Science Night 11/21

Nature “My Life As A Turkey” at 7 pm
Based on a true story. Deep in the wilds of Florida, writer and naturalist Joe Hutto was given the rare opportunity to raise wild turkeys from chicks. Hutto spent each day out and about as a “wild turkey” with his family of chicks until the day came when he had to let his children grow up and go off on their own. As it turned out, this was harder than he ever imagined. Hutto’s story eventually became a book, Illuminations in the Flatlands.

NOVA “Ancient Computer” at 8 pm
In 1900, a storm blew a boatload of sponge divers off course and forced them to take shelter by the tiny Mediterranean island of Antikythera. Diving the next day, they discovered a 2,000 year-old Greek shipwreck. Among the ship’s cargo they hauled up was an unimpressive green lump of corroded bronze. Rusted remnants of gear wheels could be seen on its surface, suggesting some kind of intricate mechanism. The first X-ray studies confirmed that idea, but how it worked and what it was for puzzled scientists for decades. Recently, hi-tech imaging has revealed the extraordinary truth: this unique clockwork machine was the world’s first computer. An array of 30 intricate bronze gear wheels, originally housed in a shoebox-size wooden case, was designed to predict the dates of lunar and solar eclipses, track the Moon’s subtle motions through the sky, and calculate the dates of significant events such as the Olympic Games. No device of comparable technological sophistication is known from anywhere in the world for at least another 1,000 years. So who was the genius inventor behind it? And what happened to the advanced astronomical and engineering knowledge of its makers? NOVA follows the ingenious sleuthing that finally decoded the truth behind the amazing ancient Greek computer.

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 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: Animal intelligence

Wednesday, July 6, Science Night takes on the theme of Great Apes and animal intelligence the week of July 6th.

Nature The Gorilla King at 7 p.m.
Retraces the life of Titus, a silverback gorilla, from birth to present reign, spanning a tumultuous period in the history of the species. After watching the show, get an update on Titus’ life after the making of this documentary

Nova Ape Genius at 8 p.m.
The great apes – which include chimps, orangutans, gorillas and bonobos – seem to have rich emotional lives similar to our own. But just how smart are these animals? Nova: Ape Genius at 8 p.m. Wednesday follows a new generation of investigators as they reveal the extraordinary abilities of great apes.

NOVA ScienceNow How Smart Are Animals? at 9 p.m.
How well can we understand what’s going on in the brains of non-human animals? Do our pets – like dogs – have the same feelings we do? How smart are animals really? Nova ScienceNow explores these questions and more at 9 p.m. Wednesday.