Wednesday, January 29, 2014

New on PBS' Nova

PBS’ preeminent science series, NOVA, kicks off a lively and diverse new Winter/Spring 2014 season of programming featuring scientific exploration across an array of fields—from ancient mysteries surrounding Bronze Age bog bodies (Ghosts of Murdered Kings), Roman catacombs, and Renaissance engineering feats(Great Cathedral Mystery). This season, NOVA also delves into the world of animal behavior and cognition in five fascinating films that investigate apex predators and animal intelligence: Wild Predator InvasionInside Animal Minds (a three-hour special); and Why Do Sharks Attack? The series also explores the role of technological innovations in tactical warfare and some of the major events of history in two eye-opening new films: Escape from Nazi Alcatraz andD-Day’s Sunken Secrets, the stunning two-hour special finale featuring exclusive access to one of the world’s largest underwater battlefields. The spectacular new season of NOVA airs Wednesdays at 9 pm ET/8c on PBS.
Ghosts of Murdered KingsPremieres January 29, 2014 
at 9PM/8c on PBSTRAILER:
In the rolling hills of Ireland’s County Tipperary, a laborer harvesting peat from a dried-up bog spots the remnants of a corpse and stops his machine just in time, revealing a headless torso almost perfectly preserved and stained dark brown by the bog. Archaeologists recognize the corpse as one of Europe’s rare bog bodies: prehistoric corpses flung into marshes with forensic clues often suggesting execution or human sacrifice. The corpse will eventually be dated to the Bronze Age, over 4000 years ago. Forensic evidence reveals a shockingly violent death. Like a crime thriller, NOVA follows archaeologists and forensic experts in their methodical hunt for clues to the identity and the circumstances of this and other violent deaths of bog body victims.

A new theory emerges that they are ritually murdered kings, gruesomely slain to assure the fertility of land and people. NOVA’s ancient detective story opens a tantalizing window on the strange beliefs of Europe’s long vanished prehistoric peoples.
Roman Catacomb MysteryPremieres February 5, 2014 at 9PM/8c on PBSTRAILER:
Beneath the streets of Rome lies a city of the dead known as the Catacombs—a labyrinth of tunnels, hundreds of miles long, lined with the neatly laid out tombs of the citizens of ancient Rome. Here, in 2002, maintenance workers fixing a broken water main stumbled upon a previously unknown burial chamber – like none other in the complex. Six roughly carved caverns were stacked from floor to ceiling with skeletons representing hundreds of bodies. It was a mass grave, locked away for nearly 2000 years. Who were these people? Why were so many interred in one place, at one time, piled on top of each other? And most importantly, can we discover, after all these centuries, what killed them? Could they be Christian martyrs massacred by the Emperor? Or were they felled by a deadly plague? In Roman Catacomb Mystery, NOVA’s forensic investigation follows a trail of ancient clues to uncover new secrets of life, death, and disease in the heyday of a mighty empire.

Great Cathedral MysteryPremieres February 12, 2014 at 9PM/8c on PBSTRAILER:
The dome that crowns Florence’s great cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore—the Duomo—is a towering masterpiece of Renaissance ingenuity and an enduring source of mystery. Still the largest masonry dome on earth after more than six centuries, it is taller than the Statue of Liberty and weighs as much as a cruise ship. Historians and engineers have long debated how its secretive architect, Filippo Brunelleschi, managed to keep the dome perfectly aligned and symmetrical as the sides rose and converged toward the center, 40 stories above the cathedral floor. At this terrifying height, his laborers toiled without scaffolding or safety net, applying novel, untried methods on a truly monumental scale. Over four million bricks might collapse at any moment—and we still don’t understand how Brunelleschi prevented it. To test the latest theories, a team of U.S. master bricklayers will help build a unique experimental “mini-Duomo” using period tools and techniques. Will it stay intact during the final precarious stages of closing over the top of the dome? Great Cathedral Mystery will also highlight exciting new discoveries including traces of Brunelleschi’s workshop, complete with his own prototype mini-dome model, and will explore the restless, innovative mind of this Renaissance master.

Wild Predator Invasion Premieres April 2, 2014 at 9PM/8c on PBSOver the last few centuries we have shot, trapped and skinned the predators that formerly thrived at the top of the food chain in the wild. Wild bears, wolves and big cats are all in retreat, and a growing number of scientists are discovering that by eliminating predators, we have damaged the environment. Removing predators from the wild has thrown ecosystems off-kilter, triggering domino effects that scientists are just beginning to understand. In Wild Predator Invasion, NOVA follows scientists who are trying out a simple but controversial solution: returning apex predators—like coyotes, bears, and panthers—to their natural environments. Can these newly reintroduced predators restore the natural balance of their ecosystems without threatening the humans who live among them?

Inside Animal Minds – 3 HOURS
Premieres on Wednesday, April 9 (“Bird Genius”); April 16 (“Dogs & Super Senses”); April 23 (“Who’s The Smartest?”) at 9PM/8c on PBS 
What would it be like to go inside the mind of an animal? We have all gazed into a creature’s eyes and wondered: What is it thinking about? What does it really know? Now, the revolutionary science of animal cognition is revealing hard evidence about how animals understand the world around them, uncovering their remarkable problem-solving abilities and exploring the complexity of their powers of communication and even their emotions. In the three-hour special Inside Animal Minds, NOVA explores these breakthroughs through three iconic creatures: birds, dogs, and dolphins. In “Bird Genius” (April 9), we’ll see through the eyes of a starling in flight. We’ll also meet a few at the head of the class—a cockatoo, a wild crow, and a tame raven—whose problem-solving abilities are shocking scientists and revolutionizing our understanding of animal intelligence. Are their skills really evidence of high intelligence, or just parlor tricks, the result of training and instinct? In “Dogs & Super Senses” (April 16), NOVA travels into the spectacularly nuanced noses of dogs and wolves, and asks whether their reliance on different senses has shaped their evolution. How does a dog’s mind turn the sight of a hand signal into the happy anticipation of a treat? From a dog who seems to use smell to tell time to a dolphin who can “see” with his ears, we will discover how animals use their senses in ways we humans can barely imagine. But it’s not just the senses that are remarkable—it’s the brains that process them. Throughout the animal kingdom, some of the cleverest creatures—including humans—seem to be those who live in complex social groups, like dolphins, elephants, and apes. Could the skills required to keep track of friend and foe make animals smarter? To find out, NOVA goes inside the social lives of some of the smartest animals on the planet in “Who’s The Smartest?” (April 23). We will listen in as scientists track dolphins in the Caribbean and elephants on the African savannah, trying to unlock the secrets of animal communication. As we discover how researchers are pushing the animal mind to its limits, we’ll uncover surprising similarities to—and differences from—the human mind.

Why Do Sharks Attack?Premieres May 7, 2014 at 9PM/8c on PBSIn recent years, an unusual spate of deadly shark attacks has gripped Australia, resulting in five deaths in ten months. At the same time, great white sharks have begun appearing in growing numbers off the beaches of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, not far from the waters where Steven Spielberg filmed the ultimate shark fright film, Jaws. What’s behind the mysterious arrival of this apex predator in an area where they’ve rarely been seen for hundreds of years? Are deadly encounters with tourists inevitable? To separate fact from fear, NOVA teams up with leading shark experts in Australia and the United States to discover the science behind the great white’s hunting instincts. Do sharks ever target humans or is each attack a tragic case of mistaken identity? Can a deeper understanding of shark senses lead scientists to design effective deterrents and help prevent future attacks? With shark populations around the world plummeting, scientists race to unlock the secrets of these powerful creatures of the deep in their quest to save people – and sharks.

Escape from Nazi Alcatraz Premieres May 14, 2014 at 9PM/8c on PBSColditz Castle, a notorious prisoner of war camp in Nazi Germany, was supposed to be escape-proof. But in the dark days at the end of World War II, a group of British officers dreamt up the ultimate escape plan: In a secret attic workshop, they constructed a two-man glider out of bed sheets and floorboards. Their goal was to fly to freedom from the roof of the castle, but the war ended before they could put it to the test. Now a crack team of aero engineers and carpenters rebuild the glider in the same attic using the same materials, and they’ll do something the prisoners never got a chance to try: use a bathtub full of concrete to catapult the glider off the roof of the castle. As the hair-raising launch from 90 feet up draws near, NOVA explores the Colditz legend and exposes the secrets of other ingenious and audacious escapes. Then, after a 70-year wait, the team finally finds out if the legendary glider plan would have succeeded.

D-Day’s Sunken SecretsPremieres Wednesday, May 28th at 9PM/8c on PBSOn June 6, 1944, the Allies launched the biggest armada in history to invade the Normandy beaches and liberate Europe from the Nazis. In less than 24 hours, more than 5,000 ships crossed the English Channel and disembarked a quarter of a million men and thousands of tanks and landing craft on the heavily defended beaches. Hundreds of ships sank while running the gauntlet of mines and bunkers, creating one of the world’s largest underwater archaeological sites. Now, NOVA has exclusive access to a unique collaboration between military historians, archaeologists, and specialist divers to carry out the most extensive survey ever done of the seabed bordering the legendary beachheads. Dive teams, submersibles, and underwater robots will discover and identify key examples of the Allied craft that fell victim to German shellfire, mines and torpedoes. The team will use the latest 3D mapping tools to plot the relics on the sea floor. The program will unfold a vivid blow-by-blow account of the tumultuous events of D-Day and reveal how the Allies’ intricate planning and advanced technology were vital to assure the success of the most ambitious and risky military operation ever launched.

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Now in its 41st season, NOVA is the most-watched prime time science series on American television, reaching an average of five million viewers weekly. The series remains committed to producing in-depth science programming in the form of hour-long (and occasionally longer) documentaries, from the latest
breakthroughs in technology to the deepest mysteries of the natural world. NOVA airs Wednesdays at 9pm ET/PT on WGBH Boston and most PBS stations. The Director of the WGBH Science Unit and Senior Executive Producer of NOVA is Paula S. Apsell.
Funding for NOVA is provided by David H. Koch, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and public television viewers.

Additional funding for Alien Planets Revealed and Monster Typhoon (w.t.) is provided by the Millicent and Eugene Bell Foundation.