Science Night 1/9

Nature “Cuba: The Accidental Eden” at 7 pm
This small island’s varied landscape, its location in the heart of the Caribbean and its longstanding place at the center of Cold War politics have all combined to preserve some of the richest and most unusual natural environments of the hemisphere. For decades, Cuba’s wild landscapes lay untouched while its Caribbean neighbors poisoned or paved over their ecological riches. Now, Cuba’s priceless treasures are about to face an onslaught. Tourism is already on the rise and most experts predict tourism will double once the U.S. trade embargo ends. What will happen to Cuba’s stunning biodiversity – an island filled with amphibians, reptiles and the most biologically diverse freshwater fish in the region?

NOVA “Decoding Neanderthals” at 8 pm
Over 60,000 years ago, the first modern humans –people physically identical to us today — left their African homeland and entered Europe, then a bleak and inhospitable continent in the grip of the Ice Age. But when they arrived, they were not alone: the stocky, powerfully built Neanderthals had already been living there for hundred of thousands of years. So what happened when the first modern humans encountered the Neanderthals? Did we make love or war? That question has tantalized generations of scholars and seized the popular imagination. Then, in 2010, a team led by geneticist Svante Paabo announced stunning news. Not only had they reconstructed much of the Neanderthal genome — an extraordinary technical feat that would have seemed impossible only a decade ago — but their analysis showed that “we” modern humans had interbred with Neanderthals, leaving a small but consistent signature of Neanderthal genes behind in everyone outside Africa today.

Life On Fire “Volcano Doctors” at 9 pm
Whether the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Colombia, Chile, Italy or Iceland, each of these countries is home to active volcanoes that are a threat to the populations settled at their feet. Every day, lava, ash, gas, bombs and avalanches are likely to slide down the gaping mouths of the rock giants. To avoid disasters, volcanologists are asked to anticipate and warn. They are asked to be prophets and to know how to analyze the volcanoes’ slightest tremors. Around the world, these volcano doctors use their tools and knowledge to try to protect those who live beneath the Earth’s fire.