Artificial intelligence is examined. Included: the effort to build intelligent machines by reverse-engineering the brain and by inventing completely new kinds of computers, with exponentially greater speed and processing power.
Whether they make you fat, fart, or freak out, microbes play a central role in your life. Right beneath your nose—on your face, in your gut, and everywhere in between—trillions of bacteria, viruses, and fungi are so abundant in your body, they outnumber your human cells. But these aren’t just nasty hitch-hikers. Many are crucial to your survival. Evidence suggests that a diverse microbiome can keep you healthy and, conversely, a damaged one could kill you. NOVA Wonders peers into this microscopic world to discover the fascinating, bizarre, and downright surprising secrets of the human microbiome, including the world’s largest stool bank, which transforms raw stool into life-saving poop pills.
2018 • Health
Artificially intelligent machines are taking over. They’re influencing our everyday lives in profound and often invisible ways. They can read handwriting, interpret emotions, play games, and even act as personal assistants. They are in our phones, our cars, our doctors’ offices, our banks, our web searches…the list goes on and is rapidly growing ever longer. But how does today’s A.I. actually work—and is it truly intelligent? And for that matter, what is intelligence? The world’s brightest computer programmers are trying to build brighter machines by reverse-engineering the brain and by inventing completely new kinds of computers, with exponentially greater speed and processing power. NOVA Wonders looks at how far we’ve come and where machines are headed as their software becomes ever more…cerebral. How close are we from a world in which computers take over—from diagnosing cancer to driving our cars to targeting weapons? If we place more and more of our lives under the control of these artificial brains, what are we putting at risk?
2018 • Brain
"It's alive!" Since Dr. Frankenstein spoke those famous words, we've been alternately enthralled and terrified by the idea of creating life in the lab. Now, a revolution in genetic engineering and thrilling innovations in synthetic biology are bringing that dream—or nightmare, as the case may be—closer to reality. New tools allow researchers to use cells to create their own DNA and edit it into existing genomes with more ease and less cost than ever before. Along with renewed hopes for treating some genetic diseases, there's serious talk of using the newest technologies to bring long-extinct animals back from the dead – like the team hoping to resurrect the woolly mammoth. Science fiction is quickly becoming science fact. NOVA Wonders explores the benefits and the burden of risk surrounding the controversial new technology
2018 • Science
The universe is hiding something. In fact, it is hiding a lot. Everything we experience on Earth, the stars and galaxies we see in the cosmos—all the “normal” matter and energy that we understand—make up only 5% of the known universe. The other 95% is made up of two mysterious components: “dark matter” and “dark energy.” We can’t see them, but we know they’re there. And what’s more—these two shadowy ingredients are locked in an epic battle to control the very fate of the universe. Now, scientists are trying to shed light on the so-called “dark sector” as the latest generation of detectors rev up, and powerful telescopes peer deeper into space than ever before to observe how it behaves. Will the discoveries help reveal how galaxies formed? In the series finale, NOVA Wonders journeys to the stars and back to investigate what we know—and don’t know. Find out how scientists are discovering new secrets about the history of the universe, and why they’re predicting a shocking future.
2018 • Astronomy
What if we could explore the vastness of Space? Science fiction has always fed upon our need to explore – to wonder what is out there. Space journeys from Jules Verne’s earliest ideas about attempts to leave our planet, to the Star Wars far away galaxy through to Nichelle Nichols revealing how her groundbreaking role as Lt. Uhura in Star Trek led to her participation in the recruitment of NASA’s astronauts. It explores the deep sea inspiration for Avatar, finds out why Ursula K Le Guin wrote The Left Hand of Darkness and discovers how Stanley Kubrick was able to make 2001: A Space Odyssey seem so believable. In addition, the program looks at the way Dune and The Mars Trilogy embraced the challenge of world building and discusses the appeal of the beaten up ‘dirty space’ of Dark Star and Firefly. From the horrifying scenes of Alien, to the epic spectacle of Star Wars, this is a journey to the stars and the alien encounters that await us there.
From the Stone Age to the Silicon Age, materials have helped drive forward our civilisation. By manipulating materials we have been able to transform our world and our lives - and never more so than in the past century when we have discovered and designed more materials than at any other time in human history. (Part 2: Plastic) Professor Mark Miodownik tells the story of plastics - created in the lab, they have brought luxury to the masses and shaped the modern age. He recounts tales of the mavericks responsible for some of plastic's most outrageous failures and heady successes, from the explosive attempts to make a replacement for ivory billiard balls to the ultimately ubiquitous Bakelite. Investigating at atomic level, Mark discovers the properties that have allowed plastics to dominate our world and reveals how the next generation of plastics will take its inspiration from nature, creating man-made materials which behave as though they are alive and which could help rebuild the human body.
From brains to eyes, hands to legs, and deep down to the internal organs; implants, prosthesis and rehabilitation are entering a new era potentially creating a new type of human being - The Bionic Man- in reality, not on retro TV. But what ethical concerns arise as we mix technology with biology?
By the year 2050, three quarters of the world’s population will live in urban areas. Looking at robotic systems being developed worldwide we can take a glimpse at the city life of the future. Private transportation with self-driving cars, our homes with automated systems - robots are in our future.