U.S. History

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Hedy Lamarr | Securing Wireless Communications through Frequency Changes

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Discover Hedy Lamarr’s contributions as a woman in STEM in this media gallery from the American Masters film Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story. Learn how Lamarr invented frequency hopping, the basis of secure wireless communications. In the accompanying teaching tips, find more information about her struggle to be recognized for her inventive contributions. Lamarr’s efforts can inspire students to delve deeper into the history of women in STEM. Additional support materials are available, including discussion questions and an activity exploring frequency and electromagnetic radiation.

Fusion: Testing the First Hydrogen Device

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The 1952 test of the first hydrogen device--code-named "Mike," for "megaton"--in the Pacific Ocean's Marshall Islands signaled a new era in weapons capabilities. The devastation presented in this video segment, adapted from American Experience: Race for the Superbomb, demonstrates just how foreboding the signal was. Watch what prompted then-United States president Harry Truman to speak publicly about the dangers ahead for a world in which such weapons existed.

Invention of the Light Bulb | How We Got to Now: Light

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Though we often credit Thomas Edison with the invention of the light bulb, he and his team built on more than 40 years of research by other inventors and engineers. In 1878, Edison bought up an existing Canadian patent for an early light bulb, brought together a team of engineers—setting up the world’s first research and development lab—and worked with them for two years before unveiling a light bulb that could burn for more than 1,000 hours.

Noise Control and the Decibel | How We Got to Now: Sound

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Stand on the corner of 34th Street and 6th Avenue in New York City with How We Got to Now host Steven Johnson, and explore the history of attempts to control noise. Historical footage bring to life New York City in the 1920s, when Harvey Fletcher and the Noise Abatement Commission created more accurate ways to measure noise levels, and helped establish the decibel as the unit of measurement to do just that.

The Quest for Clean Water | How We Got to Now: Clean

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Discover how John Leal found the solution to ridding bacteria from dirty water with chlorine at the turn of the 20th century in this clip from How We Got to Now. Support Materials include a background essay on the history of attempts to rid water of bacteria, teaching tips to foster innovation and bring concepts from this clip into the social studies, science, and math classrooms, as well as pre-viewing and post-viewing discussion questions.

Sweetness | The Botany of Desire

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Students consider the nature of sweetness and create a scale that allows them to measure and compare the sweetness of several types of apples, potatoes and soft drinks.

The Greenbank Telescope

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Learn why Greenbank was chosen as a Quiet Zone and how the technology there impacts the study of outer space.

American Experience | Grand Coulee Dam - Closing the Spillway

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In this video from American Experience, learn about the building the Grand Coulee Dam in the 1930's and 1940's, then the largest concrete structure ever built in the United States. It was essentially a large ditch that diverted water out of the Columbia River and fed the river to drier land to irrigate it. The water also moved turbines to generate electricity. But it destroyed the fishing areas of Native Americans. Hailed for its power to transform a region, it now serves as a reminder of the price of progress.

Harvesting the Wind

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In this video, discover how wind farms may be the salvation of small-town America. In the southwest corner of Minnesota - the Buffalo Ridge region - there is a productive and progressive wind industry that is not only providing clean energy, but also economic opportunity and prosperity to the local community. Dan Juhl, president of Woodstock Wind Farm, will describe the process by which he leased land to create a wind farm in the Buffalo Ridge region of Minnesota.

Is the Universe a Computer? | PBS Idea Channel

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The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is about everything in life and the universe. In the books, the "answer" is 42, but the question is unknown. To discover the question, a giant computer called Earth was built. Although it seems silly, perhaps Douglas Adams was correct. Maybe not just earth, but the whole universe, is an incredibility complex computational system, processing the answer to some unknown question. The universe is made of information, similar to a computer, and physics certainly is based on computational principles. But, is it running some grand program? 

Fort Peck Dam: The Mighty Missouri

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The Missouri River spans 2,300 miles across the American landscape from the headwaters in Montana to where it meets the Mississippi near St. Louis. The Missouri represented a vital route that transported goods and supplies between the cities of the Midwest and outposts at Great Falls and Fort Benton. Unfortunately, the turning of the seasons froze the Missouri in its Montana roots and spring brought huge floods that destroyed crops in the rural farms and destroyed homes and businesses in urban Kansas City.  Ambitious plans were proposed, and were the focus of much debate, but no financier could afford the cost of harnessing the Big Muddy.

League of Denial: Should Kids Play Tackle Football?

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Learn how children's brains are affected differently by hits to the head that routinely occur during football practice and game play in this video from FRONTLINE: League of Denial. This video is also featured in the interactive lesson Is Football Safe for Kids? Use the lesson to learn more about the hypothesis that "just playing the game" places young football players at risk of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. For background on CTE, watch Introduction To CTE and review How CTE Affects the Brain. This resource is part of the FRONTLINE Collection.

League of Denial: What Causes CTE?

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Learn about one scientist’s hypothesis that “just playing the game” places young football players at risk of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, in this video from FRONTLINE: League of Denial. This video is featured in the interactive lesson Is Football Safe for Kids. Use the lesson to learn more about how children's brains are impacted differently and to write down your responses to evidence that football may be unsafe for young children. For background on CTE, watch Introduction to CTE and review How CTE Affects the Brain. This resource is part of the FRONTLINE Collection.

League of Denial: Introduction to CTE

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Learn how the 2002 death of one of football’s greatest linemen helped bring to light a rare disease, chronic traumatic encephalopathy, in this video from FRONTLINE: League of Denial. In 1991, "Iron Mike" Webster retired after 17 years in football and thousands of hits to his helmet. Soon after, he and his family suspected that playing football had taken a devastating toll on his brain. After Webster died, pathologist Bennet Omalu examined Webster’s brain tissue. His findings suggested that repetitive brain trauma causes an abnormal protein ("tau") to accumulate in the brain. This was the first evidence that playing football could cause a progressive neurodegenerative disease that results in permanent brain damage. This resource is part of the FRONTLINE Collection.

League of Denial Update | NFL Player Quits over Concussion Concerns

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Learn about NFL player Chris Borland, who retired after just one season due to his concern about concussions, and why his decision prompted one media outlet to call him “the most dangerous man in football,” in this video from FRONTLINE. Borland left professional football, the game he loved since childhood, after reading about the effects of repeated head contact on the brain and speaking with a leading brain scientist. In response to the young star’s headline-making retirement decision, NFL commissioner Goodell stated the game was safer than ever. Estimates from actuaries hired by the NFL state that three out of ten NFL players will have brain damage in their lifetimes. For background, watch Introduction to CTE and review How CTE Affects the Brain. This resource is part of the FRONTLINE Collection.

Download teacher support materials for this resource:  Teaching Tips  |  Video Transcript

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