Search NOVA Teachers

Back to Teachers Home

Science Odyssey, A: Bigger, Better, Faster

Program Overview

Our technological odyssey starts in a modest, turn-of-the-century home. Inklings of change are apparent, but are the residents prepared for the transformation the coming years will bring? The startling view of humans flying "free from the earth at last" is just an introduction to the surprises ahead. And, each new technological development—whether a car for the masses or a worldwide computer network—brings profound changes to homes across the country and to the lives of the people in them.

Hour 1
Past visions of the future

What's state-of-the-art in 1900?

Competition drives technology

  • Airplane wows public at 1910 air show
  • Wright brothers stun Europe
    ANIMATION: Wing warping for plane stability
  • First trans-American flight, 1911
  • Political tensions boost European aviation
  • Airplanes' role in WWI and beyond

The Automobile
Technology for the masses

  • Henry Ford
    ANIMATION: Model T design
  • The Tin Lizzie's success
  • Mass production and consumption
  • Impact on society and urban development

Technology in search of an identity

  • From telegraph to sound broadcast
  • Commercial radio's origins
  • Early programming
  • Economics and the rise of radio networks

Faith in Technology's Benefits
The marriage of technology and big business

  • Search for the first synthetic material
  • Wallace Carothers develops nylon, 1934
  • FDR opens 1939 World's Fair
  • Corporate world envisions the future

Hour 2
War yields new products and incentives

The military sponsors digital technology

  • Early computer technology
  • ANIMATION: Binary code
  • Development of Whirlwind computer
  • Air defense network lays path for future

The Space Race
Politics drives technology

  • Soviet achievements spur U.S. space program
  • Goal: the Moon
  • Apollo 8—Can we make it?
  • ANIMATION: Attaining lunar orbit
  • New view of the Moon—and Earth

Technology's Ills
Reassessing the promise of technology

  • Unexpected consequences
  • Raised expectations

The Internet
Technology for the 21st century

  • Personal computers/microprocessors
  • Roots of the Internet
  • ANIMATION: Uniting computer networks
  • The World Wide Web
  • Cyberspace—hopes and fears

Factors in technology's future

Teacher's Guide
Science Odyssey, A: Bigger, Better, Faster

Support provided by