The Feb. 25 Science Night features wild orangutans, the iconic Hagia Sophia, and Earth’s most important resource — water.
Ecologist Chris Morgan (Bears of the Last Frontier) travels to the jungles of Northern Sumatra to document the work being done to save its population of wild orangutans, which is quickly dwindling due to deforestation. Morgan spends time with orphaned orangs at rehabilitation centers observing the process of teaching them the survival skills they’ll need to be released back into the wild. But to truly understand the complexity of a wild orangutan society and the skills the orangs would have learned from their mothers in the wild, Morgan travels to a remote patch of forest also in Northern Sumatra, a peat swamp forest known as Suaq Balimbing. Suaq is in a protected area and part of a World Heritage Site. Working with a team of experienced researchers, he becomes completely immersed in this unique social band of wild orangs who use tools, share food, forage together, and create their own distinct culture. For the first time, advanced cameras are used to follow the orangs throughout the canopy to provide an intimate, clear picture of how these arboreal apes spend their days and nights and interact with one another.
The soaring dome of Hagia Sophia dominates Istanbul’s skyline. Whether serving as Christian church, Islamic mosque, or secular museum, this magnificent building has inspired reverence and awe. For eight hundred years, it was the largest enclosed building in the world; the Statue of Liberty can fit beneath its dome with room to spare. How has it survived its location on one of the world’s most active seismic faults, which has inflicted a dozen devastating earthquakes since it was built in 537 AD? As Istanbul braces for the next big quake, a team of architects and engineers is urgently investigating Hagia Sophia’s seismic secrets. NOVA follows the team’s discoveries as they examine the building’s unique structure and other ingenious design strategies that have insured the dome’s survival. At the climax to the show, the engineers build a massive 8-ton model of the building’s core structure, place it on a motorized shake table and hit it with a series of simulated quakes, pushing it collapse -a fate that the team is determined to avoid in the real world. The Unshakeable Hagia Sophia is a detective story that reveals how this architectural wonder has proven so resilient for so long, and how it came to serve as a proud expression for the great civilizations that adopted it as a symbol.
Sanjayan explores humankind’s relationship with the Earth’s most important resource: water. Unraveling dramatic connections between fresh water and the health of the planet, he uncovers spectacular wildlife stories that center on managing the natural pulse of the planet’s water. The episode includes a kayak journey that follows the Colorado River to the sea; the elephants and people at the singing wells of Kenya; the surprising connection between AIDS and a small fish in Lake Malawi; and a look at how hunters in America saved one of the greatest gatherings of birds on the continent.