NOVA Wonders

A 6-part series exploring the biggest questions on the frontiers of science. Premiering April 25, 2018 at 9 pm on PBS Premiering April 25, 2018 at 9 pm on PBS

Program Description

“NOVA Wonders” takes viewers on a journey to the frontiers of science, where researchers are tackling some of the biggest questions about life and the cosmos. From the mysteries of astrophysics to the secrets of the body to the challenges of inventing technologies that could rival—and even surpass—the abilities of the human mind, these six hours reveal how far we’ve come in our search for answers, how we managed to get here, and how scientists hope to push our understanding of the universe even further. Along the way, we meet the remarkable people who are transforming our world and our future.

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Image credit: (illustration)
© agsandrew/Shutterstock

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What Are Animals Saying?

Can we crack the code of animal communication? Airing April 25, 2018 at 9 pm on PBS Aired April 25, 2018 on PBS

Program Description

From singing whales and squeaking bats to thumping spiders and clicking dolphins, the world is filled with the exotic sounds of our fellow creatures. What are they saying? While we believe language sets us apart, some animals demonstrate they can learn our language—like Chaser the dog, who recognizes hundreds of words, and Kanzi the bonobo, who appears to have a sophisticated understanding of spoken English. But can we decode their own communications? NOVA Wonders follows researchers around the globe who are deciphering an amazing array of clues that reveal how animals share information critical to their survival. Will we one day be able to write the bat dictionary or decode the hidden sign language of chimps? And what can these findings tell us about the roots of our own language?

 

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Image credit (Chimpanzee In Forest)
© Getty Images

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What's Living in You?

Discover how a world of microbes living in and on you can make you sick-and keep you healthy. Airing May 2, 2018 at 9 pm on PBS Aired May 2, 2018 on PBS

Program Description

Whether they make you fat, fart, or freak out, microbes play a central role in your life. Right beneath your nose—on your face, in your gut, and everywhere in between—trillions of bacteria, viruses, and fungi are so abundant in your body, they outnumber your human cells. But these aren’t just nasty hitch-hikers. Many are crucial to your survival. Evidence suggests that a diverse microbiome can keep you healthy and, conversely, a damaged one could kill you. NOVA Wonders peers into this microscopic world to discover the fascinating, bizarre, and downright surprising secrets of the human microbiome, including the world’s largest stool bank, which transforms raw stool into life-saving poop pills.

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Image credit (Woman with bacteria)
© LightFieldStudios, Yuri_Arcurs / iStock

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Are We Alone?

Hunt for clues in the universe to answer one of humanity's biggest questions: Are we alone? Airing May 9, 2018 at 9 pm on PBS Aired May 9, 2018 on PBS

Program Description

The search for extraterrestrial life is an age-old quest.  But recent breakthroughs make today an era like no other in the history of astronomy. From the exhilarating probing of our own solar system and the Kepler mission’s astounding discovery of thousands of extrasolar planets, to the next-generation telescopes under development, the prospects for finding life beyond Earth have never been stronger. Still, daunting hurdles remain. How can we study anything light years away, let alone a little planet? In the vast universe, where should we even start to look? Is our failure to hear any other voices in the galaxy a sign that we are special? NOVA Wonders joins leading explorers now searching the galaxy for life and intelligence on other planets—and asks, if we do find other life in the universe…what would that mean?

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Image credit (Deep Space Radio Telescopes)
© Neo Edmund/Shutterstock

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Can We Make Life?

A revolution in gene editing enables scientists to create and edit DNA like never before. Airing May 23, 2018 at 9 pm on PBS Aired May 23, 2018 on PBS

Program Description

"It's alive!" Since Dr. Frankenstein spoke those famous words, we've been alternately enthralled and terrified by the idea of creating life in the lab. Now, a revolution in genetic engineering and thrilling innovations in synthetic biology are bringing that dream—or nightmare, as the case may be—closer to reality. New tools allow researchers to use cells to create their own DNA and edit it into existing genomes with more ease and less cost than ever before. Along with renewed hopes for treating some genetic diseases, there's serious talk of using the newest technologies to bring long-extinct animals back from the dead – like the team hoping to resurrect the woolly mammoth. Science fiction is quickly becoming science fact. Another daring genetic experiment to bioengineer animals could prevent Lyme disease. But the power to make life comes with deep ethical questions. What are the potential rewards—and dangers—of tinkering with nature? “NOVA Wonders” explores the benefits and the burden of risk surrounding the controversial new technology.

 

 

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Image credit: (dna molecule)
© Sergey Nivens/Shutterstock

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What's the Universe Made Of?

Peer into the universe’s deep unknowns to explore the mysteries of dark matter and energy. Airing May 30, 2018 at 9 pm on PBS Aired May 30, 2018 on PBS

Program Description

The universe is hiding something. In fact, it is hiding a lot. Everything we experience on Earth, the stars and galaxies we see in the cosmos—all the “normal” matter and energy that we understand—make up only 5% of the known universe. The other 95% is made up of two mysterious components: “dark matter” and “dark energy.” We can’t see them, but we know they’re there. And what’s more—these two shadowy ingredients are locked in an epic battle to control the very fate of the universe. Now, scientists are trying to shed light on the so-called “dark sector” as the latest generation of detectors rev up, and powerful telescopes peer deeper into space than ever before to observe how it behaves. Will the discoveries help reveal how galaxies formed? In the series finale, “NOVA Wonders” journeys to the stars and back to investigate what we know—and don’t know. Find out how scientists are discovering new secrets about the history of the universe, and why they’re predicting a shocking future.

 

Broadcast Credits

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Image credit: (Nebula and Galaxy)
© suns07butterfly/Shutterstock

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