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Need to Know, February 18, 2011: The universe(s), Egypt’s future and fracking

This week, physicist Brian Greene explains some of the scientific evidence around the theory of multiple universes, the topic of his new book “The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos.”

Back in this reality, we provide an update to our previous reports on hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”). We speak with ProPublica’s Abrahm Lustgarten about recent allegations that fracking may violate the Clean Water Act.

Also, following Hosni Mubarak’s resignation as president of Egypt, Alison Stewart speaks with Michael Wahid Hanna of the Century Foundation to discuss what may come of the country’s new political structure. Need to Know producer Mona Iskander also provides a personal essay about her experience watching the Egypt protests unfold.

And: Jon Meacham speaks with Parag Khanna, author of “How to Run the World: Charting the Course to the Next Renaissance,” which offers a road map for dealing with an increasingly multipolar and fragmented world.

Tune in this Friday, February 18 — check your local listings for details, or check back here to watch the full episode online.
Watch the individual segments:

The Watch List: Update on fracking

Following the release of a new congressional report alleging potential violations of the Clean Water Act, Need to Know and ProPublica update an investigation of the gas drilling process known as fracking.

Abrahm Lustgarten

ProPublica’s Abrahm Lustgarten discusses the ongoing issues between the oil and gas companies and the EPA regarding the use of diesel fuel in the hydraulic fracturing process.

For Egypt … What’s next?

Alison Stewart interviews Michael Wahid Hanna of the Century Foundation to discuss the likely new political structure in Egypt.

Egypt: Personal essay

Need to Know producer Mona Iskander, an Egyptian-American, watched the ouster of Hosni Mubarak with special interest. She shares her personal observations and introduces us to a blogger/activist she first met while reporting on Egypt several years ago.

Interview: Parag Khanna

Jon Meachaminterviews author Parag Khanna about his new book, “How To Run the World.”

A look at the universe

Theoretical physicist and New York Times best-selling author Brian Greene explains, among other things, how the universe is like a muffin, and why there’s actually not just one universe.

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    A symphony orchestra thrives in Congo, and we investigate faltering safety in work sites that police themselves. Also: South Sudan's historic election and Jami Floyd on the Dominique Strauss-Kahn case. Maria Hinojosa guest hosts.
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    How will Greece's debt crisis affect the U.S. and the rest of the world? Also: California's radical new approach to statewide redistricting, and journalists Brian Stelter and David Carr discuss "Page One: Inside the New York Times."
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    We explore the inner workings of a military organization's $17 billion effort to combat IEDs, and Jami Floyd discusses the ramifications of the Supreme Court's decision on the Wal-Mart case. Also: The science of what makes a good marriage.


  • Rainer Cale

    If Greene’s talk of the multiverse is truly representative of what is going on in the quantum and astrophysics community then I am truly disheartened.

    The “parallel universe” idea Greene talked about is just a rehash of Nietzsche’s “eternal return,” which itself has deep roots in ancient Indian religions. The mathematician Poincare formalized the idea in a theorem. How ingenuous of Greene not to cite his source. He acts as though he’s the first to ever have this thought.

    But fine, that in itself isn’t so troubling. What gets me down is that Goerg Simmel long long ago provided us with a mathematical refutation of the eternal return. Look it up on the internet. The upshot is that even given a finite number of elements and a finite number of combinations between these elements in an infinite universe, there is nothing preventing a given combination from never recurring again.

    There’s science and then there’s pop science.

  • RLRicard

    Finally, a timid, cautious, and disappointing report from PBS about hydraulic fracturing after years of suffering by the people of Wyoming. PBS should be ashamed of this cowardly, non-commital essay. It indicates that very little effort was made by PBS to investigate the issue.

    Natural gas companies have been disregarding public health and indeed, allowing people to be severely harmed by contaminated drinking water since George Bush first signed the law allowing it. This Need To Know report says very little about the now widespread damage already made to the water supplies of every state where fracking has been allowed. This report makes no mention of New York’s significant resistance to fracking that has so far protected the water supply to New York City. This report makes no mention of the courageous efforts that have been made by others to combat the deadly practice of fracking since its first victims came forward with information about its horrible consequences.

    Why not mention the documentary film ‘Gasland’ in the report? If PBS is unwilling to confront this issue courageously, then at least the right thing to do would be to recommend your viewers to this additional source of information, so they can have a much better perspective of the problem than was presented here.