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Season 8 1981

  • 1981-01-06T23:00:00-03:00 on PBS
  • 55 mins
  • 19 hours, 15 mins (21 episodes)
  • United States
  • English
  • Documentary

Seen in more than 100 countries, NOVA is the most watched science television series in the world and the most watched documentary series on PBS. It is also one of television's most acclaimed series, having won every major television award, most of them many times over.


21 episodes

8x01 Doctors of Nigeria

  • Season Premiere

    1981-01-06T23:00:00-03:00 — 55 mins

Is the fagara root a match for the stethoscope? This program looks at the contributions of both traditional herbal medicine and western orthodox medicine to the health of the Nigerian people.

8x02 Message in the Rocks

  • 1981-01-20T23:00:00-03:00 — 55 mins

This program explores clues gathered from ancient rocks and meteorites in an attempt to piece together how our planet formed, what happened during its earliest days, and when life first appeared. The program includes visits to the scene of a fresh fall of meteorites, several volcanic eruptions, and an underwater glimpse of molten "pillow" lava as it oozes out of volcanic vents in the sea floor.

8x03 The Dead Sea Lives

  • 1981-01-27T23:00:00-03:00 — 55 mins

NOVA examines the Dead Sea. The lowest place on earth, at 1400 feet below sea level, it is jointly owned by Israel and Jordan. If used properly it could become a vital natural resource for both countries, giving them not only salt, but protein, fertilizer, oil, and a solar energy store.

8x04 Anatomy of a Volcano

  • 1981-02-10T23:00:00-03:00 — 55 mins

When Mt. St. Helens erupted earlier this year, it focused the attention of the whole world on the almost incredible destructive forces that volcanos can release. Geologists from around the world congregated at the volcano and NOVA joined the vigil for an in-depth look at the incident and its aftermath.

8x05 The Science of Murder

  • 1981-02-17T23:00:00-03:00 — 55 mins

NOVA investigates what science can do in helping to solve murder—in understanding why it occurs, and how the rate might be reduced—and explores the work of people who have the stark job of dealing with death: the police, pathologist, scientists and psychiatrists.

8x06 The Malady of Health Care

  • 1981-02-24T23:00:00-03:00 — 55 mins

Health care is no longer two aspirins and some chicken soup—it is a huge enterprise capable of amazing feats and costing billions of dollars. How can we afford to pay the bills? Is quality health care a right or a privilege? NOVA examines these questions in a comparison between the American and British systems of health care.

8x07 Beyond the Milky Way

  • 1981-03-03T23:00:00-03:00 — 55 mins

Sophisticated instruments used by astronomers enable earthlings to see beyond what was once the cloudy barrier of the Milky Way, to a universe of perhaps 100 billion other galaxies. NOVA takes a trip into outer space to see these clusters which are as old as time and several million light years away.

8x08 The Asteroid and the Dinosaur

  • 1981-03-10T23:00:00-03:00 — 55 mins

For 150 million years, dinosaurs dominated the earth. Then, 65 million years ago, they suddenly vanished, along with a great deal of the planet's animal and plant life. NOVA examines a remarkable theory about the cause of the catastrophe—in which the first clue to the solution was a piece of clay.

8x09 Animal Olympians

  • 1981-03-17T23:00:00-03:00 — 55 mins

The beauty, endurance, and raw power of animals in the wild are captured on film as NOVA juxtaposes Olympic athletes performing feats which have parallels in the animal kingdom with animals who are the champions of grace and strength.

8x10 Resolution on Saturn

  • 1981-08-28T22:00:00-03:00 — 55 mins

It's over 300 years since Galileo turned his new telescope on Saturn and first saw its spectacular rings. NOVA shows the beauty and new mysteries discovered by Voyager 1 on its historic visit.

8x11 Computers, Spies & Private Lives

  • 1981-09-27T22:00:00-03:00 — 55 mins

NOVA reports on the potential danger of modern computers that gather "routine" information about our daily lives as we buy things, go to the hospital, or make donations. Computers can know more about us than our closest friends. NOVA examines how much of that personal information is readily shared with other computers.

8x12 Why America Burns

  • 1981-10-04T22:00:00-03:00 — 55 mins

More people die in fires in the US than in any other industrialized country. In an alarming report that challenges the complacency of the US fire prevention establishment, NOVA uncovers glaring gaps in our defenses against flames that kill. Sealing any one of these gaps might save thousands of lives and prevent enormous pain and misery.

8x13 The Great Violin Mystery

  • 1981-10-11T22:00:00-03:00 — 55 mins

A great secret lies locked inside the master violins created by Italian craftsmen like Antonio Stradivari in the 17th and 18th centuries. Now, a Wisconsin physicist, working alone in his cellar, may have solved the violin mystery.

8x14 Cosmic Fire

  • 1981-10-18T22:00:00-03:00 — 55 mins

A NOVA showing the extraordinary discoveries of X-ray astronomy. This new science has revealed that our universe is much stranger and more violent than ever imagined, filled with neutrons, stars, exploding galaxies, quasars and black holes—a universe seething with energy, bursting across vast distances of space and time.

8x15 Locusts: War Without End

  • 1981-10-25T23:00:00-03:00 — 55 mins

Called the "teeth of the wind" by those who have battled them for centuries, locusts continue to plague hundreds of millions of people. Rare desert rains transforms locusts from harmless grasshoppers to voracious swarms capable of destroying all vegetation in their path. NOVA reveals some of man's latest attempts to rid himself of his age-old enemy, the locust.

8x16 Did Darwin Get It Wrong?

  • 1981-11-01T23:00:00-03:00 — 55 mins

The controversy which exploded a century ago when Charles Darwin published "The Origin of Species" is erupting again with new facts and emotion. NOVA explores challenges to the theory of evolution coming from evidence in fossils, from biology laboratories, and Creationists.

8x17 Artists in the Lab

  • 1981-11-15T23:00:00-03:00 — 55 mins

Many were delighted by the extraordinary special effects in movies like "2001" and" Star Wars," but few realized how their magic relied on technologies as futuristic as their science fiction plots. NOVA introduces 20th century pioneers who use computers and lasers to create an extraordinary array of strange, exciting new art forms.

You are not alone! Like it or not, every human being and virtually every living creature is, in a sense, owned and operated by legions of prehistoric organisms, hordes of them in each cell in the body. That is one of the startling revelations as NOVA explores the mysterious wonder of life with Dr. Lewis Thomas, a leading biologist and award-winning author described by Time as "quite possibly the best essayist on science anywhere in the world."

8x19 City Spaces, Human Places

  • 1981-11-29T23:00:00-03:00 — 55 mins

William H. Whyte's insightful and humorous look at city parks, plazas and streets, and the people who use them. Whyte shows the remarkable research he did over a period of many years to find out why some city squares and small parks are enjoyable while others are so dreary. His work led to the transformation of some New York City plazas from barren to bustling. Whyte shows how any city—large or small—can lick the problem of downtown dreariness.

8x20 Twins

  • 1981-12-06T23:00:00-03:00 — 55 mins

Ever thought what it's like having your mirror image talk back to you? It can be an everyday occurrence for identical twins. NOVA tells the incredible story of scientific research on twins—a field marked by brazen and damaging fraud, but also by suprising and important new discoveries about nature's recipe of heredity and environment which makes us all unique individuals.

8x21 Animal Olympians

  • 1981-03-17T23:00:00-03:00 — 55 mins

The beauty, endurance, and raw power of animals in the wild are captured on film as NOVA juxtaposes Olympic athletes performing feats which have parallels in the animal kingdom with animals who are the champions of grace and strength.