NOVA

Caves: Extreme Conditions for Life

Icon: 
Streaming icon

For certain life forms on Earth, conditions that humans and other familiar organisms find hospitable can actually be deadly. Instead of a moderate climate with an atmosphere rich in nitrogen and oxygen, these organisms thrive in very hot or very cold temperatures, or in caves or deep waters where no light penetrates. In this video segment adapted from NOVA, scientists analyze communities of cave-dwelling microbes that live off simple inorganic compounds like iron and sulfur. Based on their findings, the scientists consider whether life might also exist on other planets that contain similar primitive conditions.

The Anatomy of the Sun

Icon: 
Streaming icon

In this video from NOVA’s Sun Lab, learn about the Sun’s composition and structure. The Sun is a plasma, primarily made of hydrogen with smaller amounts of other elements. Animations and images illustrate the physical and behavioral properties of the Sun’s six regions: the core, radiative zone, convective zone, photosphere, chromosphere, and corona. The two outer layers (chromosphere and corona) that make up the Sun’s atmosphere were not observed regularly until recently; they provide valuable information and may be crucial to understanding solar storms.

 This video is available in both English and Spanish audio, along with corresponding closed captions.

Corvid Caching

Icon: 
Streaming icon

Explore how corvids remember thousands of hidden food caches in this video from NOVA: Inside Animal Minds: Bird Genius. During autumn, island scrub jays scatter thousands of acorns in locations all over their territory. During the rest of the year, a scrub jay will recover about one-third of the 5,000 to 6,000 hidden acorns. Another type of corvid, Clark's nutcracker, may cache food in up to 10,000 locations. In addition to being able to remember the locations of thousands of caches, corvids have a sophisticated understanding of when to retrieve certain types of foods (such as worms, which rot over time).

This resource is part of the NOVA Collection.

Mountain Weather: A Climber's Story

Icon: 
Streaming icon

In this video segment adapted from Interactive NOVA, mountain-climber Rob Taylor gives a harrowing account of his failed attempt to scale the peak of Africa's Mount Kilimanjaro. Because it is a free-standing mountain—the tallest in the world—climbers must ascend from the base through several climate zones before reaching the arctic summit. After being rescued from a fall near the summit, Taylor thought his worst problems were behind him when an unanticipated consequence of his descent to warmer temperatures presented an equally dangerous challenge.

Life's Rocky Start | Full-Length Broadcast

Icon: 
Streaming icon

What is the secret link between rocks and minerals, and every living thing on Earth? This program premiered on January 13, 2016 on PBS.

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.

This resource is part of the NOVA: Full-Length Broadcast Collection.

NOVA: A New Way to See the Brain

Icon: 
Streaming icon

Learn about the development of expansion microscopy—a new technique for looking at biological specimens at the nanoscale—in this video from NOVA Digital. Paul Tillberg and Fei Chen, graduate students in Edward Boyden’s lab at MIT, developed a way to image the brain in fine detail using sodium polyacrylate (an absorbent material commonly found in diapers). The process involves embedding a dyed slice of a biological specimen, such as a brain, in the material. The specimen is destroyed; however, a cast is left in the material that can then be expanded with water. Because the material and cast are enlarged, regular light microscopes are able to see complex, three-dimensional nanostructures.

NOVA: Asteroid; Doomsday or Payday? | Protecting Earth from Asteroids

Icon: 
Streaming icon

Explore how scientists are researching methods to prevent asteroids or comets from hitting Earth in this video excerpt from NOVA. In the movies, a threatening near-Earth object is typically blown to pieces. However, a kinetic impactor that changes the course of the object may be a more effective solution in the real world. Hear from a scientist who studies strategies to destroy or deflect an asteroid and watch as he and his team simulate collisions using a model asteroid made of resin and high-speed projectiles. High-speed video allows them to analyze impacts in great detail to see how the fragments behave and how the model asteroid responds.

Mount Pinatubo: Predicting a Volcanic Eruption

Icon: 
Streaming icon

No two volcanic eruptions happen in exactly the same way. Volcanoes are inherently unpredictable. Even so, scientists have learned to read the many signs volcanoes give off prior to an eruption in the hope of minimizing damage to lives and personal property. This video segment adapted from NOVA describes the race to read the signs presented by Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines, just before it unleashed one of the most powerful eruptions of the 20th century.

Recreating Spinosaurus

Icon: 
Streaming icon

Learn how scientists used a digital model to reconstruct Spinosaurus in this video from NOVA: Bigger Than T. rex. The first Spinosaurus fossils were found in Egypt in 1912 and described by German paleontologist Ernst Stromer in 1915. However, those fossils were destroyed overnight in 1944 during a World War II bombing. To preserve images of a newer Spinosaurus skeleton, researchers at the University of Chicago used a CT scanner. They then used Stromer’s Spinosaurus drawings and scans from Suchomimus (a close relative) and bones from other specimens to form a more complete model. The complete digital model revealed Spinosaurus to be about 50 feet long.

Deadliest Earthquakes | Full-Length Broadcast

Icon: 
Streaming icon

Big quakes are inevitable, but can we lessen their devastation? This program premiered on June 25, 2014 on PBS.

In 2010, several epic earthquakes delivered one of the worst annual death tolls ever recorded. The deadliest strike, in Haiti, killed more than 200,000 people and reduced homes, hospitals, schools, and the presidential palace to rubble. In exclusive coverage, a NOVA camera crew follows a team of U.S. geologists as they enter Haiti in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy. The team hunts for crucial evidence that will help them determine exactly what happened deep underground and what the risks are of a new killer quake. Barely a month after the Haiti quake, Chile was struck by a quake 100 times more powerful, unleashing a tsunami that put the entire Pacific coast on high alert. In a coastal town devastated by the rushing wave, NOVA follows a team of geologists as they battle aftershocks to measure the displacement caused by the earthquake. Could their work, and the work of geologists at earthquake hot spots around the U.S., one day lead to a breakthrough in predicting quakes before they happen? NOVA investigates compelling new leads in this profound scientific conundrum.

For a classroom resource featuring a video segment from this program, check out Earthquake! When Plates Collide.

This resource is part of the NOVA: Full-Length Broadcast Collection.

Pages