Science Night 12/26

Nature “Wild Balkans” at 7 pm
Thick forests, vast wetlands, deep chasms – this is a wild, inaccessible place that belongs more to myth than reality. The landscape looks as if it was taken straight form Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings.” But here there are neither orcs nor elves; rather, bears and wolves. This is not Middle Earth; rather it is middle Europe – the Balkans. Through the centuries this land has burned its way into the soul and spirit of its people. The jagged contours have thrown long dark shadows over the history of the peninsula, always in the middle, between forces of the East and the West. It’s as if the bloody history of the Balkans conspired to conceal its natural wonders. The landscape is still untouched and in it are wild animals that have all but vanished from the rest of Europe.

NOVA “Building The Great Cathedrals” at 8 pm
Carved from 100 million pounds of stone, soaring effortlessly atop a spiderweb of masonry, Gothic cathedrals are marvels of human achievement and artistry. But how did medieval builders reach such spectacular heights? Consuming the labor of entire towns, sometimes taking 100 years to build, these architectural marvels were crafted from just hand tools and stone. Many now teeter on the brink of catastrophic collapse. To save them, an international team of engineers, architects, art historians and computer scientists searches the naves, bays, and bell towers for clues to how the dream of these heavenly temples on earth came true. NOVA’s teams perform hands-on experiments to investigate and reveal the architectural secrets that the cathedral builders used to erect their soaring, glass-filled walls. This program reveals the hidden formulas, drawn from the pages of the Bible itself, that drove medieval builders ever upward.

NOVA “Quest For Solomon’s Mines” at 9 pm
Inspired by the Bible’s account of the splendor of his temples and palaces adorned in glittering gold and copper, countless treasure-seekers have set off in search of King Solomon’s mines. They have trekked through burning deserts and scaled the forbidding mountains of Africa and the Levant. Yet to date, the evidence that’s been claimed to support the existence of Solomon and other early kingdoms in the Bible has been highly controversial. In fact, there is so little physical evidence of the kings who ruled Israel and Edom that many contend that they are no more real than King Arthur. During the summer of 2010, NOVA and National Geographic embarked on two groundbreaking expeditions to expose new clues buried in the pockmarked desert of Jordan: the ancient remnants of a mass industrial-scale copper mine and a 3,000-year-old message from the past with the words “slave,” “king” and “judge.” These cutting-edge investigations illuminate the legend of Solomon and reveal the source of the great wealth that powered the first mighty Biblical kingdoms.