All over the world, scientists are discovering traces of ancient floods on a scale that dwarfs even the most severe flood disasters of recent times. What triggered these cataclysmic floods, and could they strike again? In the Channeled Scablands of Washington State, the level prairie gives way to bizarre, gargantuan rock formations: house-sized boulders seemingly dropped from the sky, a cliff carved by a waterfall twice the height of Niagara, and potholes large enough to swallow cars. Like forensic detectives at a crime scene, geologists study these strange features and reconstruct catastrophic Ice Age floods more powerful than all the world’s top ten rivers combined. NOVA follows their efforts to uncover the geologic fingerprints of other colossal megafloods in Iceland and, improbably, on the seabed of the English Channel. There, another deluge smashed through a land bridge connecting Britain and France hundreds of thousands of years ago and turned Britain into an island for the first time. These great disasters ripped through terrain and transformed continents in a matter of hours—and similar forces reawakened by climate change are posing an active threat to mountain communities throughout the world today.
NOVA follows a team of volcano sleuths as they embark on a worldwide hunt for an elusive volcanic mega-eruption that plunged the medieval earth into a deep freeze. The mystery begins when archaeologists find a hastily dug mass grave of 4,000 men, women, and children in London. At first they assume it's a plague pit from the Black Death, but when they date the bones, they're a century too early. So what killed off these families? The chronicles of that time describe a run of wild weather that devastated crops and spread famine across Europe. NOVA's expert team looks for the signature of a volcanic eruption big enough to have blasted a huge cloud of ash and sulfuric acid into the atmosphere, which chilled the entire planet. From Greenland to Antarctica, the team finds telltale "fingerprints" in ice and soil layers until, finally, they narrow down the culprit to a smoldering crater on a remote Indonesian island. Nearly 750 years ago, this volcano's colossal explosion shot a million tons of rock and ash into the atmosphere. Across the globe, it turned summer into winter. What would happen if another such cataclysm struck again today?
Off Australia's northeast coast lies a wonder of the world, a living structure so big it can be seen from space, more intricate and complex than any city, and so diverse it hosts a third of all fish species in Australia. The Great Barrier Reef as we know it -- 8,000 years old and home to thousands of marine species -- is dying in our lifetime.
As scientific studies confirm sea level changes throughout the globe, major coastal cities like Miami are now fighting back against these rising tides, before it's too late. Parts of Miami Beach are under serious threat, with major economic and social dangers looming large.
This feature documentary tells the story of the story of the pioneers who founded Greenpeace and defined the modern green movement. In 1971 a brave group of young activists set sail from Vancouver in an old fishing boat. Their mission: to stop Nixon's atomic bomb tests in Amchitka, a tiny island off the west coast of Alaska. It was from these humble but courageous beginnings that the global organisation that we now know as Greenpeace was born. Chronicling the fascinating untold story behind the modern environmental movement and with access to dramatic footage that has not been seen for over 40 years, this gripping new film tells the story of eco-hero Robert Hunter and how he, alongside a group of like-minded and idealistic young friends in the '70s, would be instrumental in altering the way we now look at the world and our place within it. These campaigning pioneers captured their daring and sometimes jaw-dropping actions on a range of film cameras and Greenpeace granted acclaimed director Jerry Rothwell access to this vivid archive to make his thrilling, sometimes terrifying film. Greenpeace was born in 1971 when a ragtag group of journalists, hippies, and scientists living in Vancouver tried to stop a US atomic test. Fortunately, they were media savvy from the beginning, capturing their seat-of-their pants activist adventures on film. The youthful energy is palpable in action-packed scenes, including one in which activists confront a Russian whaling ship in a tiny Zodiac dingy. Soon, though, idealism comes up against reality, compromise, human nature, and the complexities of managing a growing organization. This insightful film is also a vibrant, moving reflection about the ongoing struggle to balance the political and the personal.
2015 • Environment
Adventurer and journalist Simon Reeve heads to one of the most spectacular countries in the world - Colombia. For 50 years, Colombia has been in the grip of a brutal civil war that has killed more than 200,000 people and displaced seven million. But in late 2016, a peace deal was signed promising to end the conflict and finally bring peace to the country. In this hour-long documentary for the award-winning This World strand, Simon explores Colombia at a pivotal point in its history. He travels into the jungle and comes face to face with the guerrilla army FARC, which is now promising to lay down arms. In the Pacific coast city of Buenaventura, Simon finds out more about the fearsome right-wing paramilitary gangs who now dominate the cocaine trade. As the FARC abandon the countryside, there is a fear that these groups will only grow in power. Travelling in the countryside, Simon meets the coca farmers who are demanding government support to stop growing coca and stop the flow of money to criminal gangs. With land ownership, poverty and drugs at the heart of Colombia's problems, it is in the countryside that the country's precarious future will be decided.
As winter approaches, field teams are finishing up their science for the season. It's the last chance to obtain information for their research on the frozen continent. As most people are preparing to leave, a container ship is on its way in to supply food and materials to the skeleton crew that remains during the cold, dark winter months.
Science in Antarctica will shut down for the winter. Scott Base has plenty of logistics to manage in order to send teams out to finish their missions for the season. The USS Coast Guard crew is challenged by their aging ship as they try to finish cutting a channel in the ice before they escort the ship in. The Mt. Erebus team struggles to salvage as much data as they can before they go home.
In Antarctica both humans and animals do what it takes to adapt to and survive the harshest climate on earth. Our scientists focus their research in the icy waters to determine how climate change and human interaction have affected the marine ecosystem. Human life in the Antarctic can be put in danger when the technology it relies on fails.
The Mt. Erebus team has trouble landing at one of their sites and when they do their gear glitches from the cold. Meanwhile, the USS Coast Guard gets stranded from engine failure. Another team struggles to protect their 80,000 drone from a crash landing due to extreme wind. The Ross Ice Shelf Team digs themselves out after enduring a major storm and heads toward their target research spot.
Scientists deployed to Antarctica are accustomed to frigid temperatures, but few have experienced the condition one storm that is sweeping over Scott Base and the Ross Ice Shelf. Scott Base shuts down all missions and flights to and from western Antarctica have been cancelled; leaving them more isolated from the outside world than ever.
Six different teams of scientists arrive on the continent after years of planning. The continent is home to the coldest, windiest, driest conditions on the planet, and without Scott Base as their central hub, these teams wouldn't survive. Each team's results could have massive implications to better understanding how climate change is affecting life around the world.
We live in an age when technological innovation seems to be limitlessly soaring. But for all the satisfying speed with which our gadgets have improved, many of them share a frustrating weakness: the batteries. Though they have improved in last century, batteries remain finicky, bulky, expensive, toxic, and maddeningly short-lived. The quest is on for a “super battery,” and the stakes in this hunt are much higher than the phone in your pocket. With climate change looming, electric cars and renewable energy sources like wind and solar power could hold keys to a greener future...if we can engineer the perfect battery. Join host David Pogue as he explores the hidden world of energy storage, from the power—and danger—of the lithium-ion batteries we use today, to the bold innovations that could one day charge our world.
From the global perspective of space, this 2-hour special reveals the breathtaking extent of our influence, revealing how we’ve transformed our planet and produced an interconnected world of extraordinary complexity. A journey through 12,000 years, Humanity from Space shows how seemingly small flashes of innovation have changed the course of civilization; innovations that touch all of us today in ways unimaginable to our ancestors. And we’ll gaze into the future at the new challenges we’ll face in order to survive as our global population soars because of our success. In every case we’ll look at our progression in a unique and surprising way, revealing unforgettable facts and "who knew?" connections. To visualize these stories cutting-edge technology is used to turn raw data into authentic moving images, building on expertise from a previous (and highly-praised) project; "Earth From Space." Using this technique, we can map humanity’s behavior in stunning, never seen before detail, revealing how our civilization grew, how it works today and what the future might hold.
2015 • Environment
Drill down to discover the treasures beneath our feet that power our world. Fossil fuels–coal, oil, and natural gas–powered the industrial revolution and allowed us to build a way of life that many cherish today. Personal cars, planes, lights, hot showers–all of these are gifts from our fossil fuels… but they have a dirty dark side in that they are polluting the planet. What is it about these natural resources that have allowed them to fuel our civilization? What secrets are locked in their molecules? Where did that energy come from, and can we find alternative energy resources that come in a cleaner form? The hunt is on for new treasures that might allow us to power our modern way of life without damaging the environment. Join NOVA as we explore the resources that both power and pollute, from modern-day oil prospecting in California, to a mega-city utility company struggling to keep the lights on during hot summer days, to China where an engineer strives to solve one of the greatest obstacles to the success of solar power. Travel the globe to see how our energy treasures are changing—and if they can keep the lights on.
The enduring luster of gold, the conductivity of copper, the strength of steel—the special properties of metals have reshaped societies and defined eras; they have such an important role in human history that entire ages have been named after them. But what gives metals their astounding characteristics? From the perfect ring of a bronze bell to the awe-striking steel construction of Beijing’s “Bird’s Nest” stadium, how have humans perfected metalworking? And how have metals enabled our modern hi-tech world? Explore the science of metals with chemists and engineers as they literally test the mettle of metals and investigate how these remarkable materials have ushered humanity from the Stone Age to the stars.
Their beauty has captivated us for millennia. Their cost can be extraordinary–some are even considered priceless. Precious gems like diamonds, rubies, emeralds, opal, and jade are the ultimate treasures of the earth, and each one is made from a specific–and often torturous–recipe of chemistry, pressure, and heat. The secrets to their sparkle, color, and even strength lie deep inside the gems themselves, but could they also hold clues to one of the most enduring mysteries in the field of geology? From Tiffany’s workshop in New York to the sapphire mines of Sri Lanka, from North Carolina’s emerald fields to the jade-laden Forbidden City of China.
Inspired by Robert Sullivan's New York Times bestselling book, RATS goes deep beneath the surface to explore the lives of man's greatest parasite. Oscar nominated director Morgan Spurlock unveils a new form of documentary horror storytelling, journeying around the world to bring viewers face to face with rats while delving into our complicated relationship with these creepy creatures. Taking us into the Rattus nests in ways never before captured on film, RATS dives deep into New York City's parks, subway tunnels, and sewers; venture to rice paddies in Cambodia and Vietnam where rats are caught and sold as food, cross worldly streets in India paroled by the revered Night Rat Killers, journey to English countryside where packs of terriers kill hundreds of rats per day, and look inside a New Orleans lab, where scientists are studying how flooding and abandoned neighborhoods are making rats more invasive than ever.
2016 • Environment
The World's largest environmental organizations are failing to address the single most destructive force facing the planet today. Follow the shocking, yet humorous, journey of an aspiring environmentalist, as he daringly seeks to find the real solution to the most pressing environmental issues and true path to sustainability.
2014 • Environment
In the depths of the Black Sea lies a landscape of eternal darkness. With no light and no oxygen in the sea's anoxic layer, no life can survive, except perhaps the ghosts of ancient mariners whose ships foundered thousands of years ago. Because the environment cannot support the organisms that typically feast on organic materials, such as wood and flesh, there is an extraordinary opportunity for preservation, including shipwrecks and the cargos they carried. In the year 2000, on his third trip to the Black Sea, explorer Dr. Robert Ballard discovered a miraculously well-preserved Byzantine shipwreck, but his team could only take pictures. Now, Ballard returns with archaeologist Dr. Bridget Buxton and Dr. Sergiy Voronov of the Ukrainian Department of Underwater Heritage, and uses state-of-the-art technology and a revolutionary $1.5 million robot known as "Hercules" to excavate two shipwrecks for the first time ever, including one of the most pristine ancient vessels ever found. In 2006, Ballard and the team returned to survey the area for more shipwrecks, and last year began excavations on Sinop D, and Chersonesos A, a 10th-century shipwreck found off southern Crimea at a depth of 135 meters. At Chersonesos A, the team excavated the ship's cargo of nearly 200 jars commonly found at Byzantine sites on the shores of the Black Sea, including Chersonesos. The bright orange color of the nearly 1,000-year-old jars was completely preserved, to the team's amazement. From there, the team sailed to the deeper site, Sinop D, which was the focus of the 2007 survey. The team hoped to answer questions about the ship's construction, its cargo, and how the anoxic conditions had affected its preservation. Ballard and his team have only two weeks, so they must work in perfect precision on their hunt for the Ghost Ships of the Black Sea. Ballard calls this site "the greatest museum on Earth," but his team of marine archaeologists has only begun to scratch the surface of the Black Sea's depths.
2007 • Environment
Sonic Sea is a documentary about the devastating impact of industrial and military ocean noise on whales and other marine life. The film begins with a mystery: the unexplained stranding and mass mortality of several species of whales in the Bahamas in March 2000. As the mystery unfolds, the film explores the critical role of sound in the sea, and the sudden, dramatic changes human activity is inflicting on the ocean's delicate acoustic habitat -- changes that threaten the ability of whales and other marine animals to prosper, to function, and ultimately, to survive. Sonic Sea features several charismatic scientists, including Ken Balcomb, the former Navy pilot and acoustics expert who proved to the world that naval sonar is killing whales, as well as the musician and environmental activist, Sting, whose moving interview connects the sonic world of marine life with our sonic world on land. The film offers solutions (and, by extension, hope) for a quieter ocean, and underscores that the ocean's destiny is inextricably bound with our own.
2016 • Environment
Four and a half billion years ago, the young Earth was a hellish place—a seething chaos of meteorite impacts, volcanoes belching noxious gases, and lightning flashing through a thin, torrid atmosphere. Then, in a process that has puzzled scientists for decades, life emerged. But how? NOVA joins mineralogist Robert Hazen as he journeys around the globe. From an ancient Moroccan market to the Australian Outback, he advances a startling and counterintuitive idea—that the rocks beneath our feet were not only essential to jump-starting life, but that microbial life helped give birth to hundreds of minerals we know and depend on today. It's a theory of the co-evolution of Earth and life that is reshaping the grand-narrative of our planet’s story.
California is on the brink of an apocalypse. The state faces a future of drought that will cost billions in lost farm revenue and thousands of jobs. But the challenges facing the state are not unique: All over the world, governments are struggling with bigger populations and a diminishing supply of freshwater. Innovators across the globe are seeking solutions in emergent technologies to prevent a planet-wide water crisis.
The semantics of the model I'm working from use common goods/common property/ common pool resources (resources used by multiple people) and common property regimes (the institutions or social arrangements between people, the property rights regarding common pool resources).
We’ve all been told that we should recycle plastic bottles and containers. But what actually happens to the plastic if we just throw it away? Emma Bryce traces the life cycles of three different plastic bottles, shedding light on the dangers these disposables present to our world.
Can emerging technology defeat global warming? The United States has invested tens of billions of dollars in clean energy projects as our leaders try to save our crumbling economy and our poisoned planet in one bold, green stroke. Are we finally on the brink of a green-energy "power surge," or is it all a case of too little, too late?
The Venus Project proposes an alternative vision of what the future can be if we apply what we already know in order to achieve a sustainable new world civilization. It calls for a straightforward redesign of our culture in which the age-old inadequacies of war, poverty, hunger, debt and unnecessary human suffering are viewed not only as avoidable, but as totally unacceptable. More at thevenusproject.com
Surviving the bone-chilling cold, deadly blizzards and darkness of an Alaskan winter takes courage, cunning and remarkable endurance. In the raw beauty of windswept mountain peaks, icy tundra and snowbound forests, this is the story of the tough and resourceful characters that face up to the ultimate challenges of this untameable land.
No season brings more surprises than an Alaskan summer. It lures hummingbirds up from the tropics, exposes deserts in the Arctic and relies on parachuting firefighters to tackle forest fires in its vast wilderness. Summer is a narrow window of plenty, when the land is bathed in 24-hour sunlight - but in this land of extremes, you can have too much of a good thing.
As spring lights up the land, Alaska faces one of the greatest transformations on earth. Temperatures soar, and as the sun's rays hit the snow and ice, water, light and warmth return. Alaska's transition to spring may look magical, but for those animals emerging from a long winter's sleep, it's a time of intense competition, as everything is in a rush to cash in on Alaska's riches.
Professor Iain Stewart uncovers clues hidden within the New York skyline, the anatomy of American alligators and inside Bolivian silver mines, to reconstruct how North and South America were created. We call these two continents the New World, and in a geological sense they are indeed new worlds, torn from the heart of an ancient supercontinent - the Old World of Pangaea.
Professor Iain Stewart uncovers the mysterious history of Australia, and shows how Australia's journey as a continent has affected everything from Aboriginal history to modern day mining, and even the evolution of Australia's bizarre wildlife, like the koala.
Geologist Prof Iain Stewart shows how the continent of Africa was formed from the wreckage of a long lost supercontinent. He discovers clues in its spectacular landmarks, mineral wealth and iconic wildlife, that help piece together the story of Africa's formation. But he also shows how this deep history has left its mark on the modern day Africa and the world.
Between the blue sky above and the infinite blackness beyond lies a frontier that scientists have only just begun to investigate. In "At the Edge of Space," NOVA takes viewers on a spectacular exploration of the Earth-space boundary that's home to some of nature's most puzzling and alluring phenomena: the shimmering aurora, streaking meteors, and fleeting flashes that shoot upwards from thunderclouds, known as sprites.
Earthquakes have always been a terrifying phenomenon, and they’ve become more deadly as our cities have grown — with collapsing buildings posing one of the largest risks. But why do buildings collapse in an earthquake? And how can it be prevented? Vicki V. May explains the physics of why it is not the sturdiest buildings, but the smartest, that will remain standing.
On 26 April 1986, reactor number four at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant blew up. Forty-eight hours later the entire area was evacuated. Over the following months there were stories of mass graves and dire warnings of thousands of deaths from radiation exposure.
We are all seeing rather less of the Sun. Scientists looking at five decades of sunlight measurements have reached the disturbing conclusion that the amount of solar energy reaching the Earth's surface has been gradually falling. Paradoxically, the decline in sunlight may mean that global warming is a far greater threat to society than previously thought.
Something weird seems to be happening to our weather - it appears to be getting more extreme. In the past few years we have shivered through two record-breaking cold winters and parts of the country have experienced intense droughts and torrential floods. It is a pattern that appears to be playing out across the globe. Hurricane chasers are recording bigger storms and in Texas, record-breaking rain has been followed by record-breaking drought. Horizon follows the scientists who are trying to understand what's been happening to our weather and investigates if these extremes are a taste of what is to come.
Six months after the explosions at the Fukushima nuclear plant and the release of radiation there, Professor Jim Al-Khalili sets out to discover whether nuclear power is safe. He begins in Japan, where he meets some of the tens of thousands of people who have been evacuated from the exclusion zone. He travels to an abandoned village just outside the zone to witness a nuclear clean-up operation.
For centuries we have dreamt of reaching the centre of the Earth. Now scientists are uncovering a bizarre and alien world that lies 4,000 miles beneath our feet, unlike anything we know on the surface. It is a planet buried within the planet we know, where storms rage within a sea of white-hot metal and a giant forest of crystals make up a metal core the size of the Moon.
Over the last few years, our weather in Britain has become more extreme. Last winter was the wettest ever recorded, as deadly storms battered the country for weeks on end. But previous winters have seen bitter lows of -22, as Britain was plunged into a deep freeze. What everyone wants to know now is: why is our weather getting more extreme, can we expect to see more of it in the future, and has it got anything to do with climate change?
In February 2013, a hole opened up beneath a home in Florida, and swallowed a man. Jeff Bush was asleep when a sinkhole opened up beneath his bedroom. Despite the efforts of his brother to rescue him, Jeff was never seen again and his body was never recovered. Professor Iain Stewart travels to Florida to try and understand what killed Jeff, and why the geology of this state makes it the sinkhole capital of the world.
Iain Stewart investigates a new and controversial energy rush for the natural gas found deep underground. Sometimes, this is right under the places people live in. Getting it out of the ground involves hydraulic fracturing - or fracking. Iain travels to America to find to find out what it is, why it is a potential game changer and what we can learn from the US experience. He meets some of the people who have become rich from fracking as well as the communities worried about the risks.
The last episode deals with the future of conservation. It begins by looking at previous efforts. The 'Save The Whales' campaign, which started in the 1960s, is seen to have had a limited effect, as whaling continues and fish stocks also decline.
The air around us is not just empty space; it is an integral part of the chemistry of life. Plants are made from carbon dioxide, nitrogen nourishes the soil and oxygen gives us the energy we need to keep our hearts pumping and our brains alive. But how did we come to understand what air is made of? How did we come to know that this invisible stuff around us contains anything at all?
Ice may be nothing more than frozen water but, as Iain explains, it holds extraordinary power. Descending 150m down a frozen waterfall, he sees a glacier in action from below and discovers why the huge Jacobshaven glacier is retreating, he shows how it shaped our past and may now threaten our future.
Volcanoes have a fearsome reputation. In reality, they are the most important force in the creation of the planet as we know it today. Iain abseils into a lava lake and cave dives in a cenote to show how the heat that fuels volcanoes also drives some of the most fundamental processes on the planet.
They form natural boundaries, dictate how we spread around the planet, create natural defenses, and control our weather. From the World War that began with a gunshot in the Balkans to the feuds of the Appalachians, mountains have also been flashpoints.
It’s a common saying that elephants never forget. But the more we learn about elephants, the more it appears that their impressive memory is only one aspect of an incredible intelligence that makes them some of the most social, creative, and benevolent creatures on Earth.
The Census of Marine Life - a ten-year effort by scientists from around the world to answer the age-old question, "What lives in the sea?" It was an international effort to asses the diversity, distribution, and abundance of marine life in our ocean, and the project offically concluded in October 2010.