Science Night 5/30

Nature “Black Mamba” at 7 pm
The black mamba is one of Africa’s most dangerous and feared snakes, known for being very aggressive when disturbed. Rearing up with its head four feet above the ground, it strikes with deadly precision, delivering venom that is packed with three different kinds of toxins and is ten times more deadly than needed to kill an adult human. Without treatment the mortality rate is 100%, the highest among all venomous snakes in the world. Until now, little has been known about the black mamba’s natural behavior in the wild because in Africa most people kill a black mamba on sight and feel lucky to have done so. But in the tiny country of Swaziland in southern Africa, a team of herpetologists has an entirely different “take” on these creatures and hopes their six-week study will change public perception of what they feel is the world’s most misunderstood snake.

NOVA “Venom: Nature’s Killer” at 8 pm
Venom scientists are in a race against time. Inside the bodies of many creatures, evolution has produced extreme toxic cocktails, all designed for one reason: to kill. It took millions of years to perfect these ultimate brews of proteins and peptides and we have only just begun to discover their potential. Now, the race is on to collect and study them before the animals that produce them disappear. But how does venom do its deadly work? NOVA reveals how venom causes the body to shut down, arteries to bleed uncontrollably and limbs to go black and die. But nature’s most destructive and extreme poisons could contain the building blocks for a new generation of advanced drugs that could treat heart attack, stroke, diabetes, obesity and cancer. VENOM follows scientists on their expeditions to track down and capture the planet’s most deadly creatures, risking life and limb just to tease out milligrams of venom and get it back to the lab. Find out how nature’s deadliest cocktails could be medicine’s brightest new hope.