Machu Picchu is an iconic symbol of the power and engineering prowess of the Inca. Since it was discovered by Hiram Bingham in 1911, there have been countless theories about this "Lost City." Why did the Incas build it on such an inaccessible site? Who lived among its stone buildings, farmed its emerald green terraces, and drank from its sophisticated aqueduct system? This documentary joins a new generation of archeologists as they probe areas of Machu Picchu that haven't been touched since the time of the Incas. See what they discover when they unearth burials of the people who built the sacred site.
Long ago in the age of dinosaurs, a volcano in eastern China erupted and buried a host of strange creatures in ash, creating exquisite fossils that preserved a big surprise many dinosaurs were covered in feathers. In this documentary investigate the most bizarre of these feathered dinosaurs, which has rekindled a fierce, decades long debate over the origin of bird flight. Dubbed Microraptor, the crow sized fossil is one of the smallest dinosaurs ever found and one of the most controversial, challenging conventional theories and assumptions about the evolution of flight. This documentary commissions a "flight ready" wind tunnel model of Microraptor complete with feathers and articulating joints. Tantalizingly, Microraptor is the unexpected missing link that has reignited the debate and, with the help of this documentary's model and wind tunnel tests, just might settle the issue, or at the very least deepen our understanding of the long ago era when the ancestors of birds first took to the air.
The ancient Maya civilization of Central America left behind an intricate and mysterious hieroglyphic script, carved on monuments, painted on pottery, and drawn in handmade bark paper books. For centuries, scholars considered it too complex ever to understand until recently, when an ingenious series of breakthroughs finally cracked the code and unleashed a torrent of new insights into the Mayas' turbulent past. For the first time, NOVA presents the epic inside story of how the decoding was done traveling to the remote jungles of southern Mexico and Central America to investigate how the code was broken and what Maya writings now reveal.
On April 25, 1953, the science journal Nature announced that James Watson and Francis Crick had discovered the double helix structure of DNA, the molecule that is fundamental to life. But absent from most accounts of their Nobel Prize winning work is the contribution made by a scientist, molecular biologist and crystallographer Rosalind Franklin, who would never know that Watson and Crick had seen a key piece of her data without her permission and that it would lead them to the double helix. Fifty years later, this documentary unravels the mystery behind the discovery of the double helix and investigates the seminal role that Rosalind Franklin and her remarkable X-ray photograph played in one of the greatest discoveries in the history of science.
Ancient and deadly spear points were found near Clovis, New Mexico in the 1930s. Many archeologists believed that this type of weapon originated with the first settlers of the New World, who supposedly migrated from Asia at the end of the last ice age. This documentary examines new evidence that challenges this widely held view. The hunt for clues takes this documentary to sites of stunning discoveries in western Pennsylvania and southern Chile, to southern France, to the high arctic, and to a remarkable find in central Texas that may hold the key to who invented the Clovis technology. Many archeologists concluded that hunters equipped with Clovis technology were the first settlers of the Americas and that they probably arrived from Asia at the end of the Ice Age about 13,500 years ago, when lower sea level allowed hunters to cross a land bridge connecting Siberia and Alaska. But there is growing evidence that humans were in the Americas long before the Clovis hunters.
It was thriving long before the dinosaurs ruled the Earth, and scientists thought it had died out more than 65 million years ago. But in 1938, fishermen on a South African trawler netted a massive, scaly, blue-gray fish, and suddenly the long extinct creature from the depths was back, stunning scientists and capturing headlines across the world. This documentary tells the story of the coelacanth, the most famous of all living fossils. The coelacanth story has more improbable twists than a crime thriller. The chance discovery in 1938 was topped by a bizarre stroke of fate in 1997, thousands of miles away from the original find. A marine biologist was casually strolling through a fish market in Indonesia when he spotted a new subspecies lying on a slab in a fish market. That find triggered a renewed hunt for the elusive creature in the wild.
On Easter Day 1722, Dutch explorers landed on Easter Island. A civilisation isolated by 4,000 km of Pacific Ocean was about to meet the outside world for the first time in centuries. The strangers were about to find something very strange themselves, an island dotted with hundreds of huge stone statues and a society that was not as primitive as they expected. The first meeting was an immense clash of cultures. (Bloody too: the sailors killed ten natives within minutes of landing.) Where had the Islanders originally come from? Why and how had they built the figures?
Tyrannosaurus Rex, it's the scariest, meanest, most bewitching dinosaur of them all. Children are captivated by the sheer savagery of the teeth. Moviemakers made millions out of the terror it inspired. But could our picture of this monster be completely wrong? Was T. Rex in fact a slow lumbering creature, with hideously bad breath, that couldn't get anywhere close to catching a Triceratops. Was it really a scavenger that lived off the scraps left by others? Was T. Rex, in fact, a wimp?
The legend of Helen of Troy has enchanted audiences for the last three thousand years. A Hollywood film staring Brad Pitt and Orlando Bloom is about Troy. But is there any reality to the myth? This documentary has unprecedented access to the scientist with the answers. Since 1988 Professor Manfred Korfmann has been excavating the site of Troy. He has made amazing discoveries, how large the city was, how well it was defended and, crucially, that there was once a great battle there at precisely the time that experts believe the Trojan war occurred. But who had attacked the city and why? This documentary follows a trail of clues, the ancient tablets written by a lost civilisation, the sunken ship rich in treasure, and the magnificent golden masks and bronze swords of a warrior people. Korfmann is using science to get closer than ever to the truth behind the myth by digging in tunnels deep beneath the excavation site.
Air-conditioning, refrigeration, and superconductivity are just some of the ways technology has put cold to use. But what is cold, how do you achieve it, and how cold can it get? This documentary series explores these and other facets of the frigid. It follows the quest for cold from the unlikely father of air-conditioning, the court magician of King James I of England in the 17th century, to today's scientists pioneering super fast computing in the quantum chill. The program is based on the definitive book on cold: Absolute Zero and the Conquest of Cold by Tom Shachtman. Episode 1 The Conquest of Cold - opens in the 1600s when the nature of cold and even heat were a complete mystery. Are they different phenomena or aspects of some unified feature of nature? The experiments that settled these questions helped stoke the Industrial Revolution. This episode includes Cornelius Drebbel's spooky trick of turning summer into winter for the English king, Antoine Lavoisier's battle with Count Benjamin Rumford over the caloric theory of heat, and Michael Faraday's explosive experiments to liquefy gases, which established the principles that make refrigerators possible.
Air-conditioning, refrigeration, and superconductivity are just some of the ways technology has put cold to use. But what is cold, how do you achieve it, and how cold can it get? This documentary series explores these and other facets of the frigid. It follows the quest for cold from the unlikely father of air-conditioning, the court magician of King James I of England in the 17th century, to today's scientists pioneering super fast computing in the quantum chill. The program is based on the definitive book on cold: Absolute Zero and the Conquest of Cold by Tom Shachtman. Episode 2 The Race For Absolute Zero - picks up the story in the late 19th century, when researchers plunged cold science to new lows as they succeeded in reaching the forbidding realm at which oxygen and then nitrogen liquefy. Scottish chemist James Dewar and Dutch physicist Heike Onnes are featured. The race to the bottom of the temperature scale was as zealous as the contemporaneous race to the Earth's poles. New techniques developed in the 1990s by Daniel Kleppner set the stage for a race to create an exotic form of matter called a Bose Einstein condensate, which only forms at temperatures vanishingly close to absolute zero.
This is the profile of an extraterrestrial mass murderer: one whose existence was denied by scientific orthodoxy for nearly two decades, but has now been tracked down. 65 million years ago a 15 kilometers wide asteroid hit the Earth. In 1978 Walter Alvarez, a Nobel prize winning physicist, and his son Luis, first proposed the outrageous idea that a meteorite strike blasted the dinosaurs into extinction, taking with them half of life on the planet. Their theory was hotly disputed. Now the irrefutable evidence is rolling in. Martin Belderson's dramatic film retraces the hunt for evidence for the hidden "smoking cannon" the crater left by the impact 65 million years ago.
This documentary looks at the fact that perhaps one in every hundred people experiences a blending of the senses. Imagine if every time you saw someone called Derek you got a strong taste of earwax in your mouth. It happens to James Wannerton, who runs a pub. Derek is one of his regulars. Another regular's name gives him the taste of wet nappies. For some puzzling reason, James's sense of sound and taste are intermingled. He has a mysterious condition called synaesthesia, in which this senses have become linked. For decades synaesthesia baffled the scientific community and noone could quite believe it was real. Some put it down to an overactive imagination others thought it was caused by associations from childhood that had survived into later life. In the end noone could find out what was causing it, so synaesthesia was placed in the same scientific category as seances and spoon bending. But Professor Ramachandran thought it should be taken more seriously.
Amazing new discoveries in South America are revolutionising what we thought we knew about the dinosaur world. It now seems that South America was home to both the largest meat eater, so new it's still without a name, and the largest herbivore, the enormous long necked Argentinasaurus. And what's more, these dinosaurs lived at the same time in the same place. So it's possible that like in a science fiction movie, in this prehistoric world these two giants of their kind fought each other in a spectacular clash of the Titans.
In December 1938, in Berlin, a simple chemical experiment showed for the first time that the atom can be split, releasing immense power. Within months, the Wehrmacht had started research into nuclear weapons. The Germans were the first to start work on the atom bomb. The programme investigates the reasons why Hitler was not the first leader to use it, drawing on new evidence gathered by historian Mark Walker. Dramatised scenes, eyewitness accounts from Allied and German scientists, interviews and archive footage are all employed.
For years parallel universes were a staple of the Twilight Zone. Science fiction writers loved to speculate on the possible other universes which might exist. In one, they said, Elvis Presley might still be alive or in another the British Empire might still be going strong. Serious scientists dismissed all this speculation as absurd. But now it seems the speculation wasn't absurd enough. Parallel universes really do exist and they are much stranger than science fiction writers dared to imagine. By the time they had finished they'd come to the conclusion that our Universe is just one bubble among an infinite number of membranous bubbles. Now imagine what might happen if two such bubble universes touched. Neil Turok from Cambridge, Burt Ovrut from the University of Pennsylvania and Paul Steinhardt from Princeton believe that has happened. The result? A very big bang indeed and a new universe was born, our Universe.
There's a region of our planet that no human being has ever visited. No one has ever seen this place, yet what happens here affects every one of us every day of our lives. It's 2,000 miles beneath our feet, the Earth's molten core. Here a vast ocean of liquid iron generates an invisible force, the Earth's magnetic field. It's what makes our compasses point north. But it does a lot more: it helps to keep the Earth a living planet. Our neighbors, Venus and Mars, have only weak magnetic fields, which means they're unprotected from the deadly radiation sweeping through the solar system. The Earth, on the other hand, exists within a vast magnetic cocoon, a force field that for billions of years has sheltered us on our journey through space. But now scientists have made a startling discovery. It seems there's a storm brewing deep within the Earth, a storm that is weakening our vital magnetic shield. Could the Earth really lose its magnetic field? And what will happen if it does?
Can the misfortune of brain injury shed light on the workings of the normal brain, perhaps even help solve some of the eternal riddles of human nature? Understanding the human brain is one of the ultimate challenges in science. Dr. Vilanyur Ramachandran is revolutionizing our understanding of how the brain works. His efforts to solve some of the most baffling neurological mysteries take him from the hospital bed to the outer limits of brain science.
For 25 centuries the Parthenon has been shot at, set on fire, rocked by earthquakes, looted for its sculptures, almost destroyed by explosion, and disfigured by well meaning renovations. It has gone from temple, to church, to mosque, to munitions dump. What could be next? How about a scientific search for the secrets of its incomparable beauty and astonishingly rapid construction? With unprecedented access, NOVA unravels the architectural and engineering mysteries of this celebrated ancient temple.
History reports that the mighty Inca were swiftly wiped out by a small band of Conquistadors. But, new evidence is being unearthed that may help rewrite history. Remains of those who died in battle have been discovered, and for the first time physical evidence is suggesting that Spain's conquest of the Incan Empire may have actually taken twenty years. Brought to life through CGI reconstruction and reenactments, the untold epic saga of decades of guerilla warfare and rebellion are finally revealed as this documentary uncovers the truth behind the Inca's last stand.