Science Night 1/30

NatureAttenborough’s Life Stories: Understanding the Natural World.” at 7 pm
In honor of Sir David Attenborough’s 60th anniversary on television, this three-part miniseries focuses on three fields that David Attenborough feels have been transformed most profoundly: filmmaking, science and the environment. Richly illustrated with the sequences (re-mastered in HD) that Attenborough has spent 60 years capturing, new interviews in which he revisits the content, stories and locations that were featured in his landmark series, and packed with the personal anecdotes of the BBC’s most accomplished raconteur, “Attenborough’s Life Stories” is a singular synopsis of a unique half-century plus. In “Understanding the Natural World,” Sir David Attenborough shares his memories of the scientists and the breakthroughs that helped shape his own career. He also recalls some of his more hair-raising attempts to bring new science to a television audience: standing in the shadow of an erupting volcano as lumps of hot lava crashed around him or being charged by a group of armed New Guinean tribesmen.

NOVA Who Killed Lindbergh’s Baby?” at 8 pm
In the aftermath of his 1927 solo transatlantic flight, Charles Lindbergh became the most famous human being on earth. When he and his wife, Anne, had a son, Charlie, the press dubbed him Little Lindy. On March 1, 1932, kidnappers snatched Little Lindy from the family home near Hopewell, New Jersey. Negotiations stretched out for weeks, but Charlie never returned. His body was discovered not five miles from Hopewell. Now, NOVA is reopening one of the most confounding crime mysteries of all time as a team of expert investigators employs state-of-the-art forensic and behavioral science techniques in an effort to determine what really happened to Lindbergh’s baby – and why.

Life On FireAsh Runners” at 9 pm
Around the Masaya Volcano in Nicaragua, life has struggled for thousands of years to re-emerge from the ashes. Underground, vampire and other bat species have colonized the miles of tunnels created by hot flowing magma. In the crater, parakeets and vultures have made nests on cliffs exposed to toxic gases. On the flanks of this still active mountain, the vegetation has been burnt away by lava flows leaving barren stretches that are recolonized over hundreds of years. At the foot of the volcano, fields, pastures and towns have grown over the oldest lava flows. In this harsh environment, nature struggles to conquer ash and lava before the next eruption erases its efforts … and the phoenix must rise again.

Science Night 1/23

Nature “Attenborough’s Life Stories: Life on Camera” at 7 pm
In honor of Sir David Attenborough’s 60th anniversary on television, this three-part miniseries focuses on three fields that David Attenborough feels have been transformed most profoundly: filmmaking, science and the environment. Richly illustrated with the sequences (re-mastered in HD) that Attenborough has spent 60 years capturing, new interviews in which he revisits the content, stories and locations that were featured in his landmark series, and packed with the personal anecdotes of the BBC’s most accomplished raconteur, “Attenborough’s Life Stories” is a singular synopsis of a unique half-century plus. In “Life on Camera,” Sir David Attenborough revisits key places and events in his wildlife filmmaking career, reminisces through his old photos and reflects on memorable wildlife footage, including swimming with dolphins and catching a komodo dragon. Returning to his old haunts in Borneo, he recalls the challenges of filming on a seething pile of guano in a bat cave.

NOVA “Rise of the Drones” at 8 pm
Drones. These unmanned flying robots – some as large as jumbo jets, others as small as birds – do things straight out of science fiction. Much of what it takes to get these robotic airplanes to fly, sense and kill has remained secret. But now, with unprecedented access to drone engineers (including a rare interview with the “Father of the Predator,” Abe Karem) and those who operate drones for the U.S. military, NOVA reveals the amazing technologies that make them so powerful. Discover the cutting-edge technologies that are propelling us toward a new chapter in aviation history.

Life On Fire “Phoenix Temple” at 9 pm
Around the Masaya Volcano in Nicaragua, life has struggled for thousands of years to re-emerge from the ashes. Underground, vampire and other bat species have colonized the miles of tunnels created by hot flowing magma. In the crater, parakeets and vultures have made nests on cliffs exposed to toxic gases. On the flanks of this still active mountain, the vegetation has been burnt away by lava flows leaving barren stretches that are recolonized over hundreds of years. At the foot of the volcano, fields, pastures and towns have grown over the oldest lava flows. In this harsh environment, nature struggles to conquer ash and lava before the next eruption erases its efforts … and the phoenix must rise again.

Science Night 1/16

Nature “Cracking The Koala Code” at 7 pm
This program examines the day-to-day dramas of an extended family of koalas, seen through the eyes of the scientists studying their every move and vocalization. Fascinating social dynamics include territorial displays, vicious fighting and the surprising life and loves of a “traveling salesman,” a rogue male who truly plays the field. New science even “cracks the koala communication code,” providing insights into their basic language and social structure.

NOVA “Ice Age Death Trap” at 8 pm
In a race against developers in the Rockies, archaeologists uncover a unique site packed with astonishingly preserved bones of mammoths, mastodons and other giant extinct beasts, opening a vivid window on the vanished world of the Ice Age.

Life On Fire “The Surprise Salmon” at 9 pm
In Alaska, the fresh water that feeds the rivers is snowmelt from North America’s highest mountains and most active volcanoes. Time and again, they erupt and poison the rivers. Scientists have only just begun to piece together what might have happened nearly 2,000 years ago, when one race of salmon faced the death of their natal river and were forced back to the open ocean on an exceptional adventure. Navigating between the sulphurous waters, bears, sharks and eagles, the fish escaped the Earth’s wrath to give birth to descendants that continue their pioneering journey to the heart of an active volcano.

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.

Science Night 1/2

Nature “Broken Tail: A Tiger’s Last Journey” at 7 pm
Irish cameraman Colin Stafford-Johnson spent almost 600 days filming Broken Tail and his family for some of the finest tiger documentaries ever made. Broken Tail was the most charismatic tiger cub ever seen in Ranthambore, one of India’s best protected tiger reserves. But suddenly and without warning Broken Tail abandoned his sanctuary and went on the run, moving through farmland and scrub until he was killed by a train nearly 200 miles from his home. To track Broken Tail’s incredible journey, Colin and his soundman, Salim, retrace the tiger’s path and piece together the cub’s last days – and through his story reveal the fate of the few surviving tigers in India.

NOVA “Doomsday Volcanoes” at 8 pm
The eruption of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull volcano in 2010 turned much of the northern hemisphere into an ash-strewn no-fly zone. But Eyjafjallajokull was just the start. Katla, an Icelandic volcano 10 times bigger, has begun to swell and grumble. Two more giants, Hekla and Laki, could erupt without warning. Iceland is a ticking time bomb: When it blows, the consequences will be global. Meet scientists trying to understand those consequences – for air travel and for the global food supply and Earth’s climate. Could we be plunged into years of cold and famine? What can we do to prepare for the coming disaster?

Life On Fire “Icelandic Volcanoes” at 9 pm
The 2010 eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland provoked economic chaos by paralyzing a major air traffic network for days. This eruption, however, was mild. Much more powerful volcanoes in Iceland are ready to wake up. Through spectacular aerial footage of this country, which is an accumulation of lava and ash, a maze of craters and faults, the episode tries to discern which volcano could wake up next and what the consequences of a major eruption are likely to be. Europe has come to realize that a colossal power sleeps beneath Iceland, while Icelanders for centuries have learned to live amongst their volcanoes.