NOVA brings you stories from the frontlines of science and engineering, answering the big questions of today and tomorrow, from how our ancestors lived, to whether parallel universes exist, to how technology will transform our lives.
Add to my shows
Secrets In Our DNA 48x01
Saving Notre Dame 47x18
When the roof of Notre Dame Cathedral erupted in flames in April of 2019, firefighters battled for nine grueling hours to save the historic landmark. Still, Paris came alarmingly close to losing more than 800 years of history. Now engineers are in a different race against time: to rebuild the roof and secure the medieval structure of Notre Dame. Underneath the charred scaffolding and vaulted ceilings of the cathedral, scientists study the components of Notre Dame's iconic design to puzzle out how best to repair it.
Can We Cool the Planet? 47x17
As global temperatures continue to rise, scientists are wondering if we need solutions beyond reducing emissions. Enter geoengineering. From sucking carbon straight out of the air to physically blocking out sunlight, the options may seem far-fetched. But as time runs out on conventional solutions to climate change, scientists are asking the hard questions: Can geoengineering really work? How much would it cost? And what are the risks of engineering Earth's climate?
Touching the Asteroid 47x16
In October 2020, a NASA spacecraft called OSIRIS-REx attempts to reach out and grab a piece of an asteroid named Bennu to bring it back to Earth. The OSIRIS-REx team has just three chances to extend its spacecraft's specialized arm, touch down for five seconds, and collect material from the surface of Bennu. But if they can pull it off, scientists could gain great insight into Earth's own origins—and even learn to defend against rogue asteroids that may one day threaten our planet.
Nature's Fear Factor 47x15
For animals in Mozambique's Gorongosa National Park, the normal balance of competition and predation was upended when a war wiped out the top predators. The remaining animals didn't simply grow in numbers—they began behaving in unusual ways, veering outside their typical territories and feeding patterns. Could it be that it's not just predators' kills that keep other populations in check, but also the fear they inspire? NOVA joins a team of scientists as they reintroduce wild dogs to Gorongosa to find out if restoring the park's "landscape of fear" can restore balance to an entire ecosystem.
A to Z: How Writing Changed the World 47x14
Just as writing changed the course of human history, the evolution of paper and printing revolutionized the spread of information. The printing press kicked off the Industrial Revolution that fast-tracked us to the current digital age. But as the 4,000-year-old tradition of penmanship falls out of favor, should we consider what might be lost in this pursuit of ever more efficient communication?
A to Z: The First Alphabet 47x13
Where would we be without the world's alphabets? Writing has played a vital role in the expansion and domination of cultures throughout history. But researchers are only now uncovering the origin story to our own alphabet, which may have gotten its beginnings in a turquoise mine 4,000 years ago. From the shape of the letter A to the role of writing in trade and storytelling, discover how the written word shaped civilization itself.
Secret Mind of Slime 47x12
Who says you need brains to be smart? Extremely primitive life-forms called slime molds can navigate mazes, choose between foods, and create efficient networks—no brain required. New research on these organisms, which are neither plant nor animal, could help reveal the fundamental rules underlying all decision making.
Human Nature 47x11
Our DNA can determine attributes from eye color to medical predispositions. An extraordinary technology called CRISPR allows us to edit human DNA, possibly eliminating genetic diseases or choosing our children's features. But how far should we go?
The Molecule That Made Us: Crisis 47x10
Earth's changing water cycle—and a globalized movement towards water for profit—is forcing changes in humans' reliance on water. Can a geopolitical crisis be averted?