Science Night 5/16

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 “The Great Inca Rebellion” at 8 pm
In an impoverished suburb of Lima, in an ancient cemetery crammed with more than 1,000 pre-Columbian mummies, Peruvian archaeologist Guillermo Cock makes a startling find. He discovers dozens of corpses that differ from all the rest: they were hastily buried and disfigured by appalling wounds and fractures inflicted by steel blades and crude bullets. Forensic experts diagnose these remains as victims of a little-known battle that pitted club-wielding Inca warriors against Spanish cavalry. The battle turns out to be a decisive turning point that helps explain a long-standing mystery about the Spanish conquest of Peru. How, in 1532, did a tiny band of Spanish soldiers crush the mighty Inca empire, then the most powerful civilization in the Americas, with a network of roads that spanned over 2,000 miles? Were the conquistadors’ obvious advantages — steel arms, gunpowder and horses — the key to their success, as is usually supposed? Or were disease and civil war more decisive factors that were downplayed by the Spanish chroniclers? With the help of this new evidence from the Lima cemetery, NOVA reveals the untold final chapter of the conquest: not the Spanish walkover familiar from popular accounts, but rather a protracted and complex war of astonishing brutality that almost led to the Spanish losing their precarious foothold in the Andes.

Bones of Turkana at 9 pm
Follow famed paleoanthropologist Richard Leakey and his wife, Meave, daughter Louise and their colleagues as they work in the arid northern regions of Kenya’s Turkana Basin to unravel the mysteries of human evolution. While one of the Leakeys’ goals is to demonstrate the complexity and truth of human evolution, they also seek to show how the qualities that we proudly call human were all born in Africa. The story that emerges in the film is exciting, emotional, contemplative, occasionally funny and, in the end, transforming. This is Africa at its most beautiful and harshest.

Science Night 5/9

Nature “The White Lions” at 7 pm
This is the story of two remarkable and extremely rare white lion cubs on their journey to adulthood. Both are female, sisters born as white as snow in May 2009, in South Africa’s Kruger Park. Growing up on the savanna, they must not only overcome the same survival challenges that all young lion cubs must face, they must also overcome the threats their high visibility brings.

NOVA “Deadliest Tornadoes” at 8 pm
In April 2011, the worst tornado outbreak in decades left a trail of destruction across the U.S., killing more than 340 people. Why was there such an extreme outbreak? How do such outbreaks form? With modern warning systems why did so many die? Is our weather getting more extreme — and if so how bad will it get? This episode of NOVA looks at the science behind the April outbreak, meeting those affected and the scientists trying to predict tornadoes and understand whether this outbreak relates to global climate change.

NOVA “Hunt for the Supertwister” at 9 pm
A powerful tornado is a terrifying phenomenon that continues to defy decades of scientific efforts to predict it. During one of the worst tornado seasons on record, a NOVA camera team chased across the Midwest, capturing hair-raising footage of highly destructive twisters in action. But this is much more than just another “extreme weather” show, focusing on the efforts of two scientists at the University of Oklahoma to develop radically different approaches to forecasting twisters: one relies on “virtual tornados” created inside supercomputers, while the other involves hunting down real-life storms to collect data firsthand (the method that inspired the movie Twister). With jaw-dropping 3-D graphics generated by the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, “Hunt for the Supertwister” features spectacular footage of these terrifying twisters and gives viewers a front-row seat to the risky and thrilling art of storm chasing.

Science Night 5/2


Nature “Born Wild: The First Days of Life” at 7 pm

From the moment of their birth, baby animals in the wild can face almost anything — from a large social group of interested caregivers, to a potentially deadly group of relatives, to one or two devoted parents, to complete abandonment and no available help at all. Yet they all have something in common. They must learn whom to trust, what to fear and when to act — all in the first days of life. Child care involves instinct, but also experience and choices, some of which can be devastatingly hard. Find out how being born in the wild has evolved over time, and how animals interacting with their young, wrestling with the feelings and dilemmas that come with raising a baby, can mirror our own experiences.

NOVA “Smartest Machine On Earth” at 8 pm
What’s so special about human intelligence and will scientists ever build a computer that rivals the flexibility and power of a human brain? In “Artificial Intelligence,” NOVA takes viewers inside an IBM lab where a crack team has been working for nearly three years to perfect a machine that can answer any question. The scientists hope their machine will be able to beat expert contestants in one of the USA’s most challenging TV quiz shows — Jeopardy, which has entertained viewers for over four decades. “Artificial Intelligence” presents the exclusive inside story of how the IBM team developed the world’s smartest computer from scratch. Now they’re racing to finish it for a special Jeopardy airdate in February 2011. They’ve built an exact replica of the studio at its research lab near New York and invited past champions to compete against the machine, a big black box code — named Watson after IBM’s founder, Thomas J. Watson. But will Watson be able to beat out its human competition?

America Revealed “Made In The USA” at 9 pm
American manufacturing has undergone a massive revolution over the past 20 years, becoming – gloomy perceptions to the contrary – the number-one manufacturing nation on earth. Cross the country with host Yul Kwon to look at traditional and not-so-traditional types of manufacturing. Along the way, meet the men and women who create the world’s best and most iconic products, engineers who are reinventing the American auto industry, steelworkers who brave intense heat to accommodate radical new ideas about recycling and engineers who are re-imagining the microchip. Visit a small start-up company that is building personalized robots – machines that may one day reshape our homes and offices. Investigate the emerging notion that manufacturing itself is changing – from a system based on the movement and assembly of raw materials to a system in which ideas and information are the raw materials of a new economy.

Science Night 4/25

Nature “Radioactive Wolves” at 7 pm
The historic nuclear accident at Chernobyl is now 25 years old. Filmmakers and scientists set out to document the lives of the packs of wolves and other wildlife thriving in the “dead zone” that still surrounds the remains of the reactor.

Nova “Secrets of the Sun” at 8 pm
It contains 99.9 percent of all the matter in our solar system and sheds hot plasma at nearly a million miles an hour. The temperature at its core is a staggering 27 million degrees Fahrenheit. It convulses, it blazes, it sings. You know it as the sun. Scientists know it as one of the most amazing physics laboratories in the universe. Now, with the help of new spacecraft and Earth-based telescopes, scientists are seeing the Sun as they never have before and even re-creating what happens at the very center of the Sun in labs here on Earth. Their work will help us understand aspects of the sun that have puzzled scientists for decades. But more critically, it may help us predict and track solar storms that have the power to zap our power grid, shut down telecommunications, and ground global air travel for days, weeks, or even longer. Such storms have happened before-but never in the modern era of satellite communication. SECRETS OF THE SUN reveals a bright new dawn in our understanding of our nearest star-one that might help keep our planet from going dark.

America Revealed “Electric Nation” at 9 pm
Our modern electric power grid has been called the biggest and most complex machine in the world – delivering electricity over 200,000 miles of high-tension transmission lines. Travel around the country with host Yul Kwon to understand its intricacies, its vulnerabilities and the remarkable ingenuity required to keep the electricity on, every day of the year. At New York State’s governing grid control room, learn how a massive blackout cut power to 40 million Americans; to understand how we can protect against this type of colossal failure, join a team who makes daring repairs from the side of a helicopter in flight. Visit the country’s largest coal mine, rappel down the side of a wind turbine, take a rare tour of a nuclear plant and travel on a massive tanker – as Kwon reflects on the challenges and opportunities to keep the power flowing.

Science Night 4/18

Nature “River of No Return” at 7 pm
Central Idaho’s Frank Church – River of No Return Wilderness is the largest contiguous wilderness area in the lower 48 States. Endless rugged mountains, wild rivers, forests, and deep canyons define this land – a home to numerous species of wildlife including wolves, who have just returned after 50 years of near absence – and a young couple, Isaac and Bjornen Babcock, who chose this wilderness for their year-long honeymoon. But what begins as a romantic adventure becomes something much greater for the couple – and a tale of hope and celebration for every life trying to make it in the unforgiving heart of the wilderness.

Nova “Why Ships Sink” at 8 pm
Are you safe aboard a modern cruise ship? Twenty million passengers embark on cruises each year, vacationing in deluxe “floating cities” that offer everything from swimming pools to shopping malls to ice skating rinks. And the ships just keep getting bigger: The average cruise ship has doubled in size in just the last ten years. Some engineers fear that these towering behemoths are dangerously unstable, and the recent tragedy of the Costa Concordia has raised new questions about their safety. Now, NOVA brings together marine engineering and safety experts to reconstruct the events that led up to famous cruise disasters, including the ill-fated Concordia, the Sea Diamond, and the Oceanos. Are we really safe at sea-or are we on the brink of a 21st century Titanic?

America Revealed “Nation On The Move” at 9 pm
Meet America Revealed host Yul Kwon at a KLRU event on 4/23. Details and RSVP

America is a nation of vast distances and dense urban clusters, woven together by 200,000 miles of railroads, 5,000 airports and four million miles of roads. These massive, complex transportation systems combine to make Americans the most mobile people on earth. Accompany host Yul Kwon as he journeys across the continent by air, road and rail, venturing behind the scenes with the workers who get us where we need to go. At the Federal Aviation Administration command center, listen in on a call with NASA, the secret service, the military and every major airline to learn how our national flight plan works today. Go along as he meets innovators creating ways to propel us farther and faster in years to come; in Las Vegas, he heads out into the wild night to see how transportation analysts are keeping traffic at bay by revolutionizing the use of one basic tool: the traffic light. Uncover the minor miracles and uphill battles involved in moving more than 300 million Americans every day on infrastructure built in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Science Night 4/11

Nature “Ocean Giants: Voices of the Sea” at 7 pm
Humpback whales’ songs carry thousands of miles, while a sperm whale scans the ocean depths with a sonar laser beam louder than a thunderclap. “Voices of the Sea” reveals a surprising underwater world where sound takes the place of sight.

Nova “Deadliest Tornadoes” at 8 pm
In April 2011, the worst tornado outbreak in decades left a trail of destruction across the U.S., killing more than 340 people. Why was there such an extreme outbreak? How do such outbreaks form? With modern warning systems why did so many die? Is our weather getting more extreme — and if so how bad will it get? This episode of NOVA looks at the science behind the April outbreak, meeting those affected and the scientists trying to predict tornadoes and understand whether this outbreak relates to global climate change.

America Revealed “Food Machine” at 9 pm
Meet America Revealed host Yul Kwon at a KLRU event on 4/23. Details and RSVP

Over the past century, an American industrial revolution has given rise to the biggest, most productive food machine the world has ever known. Join host Yul Kwon to learn how this machine feeds nearly 300 million Americans every day. Discover engineering marvels created by putting nature to work, and consider the toll our insatiable appetites take on our health and environment. Embark with Kwon on a trip that begins with a pizza delivery route in New York City, then goes across the country to California’s Central Valley, where nearly 50 percent of America’s fruits, nuts and vegetables are grown, and into the heartland for an aerial look at our farmlands. Meet the men and women who keep us fed – everyone from industrial to urban farmers, crop-dusting pilots to long-distance bee truckers, modern-day cowboys to the pizza deliveryman.

Science Night 4/4

Nature “Ocean Giants: Deep Thinkers” at 7 pm
In some respects, the brains of whales and dolphins are more complex than ours. Whales and dolphins work cooperatively, show empathy and are self-aware. “Deep Thinkers” finds out how clever – and how much like us – whales and dolphins might be.

Nova “Hunting The Elements” at 8 pm
What are things made of? It’s a simple question with an astonishing answer. Fewer than 100 naturally occurring elements form the ingredients of everything in our world — from solid rocks to ethereal gases, from scorching acids to the living cells in our body. David Pogue, lively host of NOVA’s popular “Making Stuff” series and personal technology correspondent for “The New York Times,” spins viewers through the world of weird, extreme chemistry on a quest to unlock the secrets of the elements. Why are some elements, like platinum and gold, relatively inert while others, like phosphorus and potassium, are violently explosive? Why are some vital to every breath we take while others are potentially lethal? Punctuated by surprising and often alarming experiments, Pogue takes NOVA on a roller coaster ride through nature’s hidden lab and the compelling stories of discovery that revealed its secrets.

Science Night 3/28

Nature “Ocean Giants: Giant Lives” at 7 pm
The great whales such as the blue and the bowhead are the largest animals that have ever lived on our planet. Yet these mighty leviathans feed on tiny shrimp and sardines. “Giant Lives” discovers why size matters in the world of whales.

Nova “Cracking Your Genetic Code” at 8 pm
What will it mean when most of us can afford to have the information in our DNA — all three billion chemical letters of it — read, stored and available for analysis? As NOVA reveals in “Bioethics” we stand on the verge of a revolution in medicine, the first effects of which are already upon us. We meet cancer patients returned to robust health and a cystic fibrosis sufferer breathing easily, because scientists have been able to pinpoint and neutralize the genetic abnormalities underlying their conditions. But we also meet ethicists convinced we need to consider the moral dilemmas raised by the new technology. Will it help or hurt us to know that we are likely to come down with a serious disease? What if such information falls into the hands of insurance companies, employers, prospective mates? Should parents be allowed to select embryos with specific characteristics? Both ominous and promising, the new era of personalized, gene-based medicine is one thing for certain: it’s relevant to everyone. Because soon you will be deciding whether to join the ranks of those who know what their genes reveal.

Quest For The Lost Maya at 9 pm
This program explores archaeological evidence of a previously unknown Mayan society based in the Yucatan Penisula of southern Mexico. The film surveys their dramatic rise to prominence in the “preclassic era” of the Maya (800-700BC) as well as new evidence of the collapse of their civilization in the 800-900s AD.

Science Night 2/29

7:00 PM Nature – “Echo: An Elephant To Remember”
Echo, the elephant matriarch, was the subject of many NATURE films and the leader of a carefully studied herd of elephants in Africa. Last year, she died of natural causes. This film is a look back at this remarkable animal through extraordinary footage and interviews with the researchers that cared for and studied this amazing herd.

8:00 PM NOVA – “Japan’s Killer Quake”
In its worst crisis since World War II, Japan faces disaster on an epic scale: a rising death toll in the tens of thousands, massive destruction of homes and businesses, shortages of water and power, and the specter of nuclear reactor meltdowns. The facts and figures are astonishing. The March 11th earthquake was the world’s fourth largest earthquake since record keeping began in 1900 and the worst ever to shake Japan. The seismic shock wave released over 4,000 times the energy of the largest nuclear test ever conducted; it shifted the earth’s axis by 6 inches and shortened the day by a few millionths of a second. The tsunami slammed Japan’s coast with 30 feet-high waves that traveled 6 miles inland, obliterating entire towns in a matter of minutes. JAPAN’S KILLER QUAKE combines authoritative on-the-spot reporting, personal stories of tragedy and survival, compelling eyewitness videos, explanatory graphics and exclusive helicopter footage for a unique look at the science behind the catastrophe.

9:00 PM Secrets Of The Dead – “Japanese Supersub”
Spring, 1946. Ten months after the end of World War II, an explosion rocked the Pacific off the coast of Hawaii. America had just destroyed one of Japan’s most advanced weapons systems. But this was no belated attack against the defeated Japanese. Rather, it was an attempt to keep an advanced, top-secret submarine out of the hands of the Russians. What was this sub and where had it come from? Secrets of the Dead: Japanese SuperSub investigates, revealing the startling story of Japan’s successful creation of a technological masterpiece-an aircraft carrier submarine that could blow up the Panama Canal, reach the U.S. main land undetected, and unleash panic-inducing air attacks on American civilians. How close did Japan’s secret sub come to attacking America? And how did America’s own top-secret super-weapon put an end to the Japanese threat?

Science Night 2/22

7:00 PM Nature – “Ocean Giants”
Whales and dolphins remain a constant source of fascination to us. But how much do we really know about them? Whales and dolphins, known as cetaceans, may appear to be totally alien to us – but with their mental ability, group communication and the recent discovery that dolphins have individual names, they are closer to us than we ever imagined. This series provides new insights into the lives of whales and dolphins in a visually powerful, engaging and entertaining format. Teams of intrepid scientists equipped with the latest technology are making extraordinary breakthroughs in their understanding of these intelligent life forms – breakthroughs that may safeguard their survival.