TV Programs

January - December 1999

The Beast of Loch Ness
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Is it just a fairy tale, or could a primeval beast lurk in the deep, dark waters of a Scottish lake? Since it was first reported more than 60 years ago, hundreds claim to have witnessed the Loch Ness Monster, while one scientist after another has brought the latest technology to the loch to probe the phenomenon. Twenty-five years after their first, groundbreaking expedition to Loch Ness, NOVA joins two American scientists as they return to Scotland for one last go at Nessie. During a three-week expedition, they use state-of-the-art sonar and sensitive underwater cameras in an attempt to track down and identify the elusive beast. Biologists study the ecosystem of the loch to determine if it could support a large animal. Geologists study its history, looking for clues about what kind of creature might have colonized it, and when. NOVA examines the photographic evidence in the case. And eyewitnesses vividly recount their sightings. Could this legendary creature be real, perhaps a relic from the time of dinosaurs? Or is it a shared illusion—a product of myth, mirage and wishful thinking?
Original broadcast date: 01/12/99
Topic: animal biology/behavior, unexplained phenomena

Submarines, Secrets, and Spies
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At the height of the Cold War, US subs gathered secrets that neither spies nor satellites could expose. Until recently, almost nobody knew the hidden history of their tragedies and triumphs. As the US strove for supremacy in the Cold War, it pushed submarine technology to its limits. Breakthroughs led to unparalleled triumphs of espionage. And, missteps cost hundreds their lives. With recently declassified film, NOVA lifts the veil on tragic and mysterious submarine accidents and their high-risk spy missions that helped win the Cold War. Along with celebrated oceanographer and explorer, Robert Ballard (discoverer of the Titanic), NOVA goes in search of clues to two tragedies of the Cold War, the wrecks of the nuclear submarines Thresher and Scorpion. Recently declassified footage gives a unique glimpse of the wrecks and a chance to investigate the catastrophic accidents that overtook these subs and their crew.
Original broadcast date: 01/19/99
Topic: technology/weapons & warfare

Surviving AIDS
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The past five years have seen remarkable progress in both treatment and basic understanding of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes AIDS. In laboratories and clinics across the country and around the world, scientists and doctors have pooled their expertise to keep people infected with HIV alive and disease-free longer than was imaginable at the start of the epidemic. And now, through what may well be an unprecedented cross-fertilization process among molecular biologists, immunologists, geneticists, and practicing physicians, a series of discoveries about HIV-infected patients who have successfully fought off AIDS for as long as 20 years are being closely analyzed for clues to the ultimate goal in this fierce scientific battle—a vaccine. NOVA tells the story of this ongoing battle through the experiences of patients like Robert Massie, a "long-term non-progressor." Massie, a 43-year old environmental activist and Episcopalian minister was infected by a blood transfusion in 1978 and after an acute period of illness, somehow his immune system has kept the HIV virus at bay without drugs. Surviving AIDS reveals the scientific community engaged in an enormous and ongoing struggle, with discoveries traveling from labs to patients and back. And NOVA brings together the most promising research with compelling human stories of the patients and doctors who are devoting themselves to unraveling one of the most complicated mysteries in scientific history.
Original broadcast date: 02/02/99
Topic: medicine/disease & research, human biology/behavior

ESCAPE! Because Accidents Happen
A four part series on survival engineering.
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Tragic accidents occur all the time—and some make sensational headlines. In Escape, NOVA goes behind the sensation to explore what good can come out of these senseless tragedies. In this series of four programs, NOVA discovers how engineers draw on the experience of accidents and disasters to redesign or invent new safety features so that when history repeats itself, it does so with less tragic consequences.

When the Great Fire of London was raging in 1666, there were no water pumps, no hoses, no hydrants, a limited supply of available water, and, worst of all, no trained firefighters to battle this ferocious enemy. Fire follows two thousand years of human effort to be safe from fire. Some of the most ingenious fire fighting inventions have come at a terrible price. Others, like the remarkable story behind the creation of the automatic sprinkler, were born of genius and the unassailable knowledge that the best way to survive a fire is to prevent it.
Original broadcast date: 02/16/99
Topic: technology/engineering

Car Crash
While today's cars are safer than they've ever been, automobile safety has come slowly and at the expense of millions of lives. Car Crash focuses on the unheralded heroes of automobile safety: Dr. Claire Straith, a Detroit plastic surgeon who fought in the 1920's to get padded dashboards and recessed knobs installed in cars to protect his patient's faces in an accident; Bela Berenyi, a Mercedes engineer who completely changed the way cars were designed and built with the invention of crumple zone and rigid cab construction; Nils Bohlin, the Volvo engineer who holds the patent for the single most effective safety device in any car—the seat belt; and John Hetrick, the unsung inventor of the airbag whose work was 20 years too early.
Original broadcast date: 02/16/99
Topic: technology/engineering

Plane Crash
From the invention of the parachute to the ejection seat and escape systems created for NASA, to commercial airliners, Plane Crash follows the history of aircraft safety. There are many heroic tales of aviators and aero-engineers who risked their own lives to save others.
Original broadcast date: 02/17/99
Topic: technology/engineering, technology/aeronautics & flight

Abandon Ship
When a ship founders in mid-ocean, time is the enemy. How can the crew and passengers get off the ship before it sinks? How can they survive perhaps for hours in cold and storm-tossed waters? How can they be rescued? Abandon Ship follows hundreds of years of maritime safety engineering including the remarkable stories behind the invention of lifejackets, life boats, breathing apparatus, and many other life-saving technologies.
Original broadcast date: 02/17/99
Topic: technology/engineering

Battle Alert in the Gulf
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At the height of tensions in the Middle East, the United States placed a huge armada at ground zero in the Persian Gulf. This strategic move was without precedent during peace time operations—a big stick waved at a defiant Saddam Hussein. In an ironic twist of timing, at the center of this massive military force was the Navy's oldest and most celebrated aircraft carrier, the USS Independence, on her final voyage, and the newest, the highly sophisticated nuclear powered aircraft carrier, the USS John C. Stennis, on her maiden voyage. Join NOVA as it moves with exclusive access throughout the fleet, from carriers and cruisers to submarines and jet fighters. Follow the strategy makers, fighter pilots, Aegis cruiser captains and fast attack submarine crews as they contend with a hostile Iraq and a new battlefield. NOVA examines up-close a new and powerful technology, tasked with a new assignment, a Blue Water force designed for global confrontation in a post-Cold War scenario. Has US war capability and technology kept pace with a changing battlefield?
Original broadcast date: 02/23/99
Topic: technology/weapons & warfare

Volcanoes of the Deep
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The deep sea was long considered a barren place, devoid of sunlight and inhospitable to life. Now, scientists are witnessing how deep sea volcanoes can support oases of astounding creatures. These oases hold clues to how life might exist elsewhere in the universe, and to how life itself may have begun on Earth. At the heart of these systems lie "black smoker" chimneys, towering structures which spew acidic and scalding water heated by volcanoes beneath the ocean floor. These seemingly hostile environments are teeming with exotic life. Join NOVA on an expedition which journeys to this remote realm to first capture extraordinary imagery, and then, in an exceptional feat of deep sea engineering, lifts from the depths several of these giant chimneys and the life they harbor. The massive structures now offer scientists an unprecedented chance to reveal the secrets of deep sea volcanoes—how life can thrive in eternal darkness, and even how life itself originated.
Original broadcast date: 03/30/99
Topic: geography/oceanography, geology/earthquakes & volcanoes

To the Moon
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For two hours in July of 1969, the world stood still as man landed and walked on the moon. Tens of millions watched it happen, on blurry black and white television, beamed back a quarter million miles across the heavens. For the first time in human history, all mankind could observe a profound discovery as it happened. A generation later, in July of 1999, a two-hour NOVA special television event will mark the 30th anniversary of the greatest science and engineering adventure of all time—going behind the scenes to tell the stories the astronauts and the unsung heroes of lunar exploration—the scientists and engineers who made it happen.

When President John F. Kennedy pledged to put a man on the moon by the end of the 60s, not a single person in the nascent US space agency had a clue as to how this would be accomplished. After all, it was April, 1961, just two weeks after an American flew into space for the first time.

Everything was unknown and in debate—how would they get there? And how to return? The technologies—for propulsion, navigation, and life support—had yet to be invented and tested. At the time, no computers, batteries, communication, let alone rockets or spacecraft capable of the mission were on the drawing boards. The task seemed endless, even impossible. Then, before the plans were barely outlined, the President was dead, leaving the mission to continue. The task was daunting.

NOVA's TO THE MOON is a celebration of that remarkable achievement and an exploration of the future of space technology.
Original broadcast date: 07/13/99
Topic: astronomy/space exploration

Fall of the Leaning Tower
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Even before it was finished 800 years ago, the Leaning Tower of Pisa - a masterpiece of medieval architecture - began to topple, shaken by earthquakes and sinking slowly into the unstable soil. Today, the top hangs just 16 feet over the base and collapse seems imminent. NOVA follows a decade-long search for a solution to correct the lean and save the unique building. State-of-the-art computer models, ingenious experiments with models and a string of near-disasters eventually push an international committee of prominent engineers and architects into an 11th-hour decision. A suspenseful tale of engineering hopes and frustrations, the program is both high comedy and a hands-on engineering adventure, guiding viewers into the minds of daring medieval architects and their ingenious modern successors.
Original broadcast date: 10/05/99
Topic: technology/engineering

Time Travel
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Is time travel anything more than sci-fi fantasy? Many leading physicists now believe that time travel is not only possible in theory but are discussing how to build a time machine. Physicist Kip Thorne tells NOVA how humankind's infinitely advanced descendants might go about achieving it with "quantum wormholes" and some "exotic matter." Demonstrating that faster-than-light travel may be possible, German physicist Guenter Nimtz claims to have transmitted Mozart's 40th Symphony across his lab at 4.7 times the speed of light. Impossible, yes, but recorded by NOVA's cameras and perhaps another step on the road to reaching the future or the past. The truth about time travel is wrapped up in the detail of how our universe works and how it all began. Mind-boggling as these perspectives are, NOVA dramatizes them in a playful and visually dazzling style that will captivate viewers and sweep them along on the ultimate thrill ride.
Original broadcast date: 10/12/99
Topic: mathematics, physics, unexplained phenomena

The Killer's Trail
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The death of Marilyn Sheppard in 1954 is one of the most famous unsolved murders in America. The indictment of her husband, Dr. Sam Sheppard, quickly became the "Trial of the Century," then the "Re-Trial of the Century," making a celebrity out of lawyer F. Lee Bailey. Although most of the forensic evidence gathered in 1954 was ignored during Sheppard's trial, it is being re-examined with today's advanced technology. Like an intricate puzzle, the clues come together to overturn previous assumptions about the killer and point to an entirely new suspect. NOVA assembles a notable team of experts—including Barry Scheck, a well-known lawyer from the O.J. Simpson trial—and builds a precise replica of the Sheppard house, complete with the original furniture. With this unique revisiting of a vanished crime scene, NOVA investigates a horrifying and sensational milestone in forensic science.
Original broadcast date: 10/19/99
Topic: medicine/forensic, technology/crime

Island of the Spirits
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In the far north of Japan, thrust out into the north Pacific, is the remote island of Hokkaido. It's a land of towering volcanoes and steaming lakes, marshy valleys and fairy tale forests. Among this magical scenery, where summers are brief and winters are fierce, lives an extraordinary spectrum of life, found nowhere else in Japan. Here among the coastal lowlands, grizzly bears plunge into icy streams for salmon, Japanese cranes perform balletic courtship dances to one another, the rare and enormous Blakistons fish owl swoops on flying squirrels, and white-tailed eagles scan the rugged ocean cliffs for unsuspecting seabirds. HIgh on the mountains Asiatic pikas, arctic hares and Siberian chipmunks gather food, ever-watchful for the predatory sable. We think of Japan as a highly-populated, ultra modern society, and yet it remains a highly spiritual place where wildlife is treasured and carefully protected. Weaving Ainu legend with fascinating natural behavior, this film will follow the lives of Hokkaido's special creatures through the seasons, to capture the true essence and beauty of this other-worldly place.
Original broadcast date: 11/02/99
Topic: animal biology/behavior, geography/oceanography

Decoding Nazi Secrets
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Most historians agree that by enabling Allied commanders to eavesdrop on German plans, Station X shortened the war by 2 or 3 years. Its decoded messages played a vital role in defeating the U-boat menace, cutting off Rommel's supplies in North Africa, and launching the D-Day landings. Now, for the first time on television, a 2-hour NOVA Special tells the full story of Station X, drawing on vivid interviews with many of the colorful geniuses and eccentrics who attacked the Enigma. Wartime survivors recall such vivid episodes as the British capture of the German submarine U-110; one of its officers describes how he saved a book of love poems inscribed to his sweetheart but failed to destroy vital Enigma documents on board. "Decoding Nazi Secrets" also features meticulous period reenactments shot inside the original buildings at Station X, including recreations of the world's first computing devices that aided codebreakers with their breakthroughs. Station X not only helped reverse the onslaught of the Third Reich, but also laid the groundwork for the invention of the digital computer that continues to transform all our lives.
Original broadcast date: 11/09/99
Topic: technology/weapons & warfare, mathematics, technology/computers

Voyage of Doom
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Buried in mud beneath the shallow waters of Matagorda Bay in Texas, lay a glorious remnant of one of the most ill-fated voyages of the Age of Discovery. After years of searching the area, nautical archaeologists doing a magnetometer survey honed in on a promising site. And on the first day of diving, they were astounded to feel the distinctive outlines of a cannon, and sense the massive size of the wreck. When the cannon was hauled from the water, their hunch was confirmed: This ship, called La Belle, belonged to the 17th Century French explorer Robert Cavelier de La Salle. NOVA follows the building of a coffer dam and subsequent complete excavation of this remarkable site. Preserved were not only armaments and trade beads, but also a wealth of organic material—the wooden hull, leather shoes, and even a skeleton—that brings the voyage to life.
Original broadcast date: 11/23/99
Topic: archaeology

Electric Heart
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Original broadcast date: 12/21/99
Topic: medicine/health care & surgery


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