NOVA: Season 31 (2004)

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Season 31
NOVA

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Episodes

Air date: Sep 30, 2003

Tracing efforts to uncover (literally) a work by the Greek mathematician Archimedes, who figured out the basics of calculus in the third century B.C. Trouble is, the work that proves it was lost for some 800 years. That work---"The Method"---was lost when a 12th-century monk who needed blank parchment covered over a 10th-century copy of it. This palimpsest was discovered in 1906, but in terrible shape, and it's up to scientists and scholars working under the auspices of Baltimore's Walters Art Museum to restore Archimedes' words and charts. They contain, says narrator Jeremiah Kissel, "ideas so advanced they could have altered the course of Western science."

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Air date: Oct 7, 2003

The mystery of one of the history's most notorious aviators is explored in this release that attempts to demystify the perplexing tale of Manfred von Richthofen, aka the Red Baron. Ever since the fateful day when von Richthofen was gunned down in pursuit of a Sopwith Camel deep in Allied territory - a single bullet bringing his sky-bound reign of terror to s sudden end - the identity of the individual who fired that fatal bullet has been hotly disputed. Now, with the aid of modern forensics and state-of-the-art computer animation, NOVA attempts to crack this confounding case while simultaneously exploring the grim, four-year evolution of World War I air combat from gentlemanly sport to deadly warfare.

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Air date: Oct 28, 2003

Physicist Brian Greene charts the development of this "theory of everything" that ties general relativity and quantum mechanics together. Physicist Gabriel Veneziano saw something in a 200-year-old mathematical equation that no one else had. There were problems: "unruly equations" and mathematical calculations that didn't add up. John Schwarz and Michael Green worked out the anomalies, but no one has been able to overcome the fact that strings are so small that the theory is untestable.

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Air date: Nov 4, 2003

The conclusion of "The Elegant Universe," physicist Brian Greene's exploration of string theory, the "theory of everything" that ties quantum mechanics to general relativity, looks at where it could lead---to 11 dimensions and parallel universes. "Things that used to seem like science fiction aren't so far-fetched," says Greene. The theoretical underpinnings for this were solidified in 1995 by Princeton's Robert Witten, who united five divergent string theories into one "m" theory (no one knows what the "m" stands for). If it's proved (and an atom-smasher under construction in the Alps might do it), "not only would our universe be nothing special," says Greene, "but we'd have lots of company." And some of the universes might have their own laws of physics.

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Air date: Oct 28, 2003

Physicist Brian Greene, the author of "The Elegant Universe," explores string theory, the so-called "theory of everything" that unifies general relativity and quantum mechanics, in this three-part series. This unification has been "the holy grail of physics," Greene says, and in Part 1 he tracks the search for it back to Isaac Newton, who "unified" earth and the heavens in 1665 with his discovery of gravity. The 20th century saw the development of general relativity (which explains "big things," like the universe) and quantum mechanics (it explains "small things," like subatomic particles). But they're incompatible. What could tie them together? Small strands of energy called "strings." Trouble is, they're too small to see.

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Air date: Nov 11, 2003

NOVA investigates the creation of the first machine in flight in NOVA: Wright Brothers' Flying Machine. This hour-long episode uses archival information to examine the engineering difficulties in building such a device. After four years of struggle, Orville and Wilbur Wright made history by flying their biplane over Kitty Hawk, NC, in December 1903. NASA Senior Curator Tom Crouch provides historical commentary. This NOVA program also features a reconstruction of the Wright Brothers' aircraft, including a test flight of a completed Wright 1911 Model B replica. This program originally aired on PBS in November 2003.

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Air date: Nov 18, 2003

NOVA investigates the unstable future of the Earth's magnetic fields in the episode "Magnetic Storm." Physicist Dan Lathrop leads a team of scientists at the University of Maryland who study this phenomenon. They have made a model of the Earth's iron core using more than 200 pounds of molten sodium. Geologist John Shaw at the University of Liverpool studies the iron minerals in baked clay pots. The minerals provide a historical record of the magnetic field, which has been on the decline for the last few centuries. Scientist Gary Glatzmaier at the University of California believes the Earth is preparing for another swap between the North and South Poles. This episode originally aired on PBS in November 2003.

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Air date: Nov 25, 2003

NOVA: Volcano Above the Clouds captures an expedition to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. Originally formed by volcanic eruptions thousands of years ago, the mountain shows evidence of another such explosion. NOVA follows the expedition of naturalists Robin Buxton and Michael Ngatolowa along with geologists Volker Lorenz and Kevin Docherty. The team struggles up to the glacier-topped summit in order to investigate the future of the world's tallest volcano. Volcano Above the Clouds Originally aired on PBS in November 2003.

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Air date: Jan 4, 2004

In this program that originally aired mere hours after the Spirit - mankind's most sophisticated rover to date - landed on the surface of Mars, the mission to explore the red planet is profiled from the construction of the Spirit and its twin the Opportunity through both rovers' continued search for water often though hidden deep within the dusty plains. As unanticipated complications give way to small victories and the NASA crew responsible for the mission rides a rollercoaster of emotions, the mysteries of this wondrous planet slowly come into focus while the future of NASA's Mars Exploration program hangs in the balance. If the rovers fail and no new information is gleaned from the mission, it could mean the end of the ambitious Mars Exploration program; but if the crew finds success, the Spirit and the Opportunity could lay the groundwork for an eventual manned mission to the not-so-distant planet.

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Air date: Jan 20, 2004

Tracking the wildlife in Ankarana, a "true lost world" in northern Madagascar, where jagged, 1000-foot ridges wall off lush forests. The rulers of Ankarana: Nile crocodiles, sun lovers that nonetheless live in caves that honeycomb the ridges. The reason why they do intrigues French scientist Olivier Behra. Meanwhile, American biologist Luke Dollar is interested in the fossa, a "superpredator" he likens to "a mongoose on steroids." A fossa is seen here stalking Madagascar's signature animal, the lemur, primative primates that some people believe have human souls.

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