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January - December 2004

MARS Dead or Alive
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In early January 2004, two spacecraft carrying identical robotic explorers will touch down on the surface of Mars. On that day, NOVA will present a special television event that climaxes with live coverage as NASA/JPL scientists await the first critical signals confirming that the rovers have landed safely. The show features a gripping behind-the-scenes glimpse of the design, testing, and launch of the mission. The engineers face a tense deadline as Mars approaches its closest rendezvous with Earth; they're stretched to the limit as parachutes rip, bolts fail, and airbags pop - everything that can go wrong does. Watch them apply all their ingenuity to overcome the technical hitches. Then join NOVA's exploration of the latest clues in the ultimate quest for signs of life on the mysterious red planet.
Original broadcast date: 1/4/2004


Secrets of the Crocodile Caves
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In a remote corner of Madagascar, an extraordinary lost world is shut off from the outside by razor-sharp limestone cliffs, impenetrable spiny vegetation, and underground caves filled with a species of man-eating crocodiles. Deep inside the forest thrive colonies of crowned lemurs, exquisite little primate cousins with large eyes, nimble hands, and soft velvet fur. Their cute appearance disguises their character as tough team players, relying on the leadership of a strong female to survive the many dangers confronting them. And as this program reveals, no peril is greater than the jaws of the giant crocodiles, the world's only cave-living crocs.
Original broadcast date: 1/20/2004


Dogs and More Dogs
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From the huskies of the frozen north to the basenjis of the Congo River basin and the golden retrievers in America's backyards, dogs have carved a niche for themselves in every human society. How did this unique relationship develop? What can the latest breakthroughs in genetics tell us of the secrets of dog origins and breeding? And can dog sociologists and psychiatrists unravel the puzzling, lovable, and often maddening quirks of dog behavior? Despite such variation, all domestic dogs, as well as their common ancestor, the gray wolf, have virtually identical genes. How can science explain this incredible diversity?

In Dogs, NOVA launches an entertaining and affectionate search for the secrets of dog variation and behavior. We'll visit state-of-the-art dog labs where the latest developments in genetic mapping and even cloning are in the air. Along the way, breeders and dog experts as well as scientists will help explore the bond we share with these remarkable animals, seeking insights into the future of our oldest and closest relationship with another animal species.
Original broadcast date: 2/10/2004


Descent into the Ice
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Mont Blanc is one of the world's most popular destinations for Alpine climbers and scientists: no other peak has such a long record of mountaineering and glaciology. But 200 years of winter sports, science, and tourism have done nothing to tame this mountain. The hazards generated by rock falls, ice avalanches, and sudden flooding are still poorly understood and almost impossible to control. We follow a team of daring 'glacionauts' as they descend into a labyrinth of unexplored ice caves to find trapped flood water that menaces the populated valleys below.
Original broadcast date: 2/3/2004


Crash of Flight 111
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On September 2nd, 1998, Swissair Flight 111 plummeted into the sea off Nova Scotia while en route from New York to Geneva. All 229 people on board were killed. In May of this year, Canada's Transportation Safety Board published its final conclusions from an investigation that took more than four years and cost $39 million. NOVA's cameras were there from the beginning, revealing the inside story of one of the most baffling and intricate aviation investigations ever mounted.
Original broadcast date: 2/17/2004


Life and Death in the War Zone
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NOVA's team spent weeks living day and night with the doctors, surgeons, and military staff of the 21st Combat Support Hospital in Iraq. The film follows the daily drama of life and death in a tented hospital in the deserts north of Baghdad. Building a state-of-the-art hospital in the dust and heat is a remarkable achievement, but it represents only the start of the difficulties faced by the doctors and nurses of the 21st CSH. Relief at the lack of military casualties is soon replaced by high drama and difficult ethical decisions as Iraqi victims arrive, many of them children with horrific injuries caused by unexploded weapons. NOVA shows how innovations in battlefield medicine have transformed the survival prospects of such casualties, and provides an intimate story of the struggle for survival in a combat hospital.
Original broadcast date: 3/4/2004


Hunt for the Supertwister
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The spring and early summer of 2003 was one of the most severe tornado seasons on record, and NOVA's cameras have captured breathtaking footage of scientist stormchasers in action. Our story focuses on the first-time efforts of a team at the University of Oklahoma to test a groundbreaking technique for predicting severe storms. With the help of powerful supercomputers and radar arrays, the team believes it can achieve an unprecedented degree of forecasting. But another scientific team takes a very different approach, laying their lives on the line to chase violent twisters across the fields of Oklahoma. NOVA takes a thrilling ride with these tornado hunters and investigates the ingenious new approaches that may one day help the forecasters stay one step ahead of a devastating twister.
Original broadcast date: 3/30/2004


World in the Balance
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It took all of human history until the year 1804 for our population to reach its first billion. Now a billion new people are added every dozen years. What does the future hold for Earth's growing human family and its environmental health? With moving personal stories from India, Japan, Kenya, and China—four countries with starkly different demographic profiles—NOVA's two-hour Earth Day special investigates the impact of forces that are radically changing populations in both rich and poor nations.
Original broadcast date: 4/20/2004


Battle Plan Under Fire
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An unmanned spy plane spots a group of terrorists driving a car and fires a deadly salvo from the sky. "Smart bombs" zero in on a target, pinpointing a specific floor in a specific building. Real-time images and reports stream in from the front line, giving commanders an all-seeing eye on enemy troops. In this hi-tech battlefield, electronic intelligence allows U.S. commanders a huge advantage to streamline their forces and minimize casualties both to civilians and their own ranks.

That was the vision of the "smart war" that drove the planning of U.S. campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq. But as America mobilized its war on terror, things didn't turn out quite as planned. In an exclusive collaboration with New York Times television reporters, NOVA investigates the impact of advanced technology on President Bush's war-fighting machinery. With fresh analysis of key battles in the Iraq conflict, the Times' reporters pose searching questions such as: are expensive hi-tech weapons all that it takes to defeat elusive enemies such as terrorists and civilian militias?
Original broadcast date: 5/4/2004


Origins
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Has the universe always existed? How did it become a place that could harbor life? Are we alone, or are there alien worlds waiting to be discovered? NOVA presents some startling new answers in "Origins," a groundbreaking four-part NOVA miniseries. New clues from the frontiers of science are presented by dynamic astrophysicist Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History. As the host of "Origins," Tyson leads viewers on a cosmic journey to the beginning of time and to the depths of space, in search of the first stirrings of life and its traces on other worlds.

The series' first hour, "Origins: Earth is Born", gives viewers a spectacular glimpse of the tumultuous first billion years of Earth—a time of continuous catastrophe. Episode Two, "Origins: How Life Began", zeroes in on the mystery of exactly how it happened. Join the hunt for hardy microbes that flourish in the most unlikely places: inside rocks in a mine shaft two miles down, inside a cave dripping with acid as strong as a car battery's, and in noxious gas bubbles erupting from the Pacific Ocean's floor. The survival of these tough microorganisms suggests they may be related to the planet's first primitive life forms. In Episode Three, "Origins: Where Are the Aliens?", Tyson explores such provocative questions as: Would "E.T.s" resemble "us" or the creatures of science fiction, or something else altogether? And are planets on which life can flourish rare or common in our universe? Hour Four starts with a bang — the Big Bang in which everything began. "Origins: Back to the Beginning" explores how the colossal, mind-boggling forces of the early universe made it possible for habitable worlds to emerge.
Original broadcast date: 9/28/2004 and 9/29/2004


The Most Dangerous Woman in America
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Interweaving biography and social history, "The Most Dangerous Woman in America" tells the extraordinary story of Mary Mallon, once called the most dangerous woman in America. She gained this notoriety by being the first person in North America to be identified as a healthy carrier of typhoid fever. Despite her indignant protests of innocence, she was incarcerated for years on an island in the East River. Mary Mallon's saga throws into vivid relief the emerging science of public health and the social, ethical, and legal dilemmas it posed to its pioneers at the turn of the 20th century.
Original broadcast date: 10/12/2004


America's Stone Age Explorers
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Who were the first Americans, and where did they come from? We all grew up with the idea that ancient big-game hunters entered the Americas across the Bering land bridge—a strip of dry land that spanned the Bering Strait between Asia and Alaska during the last Ice Age some 12,000 years ago. But in recent years, a wave of startling discoveries has overturned that conventional view. The first Americans almost certainly came thousands of years earlier, traveling in skin boats and living off sea mammals along the edge of the ice. Now a truly provocative theory has stirred a storm of disbelief and argument among archeologists. A leading prehistorian at the Smithsonian Institution claims that some of these first canoe-borne migrants came not from Asia but Europe, and that they crossed the Atlantic in skin boats by following the fringes of the ice sheets. This Stone Age detective story reveals that the peopling of the Americas is a far more tantalizing riddle than anyone had ever suspected.
Original broadcast date: 11/9/2004


Great Escape
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The movie "The Great Escape," starring Steve McQueen, was based on fact—on the most daring and technically ingenious prison escape of World War II. The location was a remote, high-security internment camp for Allied airmen. Known as Stalag Luft III, the camp was at Sagan in present-day Poland. The escape emerged from a stunningly ambitious plan: Allied POWs set out to dig three tunnels more than 300 feet long and 30 feet below ground, which they nicknamed "Tom", "Dick", and "Harry", so that if the Germans discovered one tunnel there would still be a fallback. NOVA follows a team of archeologists on a hunt for the single surviving tunnel, "Dick," which the Germans never found. Accompanying the team was a group of three of the original escapers, who returned to the scene of their daring escapade for the first time in 60 years. The film shows the ingenious methods and devices improvised by the prisoners: how they surveyed the tunnels, disguised the entrance traps, and engineered an amazing air pump and railway system, all from materials scavenged from the camp. But when the time for the breakout came, the thrill of the escape would take an unexpected and tragic turn.
Original broadcast date: 11/16/2004


Ancient Refuge in the Holy Land
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In a gloomy cave perched high in a canyon near the Dead Sea, archeologists made a startling discovery in 1960: a bag containing letters written on papyrus nearly 2,000 years ago. The letters were written by one of the great figures of Jewish history, the rebel Bar-Kokhba, who led a heroic guerilla uprising against the Romans. Now Biblical scholar Richard Freund returns to the cave with the latest archeological techniques, hoping to find more traces of Bar-Kokhba's epic struggle. Instead, Freund comes up with tantalizing new finds that lead him to a radical and controversial theory. Could the treasure concealed in the cave be a long-lost relic of the great temple in Jerusalem destroyed by the Romans? NOVA joins Freund in a fascinating detective hunt that plunges him into the heated scholarly debates of Biblical archeology.
Original broadcast date: 11/23/2004

 

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