Science Night 11/14

Nature “An Original Duckumentary” at 7 pm
Working with “Hummingbirds” producer Ann Prum, NATURE features another popular, beautiful and fascinating bird – the duck. The story follows a wood duck family and discovers how a male and female create a bond, migrate together across thousands of miles, nurture and protect a brood of chicks and come full circle as they head to their wintering grounds. But our stars are just one of some 150 species of ducks. They come in all shapes and sizes and abilities – some are dabblers popping in and out of the surface of a glass lake and others swim with powerful webbed feet underwater. They fly through the air on short, stubby wings, traveling in large, energy-efficient formations over thousands of miles. Some are noisy and gregarious, others shy and elusive.

NOVA “Ultimate Mars Challenge” at 8 pm
It could be NASA’s last chance to set wheels down on Mars until the end of the decade: in August 2012, a rover named Curiosity will touch down inside Mars’ Gale Crater, carrying 10 new instruments that will advance the quest for signs that Mars might have once been suitable for life. But Curiosity’s mission is risky. After parachuting through the Martian atmosphere at twice the speed of sound, Curiosity will be gently lowered to the planet’s surface by a “sky crane.” This first-of-its-kind system has been tested on Earth, but will it work on Mars? With inside access to the massive team of scientists and engineers responsible for Curiosity’s on-the-ground experiments, NOVA is there for the exhilarating moments after Curiosity’s landing — and for the spectacular discoveries to come. But no rover does it alone: Curiosity will be joining a team that includes the Mars Odyssey, Express and Reconnaissance orbiters, along with the tireless Opportunity rover. As we reveal the dynamic new picture of Mars that these explorers are painting, we discover the questions raised by 40 years of roving Mars: How do we define life? How does life begin and what does it need to survive? Are we alone in the universe?

NOVA ScienceNow “What Will The Future Be Like?” at 9 pm
Mobile phones that read your mind? Video games that can cure cancer? Wearable robots that give you the strength of Ironman? David Pogue investigates which technologies are likely to transform daily life for you — and your grandkids. They’re already taking shape in laboratories around the world — and gadgets that once were purely science fiction are on the verge of becoming as common as the iPhones and Androids Pogue reviews every day. What technological hurdles must engineers and computer scientists overcome before robots, mind-readers and holograms are all around us? And what will it mean to us as humans if we become even more entrenched in a 24/7 digital world?

Science Night 11/7

Lonesome George and the Battle For The Galapagos at 7 pm
George, as he is affectionately known, is a national hero and an emblem of the ongoing struggle to preserve the unique nature of the Galapagos Islands. This special film tells George’s story against the backdrop of the bigger conservation issues faced by these beautiful islands. George’s loneliness is all part of a far bigger picture. The Pinta tortoise has been heavily hunted, and the islands have long been invaded by non-native species which push out the local wildlife. Even tourists, who come here partly to see the famous George, have added to the problems. There is an enormous struggle going on to restore the islands’ unique biodiversity, but not everyone loves George: local fishermen who want to protect their rights to fish in Galapagos’ protected waters have seized on him as a focus for their frustrations; meanwhile conservation efforts need to be balanced with an economy based on letting

NOVA “Mystery of Easter Island” at 8 pm
A remote, bleak speck of rock in the middle of the Pacific, Easter Island, or Rapa Nui, has mystified the world ever since the first Europeans arrived in 1722. How and why did the ancient islanders build and move nearly 900 giant statues or moai, weighing up to 86 tons? And how did they transform a presumed paradise into a treeless wasteland, bringing ruin upon their island and themselves? NOVA explores controversial recent claims that challenge decades of previous thinking about the islanders, who have been accused of everything from ecocide to cannibalism. Among the radical new theories is that the islanders used ropes to “walk” the statues upright, like moving a fridge. With the help of an accurate 15-ton replica statue, a NOVA team sets out to test this high-risk, seemingly unlikely theory.

NOVA ScienceNow “What Are Animals Thinking?” at 9 pm
Have you ever wondered what’s going on inside an animal’s head? How do they see the world — and us? Is your dog really feeling guilty when it gives you that famous “guilty look?” Do pigeon brains possess “superpowers” that allow them to find their way home across hundreds of unfamiliar miles? David Pogue meets — and competes — with a menagerie of smart critters that challenge preconceived notions about what makes “us” different from “them” expanding our understanding of how animals really think.

Science Night 10/31

Nature “Raccoon Nation” at 7 pm
Are we, in an effort to outwit raccoons, actually making them smarter and unwittingly contributing to their evolutionary success? Are the ever more complex obstacles that our fast-paced urban world throws at them actually pushing the development of raccoon brains? In this film, scientists from around the world share their thoughts and work to help explore this scientific theory. Attempting to do something that has never been done before, they closely follow a family of urban raccoons as they navigate the complex world of a big city.

NOVA “Ghosts of Machu Picchu” at 8 pm
Perched atop a mountain crest, mysteriously abandoned more than four centuries ago, Machu Picchu is the most famous archeological ruin in the Western hemisphere and an iconic symbol of the power and engineering prowess of the Inca. In the years since Machu Picchu was discovered by Hiram Bingham in 1911, there have been countless theories about this “Lost City of the Incas,” yet it remains an enigma. Why did the Incas build it on such an inaccessible site, clinging to the steep face of a mountain? Who lived among its stone buildings, farmed its emerald green terraces, and drank from its sophisticated aqueduct system? NOVA joins a new generation of archeologists as they probe areas of Machu Picchu that haven’t been touched since the time of the Incas and unearth burials of the people who built the sacred site. This program explores the extraordinary trail of clues that began on that fateful day in 1911 and continues to the present.

NOVA ScienceNow “Can I Eat That?” at 9 pm
What are the secrets behind your favorite foods? Why are some treats – like chocolate chip cookies – delectable, while others – like cookies made with mealworms – disgusting? You may think you understand what makes something sweet, salty or bitter, but David Pogue gets a taste of a much more complicated truth as he ventures into labs and kitchens where everything from apple pie to Thanksgiving turkey to juicy grasshoppers is diced, sliced, dissected and put under the microscope. If scientists can uncover exactly what’s behind the mouth-watering flavors and textures we take for granted every day, could they help us enjoy our food more – without packing on the pounds?

Science Night 10/24

Nature “Magic of the Snowy Owl” at 7 pm
Nature explores the world of the snowy owl, a bird recently made popular by Hedwig, Harry Potter’s faithful companion. Turning fantasy into reality, “Magic of the Snowy Owl” takes an intimate look at how these majestic birds survive in one of the most isolated and inhospitable places on the planet. Noted wildlife filmmaker Fergus Beeley (“Jungle Eagle”) takes viewers deep into the “snowy’s” tundra home on the North Slope of Alaska to observe the daily struggles involved in raising a family of helpless chicks until they are able to fly. Viewers will discover that these strikingly beautiful Arctic owls – essentially eagles, falcons and owls rolled into one – have a magic of their own.

NOVA “Iceman Murder Mystery” at 8 pm
He’s been dead for more than 5,000 years. He’s been poked, prodded and probed by scientists for the last 20. And yet today, Otzi the Iceman, the famous mummified corpse pulled from a glacier in the Italian Alps nearly two decades ago, continues to keep many secrets. Now, through an autopsy like no other, scientists attempt to unravel more mysteries from this ancient mummy than ever before, revealing not only the details of Otzi’s death, but an entire way of life. How did people live during Otzi’s time, the Copper Age? What did we eat? What diseases did we cope with? The answers abound miraculously in this one man’s mummified remains.

NOVA ScienceNow “How Smart Can We Get?” at 9 pm
How do you get a genius brain? Is it all in your DNA? Or is it hard work? Is it possible that everyone’s brain has untapped genius – just waiting for the right circumstances so it can be unleashed? From a man who suddenly acquired an extraordinary musical gift after a freak head injury to a “memory athlete” who can remember strings of hundreds of random numbers, David Pogue meets people stretching the boundaries of what the human mind can do. Then, Pogue puts himself to the test: After high-res scanning, he finds out how the anatomy of his brain measures up against the greatest mind of the century – Albert Einstein.

Science Night 10/17

Nature “Wolverine: Chasing The Phantom” at 7 pm
Its name stirs images of the savage, the untameable. Legend paints it as a solitary, bloodthirsty killer that roams the icy heart of the frozen north, taking down prey as large as moose, crushing bones to powder with its powerful jaws. But there is another image of the wolverine that is just beginning to emerge, one that is far more complex than its reputation suggests. This film takes viewers into the secretive world of the largest and least known member of the weasel family to reveal who this dynamic little devil truly is. Hard-wired to endure en environment of scarcity, the wolverine is one of the most efficient and resourceful carnivores on Earth.

NOVA “Forensics on Trial” at 8 pm
There is a startling gap between the glamorous television world of “CSI” and the gritty reality of the forensic crime lab. With few established scientific standards, no central oversight and poor regulation of examiners, forensics in the U.S. is in a state of crisis. In “Forensics on Trial,” NOVA investigates how modern forensics, including the analysis of fingerprints, bite marks, ballistics, hair, and tool marks, can send innocent men and women to prison — and sometimes even to death row. Shockingly, of more than 250 inmates exonerated by DNA testing over the last decade, more than 50% of the wrongful convictions stemmed from invalid or improperly handled forensic science. With the help of vivid recreations of actual trials and cases, NOVA investigated today’s shaky state of crime science as well as cutting-edge solutions that could help investigators put the real criminals behind bars.

NOVA ScienceNow “Can Science Stop Crime?” at 9 pm
Pogue gives the third degree to scientists pushing the limits of technology — not only to solve horrific murders — but also to try to prevent crimes before they even happen. He learns the latest techniques, from unraveling the clues embedded in a decomposing corpse, to detecting lies by peering directly into a suspect’s brain, to tracking the creation of a criminal mind. And we meet a genius crime-stopper who’s made some terrifying discoveries, including how easy it is for a bad guy to highjack — not just your laptop — but your kids’ toys, medical devices and even your car.

Science Night 10/10

Nature “Siberian Tiger Quest” at 7 pm
Chris Morgan has tracked large predators in some of the wildest and most remote places on Earth. He now embarks on his greatest challenge – to find and film the Siberian tiger living wild and free in Russia’s far eastern forests. This film features the work of Korean cameraman, Sooyong Park, who spent two years in the forest tracking and filming the world’s biggest cat. Park’s tracking technique was very unconventional. He dug himself into an underground pit and, incredibly, waited there for weeks at a time, hoping for a glimpse of a wild tiger. Morgan adopts the same method while he shares with us firsthand the difficulty of seeing the rare Siberian tiger.

NOVA “Secrets of the Viking Sword” at 8 pm
The Vikings were among the fiercest warriors of all time. Yet only a select few carried the ultimate weapon of their era: the feared Ulfberht sword. Fashioned using a process that would remain unknown to the Vikings’ rivals for centuries, the Ulfberht was a revolutionary high-tech tool as well as a work of art. Considered one of the greatest swords ever made, it remains a fearsome weapon more than a millennium after it last saw battle. But how did Viking sword makers design and build the Ulfberht, and what was its role in history? Now, NOVA uses cutting edge science and old-fashioned detective work to reconstruct the Ulfberht and finally unravel the “Mystery of the Viking Sword.”

NOVA ScienceNow “What Makes Us Human?” at 9 pm
Scientists have struggled for centuries to pinpoint the qualities that separate human beings from the millions of other animals who have evolved on this planet. David Pogue explores the traits we once thought were uniquely ours – language, tool-making, even laughter – to uncover their evolutionary roots. He traces some of the crucial steps that transformed cave men to accountants – and learns how much of his own DNA came from a Neanderthal ancestor.

Science Night 10/3

Nature “Kilauea: Mountain of Fire” at 7 pm
Kilauea, on Hawaii’s Big Island is the world’s most active volcano. Its latest eruption began in 1983 and it hasn’t stopped since. Since that time it has created 544 acres of new land and has consumed 200 homes. But as we watch nature’s own fireworks display and witness the devastation wrought by flowing lava, we’ve also been able to observe a process that’s central to life on these islands. The most spectacular moment of creation is when lava pours into the ocean creating new land and it is here that filmmaker Paul Atkins finds himself getting a shot few have ever filmed – the cataclysmic meeting of 2000 degree lava and 75 degree ocean water – a sight to behold.

Science Night 9/26

Nature “The Animal House” at 7 pm
Animals build homes for reasons very similar to our own, but they’ve been doing it for much longer. From a small depression in the sand to an elaborate, multi-chambered tunnel – animal structures can be simple or architectural marvels. In each case, the goal is the same – protection from predators and a nearby source of food. These structures, whether a nest, a burrow or a mound, are also the site of great dramas and extraordinary behaviors. From master builders like termites and beavers, to master decorators like the bowerbird, which places colorful flowers at the entrance to its nest, “The Animal House” will be a global look at the “homelife of wildlife.”

NOVA “Making Stuff Cleaner” at 8 pm
From carbon nanotubes to artificial skin, our world is poised at the frontier of a revolution in materials science as far-reaching as the biotech breakthroughs of the last two decades. This series explores how materials changed history and are shaping the future, ranging from cost-effective fuel cells and solar panels to quantum computers and ultra-light automobiles. The New York Times’ technology correspondent and best-selling author David Pogue brings his trademark goofball humor and techie zeal to this exploration of the future of “stuff.” Each episode explores the talent, luck and determination that can turn a wild idea into a cutting-edge material or high-tech breakthrough. Making Stuff Cleaner – Host David Pogue is on a quest to clean up, using new green materials to build and power the devices of the future. Batteries grown from viruses, plastics made of sugar and solar cells that cook up hydrogen are just the beginning of a new generation of clean materials.

NOVA “Making Stuff Smarter” at 9 pm
From carbon nanotubes to artificial skin, our world is poised at the frontier of a revolution in materials science as far-reaching as the biotech breakthroughs of the last two decades. This series explores how materials changed history and are shaping the future, ranging from cost-effective fuel cells and solar panels to quantum computers and ultra-light automobiles. The New York Times’ technology correspondent and best-selling author David Pogue brings his trademark goofball humor and techie zeal to this exploration of the future of “stuff.” Each episode explores the talent, luck and determination that can turn a wild idea into a cutting-edge material or high-tech breakthrough. Making Stuff Smarter – An army tanker truck that heals its own bullet wounds. An airplane wing that changes shape as it flies. Clothing that can monitor its wearer’s heart rate, health and mood. Host David Pogue looks into the growing number of smart materials that can respond, change and even learn.

Science Night 9/12

Nature “Elsa’s Legacy: The Born Free Story” at 7 pm
2010 marked the 50th anniversary of the publication of “Born Free” — a book and then a film that forever changed the way we think about wildlife. What has happened to lions since this story? And what has happened to the people featured in the film? What has “Born Free” taught us?

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.