovers ever reach the launchpad. Then, seven months after launch, re-join NOVA and the NASA team in mission control for the final nail-biting minutes of the journey, as Spirit successfully lands on Mars and begins sending back its first spectacular images of the Martian landscape.
For decades, a fossil skull discovered in Piltdown, England, was hailed as the missing link between apes and humans. Entire careers were built on its authenticity. Then in 1953, the awful truth came out: "Piltdown Man" was a fake! But who done it? In "The Boldest Hoax," NOVA gets to the bottom of the greatest scientific hoodwinking of all time.
A chronicle of the turbulent birth, life and death of the Concorde, the world's first and only supersonic airliner.
Ever since its sensational unveiling by Yale University scholars in October 1965, the Vinland Map has been a lightning rod for passionate debate. Most reviews of the arguments, including NOVA's program, have focused on scientific tests designed to gauge the authenticity of the map's ink. The opinions of experts in cartography and historical manuscripts have commanded much less attention, yet from the outset scholars in these disciplines pointed out glaring anomalies in the case for the Vinland Map's authenticity.
A team of experts takes on the preservation of the origianl Constitution, Declaration of Indipendance and Bill of Rights.
In 1909, Louis Bleriot undertakes a heroic first-ever flight over the English Channel.
On December 26, 2004 a devastating tsunami in the Indian Ocean kills more than 250,000 people. NOVA takes an in depth look at just what happened on that fateful day.