Just outside Paris, inside a hi-tech vault, and encased in three vacuum-sealed bell jars, rests a small metallic cylinder about the diameter of a golf ball. It may not look like much, but it is one of the most important objects on the planet. It affects nearly every aspect of our lives including the food we eat, the cars we drive, even the medicines we take. It is the kilogramme, the base unit of mass in the International System of Units. This small hunk of metal is the object against which all others are measured. Yet over time, its mass has mysteriously eroded by the weight of an eyelash. A change that, unbeknownst to most, unleashed a crisis with potentially dire consequences. Follows the ensuing high-stakes, two-year race to redefine the weight of the world, and tells the story of one of the most important objects on the planet.
Adam Savage walks through two spectacular examples of profound scientific discoveries that came from simple, creative methods anyone could have followed -- Eratosthenes' calculation of the Earth's circumference around 200 BC and Hippolyte Fizeau's measurement of the speed of light in 1849.
2012 • Physics
On November 25th, 1915, Einstein published his greatest work: general relativity. The theory transformed our understanding of nature’s laws and the entire history of the cosmos, reaching back to the origin of time itself. Now, in celebration of the 100th anniversary of Einstein’s achievement, NOVA tells the inside story of Einstein’s masterpiece. The story begins with the intuitive thought experiments that set Einstein off on his quest and traces the revolution in cosmology that is still playing out in today’s labs and observatories. Discover the simple but powerful ideas at the heart of relativity, illuminating the theory—and Einstein’s brilliance—as never before. From the first spark of an idea to the discovery of the expanding universe, the Big Bang, black holes, and dark energy, NOVA uncovers the inspired insights and brilliant breakthroughs of “the perfect theory.”
Caught up in the race to discover the atom’s internal parts — and learn how they fit together — a young British physicist, Harry Moseley, uses newly discovered X-rays to put the Periodic Table in a whole new light. And a young American chemist named Glenn Seaborg creates a new element — plutonium — that changes the world forever, unleashing a force of unimaginable destructive power: the atomic bomb.
Hannah starts her journey by asking whether everything could be bigger, finding out what life would be like on a bigger planet. As the Earth grows to outlandish proportions, gravity is the biggest challenge, and lying down becomes the new standing up. Flying in a Typhoon fighter jet with RAF flight lieutenant Mark Long, the programme discovers how higher G-force affects the human body, and how people could adapt to a high G-force world. But by the time Earth gets to the size of Jupiter, it's all over, as the moon would impact the planet and end life as we know it. Next, Hannah tries to make living things bigger. The programme examines the gigantopithecus, the biggest ape to ever exist, creates a dog the size of a dinosaur and meets Sultan Kosen, the world's tallest man. Humans are then super-sized with the help of Professor Dean Falk to see what a human body would look like if we were 15m tall. The sun gets expanded, and Professor Volker Bromm looks back in time to find the largest stars that ever existed, before the sun explodes in perhaps the biggest explosion since the big bang.