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January - December 2005

Welcome to Mars
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On January 3, 2004, a tiny rover named Spirit crash-landed on the dusty surface of Mars and sent its first message home. The elation of the assembled scientists as well as the behind-the-scenes engineering story leading up to the landing were captured by NOVA in its popular documentary "MARS Dead or Alive." That elation is the starting point for the sequel, "Welcome to Mars," which follows the adventures of Spirit and Opportunity on the Red Planet. Once again, NOVA's producers enjoyed unprecedented access to the mission scientists at JPL as they wrestled with the technical crises that soon beset the rovers.

All goes well until Spirit suddenly falls silent and then, inexplicably, starts spewing gibberish. For three agonizing days the engineers struggle to regain control of the unhinged rover before they finally solve the problem. Then Opportunity lands and sends back the image of an outcrop of bedrock just a few yards away. The rock turns out to be a crucial clue in the long quest to discover if there was once water and life on Mars. But the race to collect confirming data turns into an emotional rollercoaster for the engineers as they struggle to keep their earthly lives in synch with the longer day/night cycle of the Red Planet. Eventually, the evidence adds up, and after 40 years of speculation, NASA finally announces solid proof that Mars was once awash in water. "Welcome to Mars" presents a compelling inside story of triumph and technical ingenuity, full of scientific and human drama, with stunning fresh images from an alien world.
Original broadcast date: 1/4/2005


The Boldest Hoax
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In 1912, Charles Dawson, a British amateur fossil hunter, made a shattering claim: he'd discovered the bones of a primitive human in a gravel pit at Piltdown, Sussex. Here was the long-sought evidence of the "missing link" between the apes and mankind. British scientists were now suddenly at the forefront of the worldwide quest for human origins. It took 40 years for the shocking truth to emerge: Piltdown man was not a scientific treasure but a fiendishly elaborate hoax. Since this unmasking, suspicion has fallen not only on Dawson but on a host of possible conspirators, including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes. NOVA reviews the gallery of suspects and the twists and turns of the bizarre, unsolved story of science's greatest fraud, which still teases and tantalizes investigators today.
Original broadcast date: 1/11/2005


Supersonic Dream
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NOVA looks back affectionately over the 30-year story of the development of the world's first operational supersonic airliner. How did Concorde's designers and engineers come up with their revolutionary design? What happened to the dream that supersonic passenger flight would become an everyday, affordable way to travel, expanding Concorde's business beyond its luxury niche? Revisiting the thrill of its maiden flight of 1969 and the tragic Paris crash of 2000, "Supersonic Dream" is a unique and colorful aviation saga, drawing on rare behind-the-scenes footage and including interviews with Concorde fans such as Henry Kissinger, David Frost, and many more.
Original broadcast date: 1/18/2005


NOVA scienceNOW
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Science and technology are changing our lives at a dizzying pace. Hidden clues in your genes will soon enable your doctor to tell you whether you're likely to get a major disease perhaps decades before it happens. Advanced "nanotech" materials will lead to unimaginably tiny and powerful computers. Recently the first private space probe reached low-Earth orbit, opening up a whole new era in aerospace. And increasingly sophisticated studies of climate change offer unsettling evidence of the environment our children and grandchildren will inherit from us. So how can you keep up with the fast-moving frontiers of science and technology? The answer is "NOVA scienceNOW", an innovative science news and magazine show developed by the producers of NOVA.

Airing five times a year, the program brings to life the "how" and "why" behind cutting-edge discoveries and show the everyday impact and human side of science with accuracy, clarity, and flair.

Well-known correspondent Robert Krulwich of Nightline and ABC News hosted the 2005 episodes. Features in Episode One include segments on MIT's James McLurkin, the world's leading expert on "swarms" of robots; mirror neurons, a newly discovered system in the brain that may explain why we get so worked up watching other people; the science of predicting hurricanes; why some sand dunes make booming sounds; and kinetic sculptor Arthur Ganson.
Original broadcast date: 1/25/2005


The Viking Deception
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There are few more tantalizing or notorious historical documents than the Vinland map. A faded, yellowing scrap of parchment bearing a faint tracery of lines, the map apparently shows the eastern seaboard of North America—yet it was drawn at least half a century before Columbus reached the New World. It seems to present unshakeable proof that the Vikings were the real discoverers of the Americas. But for 40 years, a bitter debate over its authenticity has raged among cartographers, historians, and scientists. Despite chemical analysis and radiocarbon tests, the case remained unresolved. Now, in an exclusive investigation, NOVA presents fresh evidence confirming that the map was probably one of the cleverest forgeries of all time, and probes who might have wanted to carry out the deception. In this enthralling cartographic detective story, NOVA pursues a trail from Scandinavia to Austria, Switzerland, London, and the U.S.
Original broadcast date: 2/8/2005


Saving the National Treasures
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Every year, more than a million people visit the Rotunda at the National Archives in Washington to gaze at three documents that define our nation's heritage: the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. But these touchstones of democracy are in serious trouble. The ink is flaking from parchments that are already badly faded, while the glass casements built to exhibit them are disintegrating. To head off the danger, the Archives embarked on a five-year project to design state-of-the-art encasements and a new Rotunda. NOVA was given exclusive behind-the-scenes access to this unique project and commissioned Middlemarch Films, producers of the Peabody Award-winning PBS series "Liberty: The American Revolution," to follow the entire process from start to finish. The result is a brilliant evocation of the colorful history of these documents and an insider's look at the extraordinary engineering efforts that are safeguarding America's equivalent of the Crown Jewels.
Original broadcast date: 2/15/2005


A Daring Flight
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On the morning of July 25, 1909, Louis Bleriot set out on his epic flight across the English Channel, marking the first long-distance flight over water and the first air crossing of a national boundary. Bleriot's triumph came after years of experiments with primitive flying machines and innumerable crashes—a story of perseverance and ingenuity as memorable as that of his competitors, the Wright Brothers. "A Daring Flight" dramatizes Louis Bleriot's colorful story through the present-day quest of his grandson to relive his family heritage and repeat the heroic cross-channel flight—a quest that will prove both dangerous and elusive.
Original broadcast date: 2/22/2005


Wave That Shook the World
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On December 26, 2004, a series of tidal waves killed hundreds of thousands and devastated communities around the Indian Ocean. With around 100 tsunamis striking the world's coastlines each decade, NOVA investigates what made the recent event so powerful and catastrophic. In a special report shot within days of this shocking disaster, "Wave That Shook the World" presents a clear explanation and analysis of the tragedy, revealing exactly how these deadly waves were triggered by one of the most powerful earthquakes recorded this century.

Can an effective early warning system help avert another such catastrophe? Ever since a tsunami killed 159 on Hawaii's Big Island in 1946, awareness of the threat in the Pacific has steadily grown, leading to an early warning system there that has saved untold numbers. NOVA takes viewers back to the morning of December 26, 2004, when scientists at the Pacific Center registered the massive quake and tsunami risk in the Indian Ocean but were mostly powerless to alert those in peril. NOVA looks at the status of efforts to implement a similar system in the Indian Ocean, with a special update to be produced just before the program airs.

"Wave That Shook the World" presents a chilling, minute-by-minute picture of what happened that fateful morning. With the help of clear explanations and animation, together with the human stories of individuals caught up in the catastrophe, this program is both illuminating and heartbreaking.
Original broadcast date: 3/29/2005


NOVA scienceNOW
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The second installment of NOVA's science magazine show features segments on the recently discovered "Little People" of Flores, an extinct race of human beings found on a remote Indonesian island; how an apparent growth spurt during adolescence accounts for the enormous size of Tyrannosaurus rex; nanotechnologist Naomi Halas; the controversial but hugely promising field of stem-cell research; and frogs that freeze solid in winter, calling into question exactly when life ends—or doesn't.
Original broadcast date: 4/19/2005


NOVA scienceNOW
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The third episode of NOVA's science magazine series features segments on the promise of cars that run on hydrogen fuel cells, whose "waste" is pure water; RNAi, recently discovered molecules that may someday help treat a wide variety of diseases; the world's fastest glacier and what it says about the effects and peril of global warming; and the Chudnovsky brothers, who used a homemade supercomputer to help digitize a famous tapestry.
Original broadcast date: 7/26/2005


Mystery of the Megaflood
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It was the greatest flood of the past two million years, and it posed a giant scientific riddle. A maverick geologist became convinced that thousand-foot-deep floodwaters had scoured out vast areas of the American northwest near the end of the last ice age. Mainstream scientists scorned his theory while he searched patiently for answers to what could have triggered such an inconceivably violent event. Finally, an ingenious solution silenced the skeptics: traces of an enormous ice dam half a mile high, which had blocked a valley in present-day Montana and created an enormous lake behind it. With the help of stunningly realistic animation, NOVA takes viewers back to the Ice Age to reveal what happened when the dam broke, unleashing a titanic flood that swept herds of woolly mammoth and everything else into oblivion.
Original broadcast date: 9/20/2005


Sinking the Supership
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In April 1945, the largest battleship ever built set out on the ultimate suicide mission. With its crew of 3,000, Battleship Yamato, the pride of Japan's fleet, sailed to a solo confrontation with the 1,500-strong United States Navy. Attacked by a swarm of U.S. dive bombers, the battleship sank within minutes. A NOVA team discovers the wreck and retells the Yamato's extraordinary saga through the eyes of the few Japanese crew who survived the sinking and are still living today. State-of-the-art CGI animation shows viewers what the colossal battleship was like in all its glory at the time of its launching. The program opens a dramatic perspective on the great age of battleships and why it ended so abruptly with the Yamato's disastrous sinking.
Original broadcast date: 10/4/2005


Einstein's Big Idea
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Everybody's heard of it, but what does the world's most famous equation, E = mc2, really mean? NOVA dramatizes the stories of the men and women whose innovative thinking across four centuries finally led to Einstein's bold breakthrough. Based on David Bodanis' bestseller, E = mc2, the program celebrates the ingenuity and chronicles the human conflicts that ultimately unleashed the power of the atom, helping viewers gain a better understanding of the equation by tracking its history and the myriad numbers of ways it has changed the world. The program is the story of young, ambitious scientists caught up by the huge forces of nature they seek to understand. The film stars Aidan McArdle (Not Only But Also, Ella Enchanted) as Einstein, Shirley Henderson (Harry Potter and Bridget Jones franchises) as his wife Mileva, and Emily Woof (Oliver Twist, The Woodlanders) as Lise Meitner.
Original broadcast date: 10/11/2005


NOVA scienceNOW
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The fourth installment of NOVA's science magazine program features segments on the race to create artificial life in the laboratory; lightning and its potential trigger—cosmic rays from outer space; neuroscientist Erich Jarvis; a new generation of veterinarians who perform surgery on pets, including goldfish; and a post-Katrina update on the January 25, 2005 NOVA scienceNOW segment on hurricanes.
Original broadcast date: 10/18/2005


Volcano Under the City
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The towering volcano of Nyiragongo looms over the city of Goma in central Africa, threatening to obliterate a thriving city of over 400,000 inhabitants. In 2002, rivers of lava poured through the streets and destroyed 40 percent of the city, forcing tens of thousands to flee. A year later, with ominous gas clouds billowing over the crater rim, volcanologist Jacques Durieux leads a team of specialists to try to figure out the volcano's inner secrets—when and why it is likely to erupt next. "Volcano Under the City" reaches a suspenseful climax as Durieux and his team clamber down into the crater to lower test instruments into the boiling lava below. While the crater edge crumbles and the volcano belches poisonous gas, the scientists' battle to retrieve their vital data becomes a matter of life and death.
Original broadcast date: 11/1/2005


Hitler's Sunken Secret
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It was one of the most audacious exploits of the Norwegian resistance in World War II. On February 19, 1944, three saboteurs crept on board a ferryboat, the Hydro, moored at Lake Tinn in southeast Norway. On board were four dozen barrels bound for Germany and containing deuterium or heavy water, which was vital to Hitler's atomic bomb program. While the boat's crew was happily playing poker, the saboteurs crept into the hold and concealed an improvised time bomb. Next morning, the Hydro exploded as it crossed the middle of the lake, tipping an avalanche of barrels into the depths and killing 18 crew and passengers.

Was this daring operation a crucial defeat for Hitler's nuclear ambitions? An exclusive NOVA salvage expedition sets out to find the Hydro on the bottom of the lake and haul one of the barrels up to the surface. The NOVA team opens up the barrel and a test of its contents helps answer the mysteries surrounding Nazi Germany's race to build the atom bomb. The team also probes Norwegian archives and makes new discoveries: a second secret consignment of barrels eluded the saboteurs and made it all the way to Germany, but arrived too late to make a Nazi bomb feasible. "Hitler's Sunken Secret" features gripping first-person interviews with the sole living Norwegian saboteur and survivors who were on board the Hydro when it blew up.
Original broadcast date: 11/8/2005


Newton's Dark Secrets
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Besides Einstein, no single scientist ever transformed the outlook and worldview of his age more profoundly than Isaac Newton. Often hailed as both the first modern scientist and the last of the ancient magicians, Newton reduced nature's chaos to a single set of mathematical laws. This bold intellectual leap gave scientists and thinkers of his era vital new confidence that they could probe and predict nature's secrets. Over three centuries later, Newton's laws still govern the way we analyze and forecast the motions of everything from roller coasters to comets.

But Newton's genius was intertwined with an extreme personality—obsessive, secretive, reclusive, and vindictive to his many enemies. Besides his fundamental breakthroughs in physics, optics, and calculus, Newton poured vast energy into fruitless explorations of alchemy and religion. Like light shining through a prism, NOVA will show how these intricate facets of Newton's turbulent personality combined together in a single extraordinary life. With lively period recreations of key moments in his career and replications of his experiments in optics and alchemy, "Newton's Dark Secrets" explores how Newton became the giant on whose shoulders all later scientists found a place to stand.
Original broadcast date: 11/15/2005


Storm That Drowned A City
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Hurricane Katrina precipitated the greatest natural disaster in U.S. history, killing more than 1,000 people, leaving 800,000 homeless, and causing damage in the hundreds of billions of dollars. In "Storm That Drowned a City," NOVA offers a minute-by-minute reconstruction of the disaster told through gripping eyewitness testimony. What made Katrina so destructive? How accurately did scientists predict its impact? Why did flood defenses and relief planning fail to match the storm's fury? And why are powerful hurricanes like Katrina likely to strike more often? In this one-hour documentary, find the answers—at least as far as they're currently known.
Original broadcast date: 11/22/2005

 

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