Posts Tagged ‘NOVA’


Saturday, December 24th, 2011

This two-hour program begins with the question of how such a wide diversity of life came to exist on our planet.  The answer, of course, is evolution.  Tracing first the beginnings of Darwin’s great idea, this NOVA special then begins to fill in the gaps in Darwin’s own understanding of just how natural selection actually created diversity in living organisms (there is a lot of great explanation of DNA research and discoveries).

This is the kind of quality science program I’ve come to expect from NOVA: bracing and informative, with interviews of important contemporary researchers in various fields of science.  (I was particularly pleased to see a segment devoted to Neil Shubin’s discovery of Tiktaalik, the most dramatic transitional fossil find of recent years.  Shubin is the author of the great book “Your Inner Fish” — reviewed this blog).

As an extra bonus, I heard new theories about the unexpected genes that may have had something to do with the dramatic increase in human brain size (as compared to our primate cousins).  Very exciting stuff.

The writing is fine, and the two-hour program carefully builds the case for evolution in a way that is really kind of exciting.  My only criticism would be of the style of the presentation — the overly-dramatic music, too many quick edits and a remarkably un-helpful (and often replayed) animation to represent the branching “tree of life” (as I watched it I kept wondering if it would make sense to someone new to the idea, especially since it was unclear to me what it was actually showing).

But other than the one graphic designer who should be sacked, this is an engaging and worthwhile overview of where we are in our understanding of just how we came to be the walking, talking humans that we are.

t.n.s.r. bob

The Rev gives is 3.5 out of 4!


Sunday, November 27th, 2011

I watched this program when it first aired, and it was everything I’ve come to expect from NOVA and more.  It ran in two parts, with an addendum made up of more personal stories from the survivors.

There were several things that struck me in this show.  One was amateur video of a phenomenon geologists have described, but that I’d never seen: liquified soils squirting up from fissures in pavement.  It is an amazing thing to see, and not a little disquieting.  The other was the animated timeline map showing the location of all of the earthquakes and aftershocks that made up the totality of this event.  They appear as red dots along a series of fault lines over a period of two months.  It is a stunning overview of an earthquake event the likes of which I had not seen before.  It is also a testament to the forces of geology that so many are willing to dismiss as “acts of God”.

The program can be viewed on-line.

t.n.s.r. bob

The rev gives it four Dimetrodons out of four!