Science Night: Becoming Human 8/31

Wednesday Science Night presents a comprehensive three-part, NOVA special investigating explosive new discoveries that are transforming the picture of how we became human.

NOVA Becoming Human: The First Steps 7 pm
In part one, “First Steps,” examines the factors that caused us to split from the other great apes. The program explores the fossil of “Selam,” also known as “Lucy’s Child.” Paleoanthropologist Zeray Alemseged spent five years carefully excavating the sandstone-embedded fossil. NOVA’s cameras are there to capture the unveiling of the face, spine, and shoulder blades of this 3.3 million-year-old fossil child. And NOVA takes viewers “inside the skull” to show how our ancestors’ brains had begun to change from those of the apes.

NOVA Becoming Human: Birth of Humanity 8 pm
The second segment, “Birth of Humanity,” the second program, tackles the mysteries of how our ancestors managed to survive in a savannah teeming with vicious predators, and when and why we first left our African cradle to colonize every corner of the earth. NOVA investigates the first skeleton that really looks like us–”Turkana Boy”–an astonishingly complete specimen of Homo erectus found by the famous Leakey team in Kenya. These early humans are thought to have developed key innovations that helped them thrive, including hunting large prey, the use of fire, and extensive social bonds.

NOVA Becoming Human: Last Human Standing 9 pm
In the final program, “Last Human Standing,” NOVA probes a wave of dramatic new evidence, based partly on cutting-edge DNA analysis, that reveals new insights into how we became today’s creative and “behaviorally modern” humans and what really happened to the enigmatic Neanderthals who faded into extinction. How did modern humans take over the world? New evidence suggests that they left Africa and colonized the rest of the globe far earlier, and for different reasons, than previously thought.