The MAKING STUFF crew has been busy the past couple of months and things are only getting busier. We've steadily been shooting different scenes for our first hour-long episode "Stronger" and have begun shooting some of the second episode, "Smaller."

"Stronger" has brought host David Pogue and our crew at Powderhouse Productions to some exciting locations.  We shot on the USS Stennis, a Navy aircraft carrier, to get up close and personal with "arresting cables," the steel cables that make landing a plane on the ship's short runway possible.
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(Photos Courtesy of Powderhouse Productions - Left: David Pogue on deck. Right: An arresting cable stops a landing plane to a halt.)

At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge MA, we visited "Strobe Alley" which is dedicated to David Pogue's great uncle Harold Edgerton, a pioneer in the art of high-speed photography. There, we got a slow motion look at how materials break when impacted by a 22-caliber bullet. We tested different steels as well as aluminum, wood, ceramic, and I personally had the pleasure of hurling a water filled polymer (a water balloon) at David Pogue's head (in the name of science, of course.)
(Photos Courtesy of Powderhouse Productions - Left: Slow motion bullet impact. Right: David Pogue gets hit with a water balloon)
Next, we took a trip down to Richmond VA to visit the DuPont company. There, David learned about Kevlar...

NV-STF-ep101-07-05.jpg...the liquid crystal polymer that protects law enforcement around the world in the form of bullet or stab proof vests.  He also met "Thermo-Man," who taught him about Nomex, a material chemically similar to Kevlar. Nomex stands up to high temperatures and is used in fire-fighters' clothing. NV-STF-ep101-07-03.jpg(Photos Courtesy of Powderhouse Productions - Left: David Pogue and Tucker Norton test stab resistant Kevlar. Right: "Thermo-Man is not burnt to a crisp, thanks to Nomex)

Most recently for "Stronger" we headed to Laramie Wyoming to visit Dr. Randy Lewis, Professor of Microbiology at the University of Wyoming. For more than 20 years he has been studying spider silk, possibly one of the strongest materials out there. Believe it or not, he's currently working with genetically modified goats that can produce in their milk the same proteins necessary for spider silk! (You can imagine it would be a little more productive to milk a goat than a bunch of spiders.)
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(Photos Courtesy of Powderhouse Productions - Left: David Pogue handles a spider. Right: David Pogue milks a transgenic goat)

While there are still plenty of shoots left to go for "Stronger," we've started shooting the "Smaller" episode as well. "Smaller" tackles the world of nanotechnology and explains why being able to work with stuff on the small scale is a HUGE advantage. We started with the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas back in January, where most of the products featured were full of tiny electronic components, as David Pogue found out first hand. (Check out Producer Doug Gordon's blog for the whole CES story.)

Our most recent "Smaller" shoot is a perfect example of how small can be powerful. We went back to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to see Professor Michael Cima, who is working towards creating a sensor that might one day be inserted into the body during a routine biopsy. While a biopsy only provides information about a tumor at one moment in time, this sensor would continually monitor a tumor's growth and the effectiveness of treatment. That would provide doctors with a less invasive way to observe a tumor's growth and enable them to detect early how well chemotherapy was going to work.

We have many more materials science adventures lined up for our friend David Pogue, in Europe, the Bahamas and all across the U.S. so stay tuned! There's more to come from MAKING STUFF: Stronger, Smaller, Cleaner, Smarter, premiering Wednesday, January 19, 2011 at 9pm ET/PT on PBS!

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