Science Night 11/2

Wednesday Science Night for November 2nd presents:

Nature: The Animal House 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: The Fabric of the Cosmos: “What Is Space?” 8 pm
Accompany physicist and acclaimed author Brian Greene on a mind-bending reality check and journey to the frontiers of physics to see how scientists are piecing together the most complete picture yet of space, time and the universe. Space. It separates you from me, one galaxy from the next and atoms from each other. It is everywhere in the universe. But to most of us, space is nothing, an empty void. Well, it turns out space is not what it seems. From the passenger seat of a New York cab driving near the speed of light to a pool hall where billiard tables do fantastical things, Greene reveals space as a dynamic fabric that can stretch, twist, warp and ripple under the influence of gravity. Stranger still is a newly discovered ingredient of space that actually makes up 70% of the universe. Physicists call it dark energy because while they know it’s out there, driving space to expand ever more quickly, they have no idea what it is. Probing space on the smallest scales only makes the mysteries multiply down there; things are going on that physicists today can barely fathom. To top it off, some of the strangest places in space, black holes, have led scientists to propose that like the hologram on your credit card, space may just be a projection of a deeper two-dimensional reality, taking place on a distant surface that surrounds us. Space, far from being empty, is filled with some of the deepest mysteries of our times.

Steve Jobs: One Last Thing 9 pm
In the aftermath of the death of probably the most inspirational computer designers and innovators of the 21st century, this film takes an in-depth look at the life and work of Apple boss, Steve Jobs to examine how and why he revolutionized our world.

Science Night: 10/26

Nature: Invasion of the Giant Pythons
Florida’s Everglades National Park is one of the last great wildlife refuges in the United States, home to numerous unique and endangered mammals, trees, plants, birds and turtles, as well as half a million alligators. However, the Everglades is also the dumping ground for many animal invaders over 15 species of parrot, 75 kinds of fish and 30 different reptiles from places as far away as Africa, Asia and the Caribbean. All of the intruders found their way into the park either by accidental escape from pet owners or intentional releases by people no longer wishing to care for an exotic species. Add to the mix tens of thousands of giant pythons, snakes that can grow to 20 feet and weigh nearly 300 pounds, some released into the wild by irresponsible pet owners, some escapees from almost 200 wildlife facilities destroyed by Hurricane Andrew in 1992. The predatory pythons slithered into this protected wilderness and thrived, and the refuge has consequently become less of a haven and more of a killing ground every day since then.

NOVA: Iceman Murder Mystery

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.

Science Night: 10/19

Nature: Radioactive Wolves
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: Finding Life Beyond Earth – Part 1 & 2

Scientists are on the verge of answering one of the greatest questions in history: Are we alone? Combining the latest telescope images with dazzling CGI, “Finding Life Beyond Earth” immerses audiences in the sights and sounds of alien worlds, while top astrobiologists explain how these places are changing how we think about the potential for life in our solar system. We used to think our neighboring planets and moons were fairly boring – mostly cold, dead rocks where life could never take hold. Today, however, the solar system looks wilder than we ever imagined. Powerful telescopes and unmanned space missions have revealed a wide range of dynamic environments – atmospheres thick with organic molecules, active volcanoes and vast saltwater oceans. This ongoing revolution is forcing scientists to expand their ideas about what kinds of worlds could support life. If we do find primitive life forms elsewhere in the solar system, it may well be that life is common in the universe – the rule, and not the exception.

Science Night: 10/12

Nature: Dogs That Changed The World  – Part 2
Some working dogs are able to use their skills to perform tasks they were bred for; there are still jobs today for herders, hunters and guard dogs. But as we multiply and transform the many breeds of dogs, honing their looks and their sizes, we also change our relationship with them, and theirs with us. How can we learn to cope with the hard-wired instincts of our pets, and what roles can they play in a world their ancestors would hardly recognize?

NOVA: Dogs Decoded
Dogs have been domesticated for longer than any other animal on the planet and humans have developed a unique relationship with these furry friends. We treat our pets like a part of the family and we feel that they can understand us in a way other animals cannot. Now, new research is revealing what dog lovers have suspected all along: dogs have an uncanny ability to read and respond to human emotions. What is surprising, however, is new research showing that humans, in turn, respond to dogs with the same hormone responsible for bonding mothers to their babies. How did this incredible relationship between humans and dogs come to be? And how can dogs, so closely related to fearsome wild wolves, behave so differently? It’s all in the genes. “Dogs Decoded” investigates new discoveries in genetics that are illuminating the origin of dogs — with revealing implications for the evolution of human culture as well. NOVA also travels to Siberia, where the mystery of dogs’ domestication is being repeated — in foxes. A 50-year-old breeding program is creating an entirely new kind of creature, a tame fox with some surprising similarities to man’s best friend. This film reveals the science behind the remarkable bond between humans and their dogs and spurs new questions about what this could mean for our relationships with other animal species.

Ferrets: The Pursuit of Excellence
Ohio’s annual Ferret Buckeye Bash is the largest and most popular ferret show in the country. Hundreds of top breeders, seasoned experts and ferret enthusiasts pamper and parade their pets in a quest for prizes and prestige. Though these mischievous and often quirky creatures are unlikely show animals, the competition is intense. Tension is high as judges cast critical eyes over the bone structure, muscle mass and temperament of each furry critter. The tiny competitors, however, don’t understand what all the fuss is about: they’re too busy creating mayhem when no one’s watching.

Science Night: 10/5

Nature: Dogs That Changed The World – Part 1
From the tiniest Chihuahua to the largest St. Bernard, all dogs claim the wolf as their ancestor.  Using DNA analysis and other research, scientists have now pieced together the puzzle of canine evolution, creating a fascinating picture of some of the essential dogs vital to the canine population. Part one chronicles the evolution of dogs and how they infiltrated human society.

NOVA: Building The Great Cathedrals

Carved from 100 million pounds of stone, soaring effortlessly atop a spiderweb of masonry, Gothic cathedrals are marvels of human achievement and artistry. But how did medieval builders reach such spectacular heights? Consuming the labor of entire towns, sometimes taking 100 years to build, these architectural marvels were crafted from just hand tools and stone. Many now teeter on the brink of catastrophic collapse. To save them, an international team of engineers, architects, art historians and computer scientists searches the naves, bays, and bell towers for clues to how the dream of these heavenly temples on earth came true. NOVA’s teams perform hands-on experiments to investigate and reveal the architectural secrets that the cathedral builders used to erect their soaring, glass-filled walls. This program reveals the hidden formulas, drawn from the pages of the Bible itself, that drove medieval builders ever upward.

NOVA: Quest For Solomon’s Mines

Inspired by the Bible’s account of the splendor of his temples and palaces adorned in glittering gold and copper, countless treasure-seekers have set off in search of King Solomon’s mines. They have trekked through burning deserts and scaled the forbidding mountains of Africa and the Levant. Yet to date, the evidence that’s been claimed to support the existence of Solomon and other early kingdoms in the Bible has been highly controversial. In fact, there is so little physical evidence of the kings who ruled Israel and Edom that many contend that they are no more real than King Arthur. During the summer of 2010, NOVA and National Geographic embarked on two groundbreaking expeditions to expose new clues buried in the pockmarked desert of Jordan: the ancient remnants of a mass industrial-scale copper mine and a 3,000-year-old message from the past with the words “slave,” “king” and “judge.” These cutting-edge investigations illuminate the legend of Solomon and reveal the source of the great wealth that powered the first mighty Biblical kingdoms.

Science Night 9/28

Wednesday Science Night presents

Nature: Hummingbirds: Magic In The Air 7 pm
Hummingbirds represent one of nature’s most interesting paradoxes — they are the tiniest of birds, yet they qualify as some of the toughest and most energetic creatures on the planet. New knowledge gained from scientists currently making great breakthroughs in hummingbird biology makes this a perfect time to focus on these shimmering, flashing jewels of the natural world. Stunningly beautiful high-definition, high speed footage of hummingbirds in the wild combined with high-tech presentations of their remarkable abilities help us to understand the world of hummingbirds as we never have before.

NOVA: Japan’s Killer Quake 8 pm
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.

Surviving The Tsunami: A NOVA Special Presentation 9 pm
The earthquake that hit the northern coast of Japan on March 11, 2011 was recorded at magnitude 9.0 the worst ever to strike Japan. It generated an unprecedented tsunami, obliterating coastal villages and towns in a matter of minutes. Amazingly, amateur and professional photographers captured it all on video, including remarkable tales of human survival, as ordinary citizens became heroes in a drama they never could have imagined. As the waves rush in, a daughter struggles to help her elderly mother ascend their rooftop to safety; a man climbs onto an overpass just as the wave overtakes his car. These never-before-seen stories are captured in video and retold after-the-fact by the survivors who reveal what they were thinking as they made their life-saving decisions. Their stories provide lessons in survival and how we should all act in the face of life threatening disasters.

Science Night: Clever Monkeys 9/14

Wednesday Science Night presents

Nature: Clever Monkeys 7 pm on September 14th
Love, language, guilt, envy, generosity, secrets, lies and sophisticated society are not unique to humans. We share those complex traits with our relatives — the monkeys. Following along as the babies of two different species are reared, viewers learn how and what monkeys teach their young. Monkeys around the world rely on that knowledge to adapt to the remarkable variety of environments they now call home. Who are the cleverest monkeys? And how much of human experience do they really share?

Science Night: Aftermath of September 11 9/7

Wednesday Science Night on September 7th spotlights the aftermath of September 11th from a scientific stance by examining the restoration of a destroyed wildlife habitat in the Middle East and the construction of the new Freedom Tower and World Trade Center Memorial.

Nature: Braving Iraq 7 pm
In the early 1990s, Saddam Hussein destroyed the Mesopotamian Marshes when its inhabitants rebelled against him. Once the richest wildlife habitat in the Middle East, this beautiful “Garden of Eden” was reduced to mile after mile of scorched earth and was thought to have been destroyed forever. But one man is making an extraordinary effort to restore both animals and people to the scene of one of the greatest ecocides of the 20th century. Is it a dream too far? Can man and animal live again in what remains one of the most politically troubled and dangerous places on earth?

Nova: Engineering Ground Zero 8 pm
This program is an epic story of engineering, innovation and the perseverance of the human spirit. With extraordinary access granted by The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, “Rebuilding Ground Zero” follows the five-year construction of the Freedom Tower and the World Trade Center Memorial. NOVA captures the behind-the-scenes struggle of architects and engineers with the pressures of a tight schedule, the demands of practical office space and efficient, “green” architecture and the public’s expectations of a fitting site for national remembrance. In September 2011, on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, this program will culminate with the topping off ceremony at the Freedom Tower and the opening of the memorial.

Science Night: Becoming Human 8/31

Wednesday Science Night presents a comprehensive three-part, NOVA special investigating explosive new discoveries that are transforming the picture of how we became human.

NOVA Becoming Human: The First Steps 7 pm
In part one, “First Steps,” examines the factors that caused us to split from the other great apes. The program explores the fossil of “Selam,” also known as “Lucy’s Child.” Paleoanthropologist Zeray Alemseged spent five years carefully excavating the sandstone-embedded fossil. NOVA’s cameras are there to capture the unveiling of the face, spine, and shoulder blades of this 3.3 million-year-old fossil child. And NOVA takes viewers “inside the skull” to show how our ancestors’ brains had begun to change from those of the apes.

NOVA Becoming Human: Birth of Humanity 8 pm
The second segment, “Birth of Humanity,” the second program, tackles the mysteries of how our ancestors managed to survive in a savannah teeming with vicious predators, and when and why we first left our African cradle to colonize every corner of the earth. NOVA investigates the first skeleton that really looks like us–”Turkana Boy”–an astonishingly complete specimen of Homo erectus found by the famous Leakey team in Kenya. These early humans are thought to have developed key innovations that helped them thrive, including hunting large prey, the use of fire, and extensive social bonds.

NOVA Becoming Human: Last Human Standing 9 pm
In the final program, “Last Human Standing,” NOVA probes a wave of dramatic new evidence, based partly on cutting-edge DNA analysis, that reveals new insights into how we became today’s creative and “behaviorally modern” humans and what really happened to the enigmatic Neanderthals who faded into extinction. How did modern humans take over the world? New evidence suggests that they left Africa and colonized the rest of the globe far earlier, and for different reasons, than previously thought.