The BEST Episodes of Modern Marvels
Every episode ever - ranked by fan votes!
Last Updated: Jun 13, 2021
Celebrating ingenuity, invention and imagination brought to life on a grand scale, MODERN MARVELS tells the fascinating stories of the doers, dreamers and sometime-schemers who created everyday items, technological breakthroughs and man-made wonders.
#1 - Oil
Season 3 - Episode 7 - Aired Nov 9, 1995
From the first well in Pennsylvania to the gushing Spindletop and modern supertankers, the story of oil is the story of civilization as we know it. We'll take a look at the ingenious and outrageous men who risked everything for "black gold" and unimaginable wealth.
#2 - The Railroads That Tamed the West
Season 3 - Episode 9 - Aired Feb 4, 1996
The year was 1869 and America had just completed the greatest building achievement in its history--the Transcontinental Railroad. A thin ribbon of steel and wood now connected East and West. But the fledgling country now faced an even greater challenge--how to harness the awesome potential of the railroad to tame the still wide-open and wild West.
#3 - Air Force One: A History
Season 4 - Episode 7 - Aired Jan 1, 1997
Until the airplane soared on the scene, the President was mostly Washington-bound; then, in 1910, Teddy Roosevelt took to the sky! From FDR's custom-tailored prop plane to today's technological wonder, the program examines the evolution of the Oval Office in the Sky.
#4 - New York Subways
Season 3 - Episode 8 - Aired Jan 6, 1999
New York subway system's riders, workers and street performers make it a microcosm of city life.
#5 - Dynamite
Season 6 - Episode 27 - Aired Jun 21, 1999
Join us for a highly charged hour as we see why Alfred Nobel's invention of dynamite took on earthshattering dimensions as his product blasted out the natural resources that built our modern world. We also examine its impact on construction of the roads, tunnels, and dams that provide us with energy and transportation
#6 - Hoover Dam
Season 6 - Episode 29 - Aired Jul 12, 1999
By any measure, it was a daunting task to tame the Colorado River, the waterway that had carved out the Grand Canyon. To make things worse, the site chosen was in the middle of the desert, far removed from any towns or infrastructure. This episode ventures into the Southwestern Desert to tell the complete story of one of the seven engineering wonders of the world -- Hoover Dam. See incredible footage that documents every step of the monumental work of taming the Colorado to provide water and power to California, Nevada and Arizona. From the blueprints to reality, this is the story of the ingenuity and manpower that literally moved a river and sculpted a mountain of concrete. That it was completed in only seven years is all the more remarkable.
#7 - Newspapers
Season 6 - Episode 35 - Aired Aug 31, 1999
Since the 15th century, man has sated his hunger for information with newspapers. Their form has varied over the centuries, and their content adjusted to the changing desires of their readers (or publishers? whims), but until very recently, they seemed likely to be a vital part of human society forever. But as this episode shows, that future may be in doubt. The growing influence of the computer age and the widespread availability of instant information may eventually render the newspaper obsolete. Of course, we?re a long way from that day, and as this video proves, the daily news has survived much in the past.
#8 - City Beneath Our Feet, The AKA Underground Surprises
Season 7 - Episode 2 - Aired Jan 10, 2000
#9 - Mackinac Bridge
Season 10 - Episode 8 - Aired Mar 5, 2003
Until recently, the Mackinac Bridge was the longest suspension bridge in the world. One of the top engineering marvels of the 20th century, the bridge spans the 4-mile wide straits of Mackinac, where Lakes Huron and Michigan come together. The Mighty Mac connects the pastoral northern mainland of Michigan with the state's heavily forested Upper Peninsula and stands as a testament to the dreams, determination, and hard work of a small few who created a true masterpiece of modern engineering.
#10 - Mega Movers
Season 12 - Episode 21 - Aired Apr 27, 2005
Join us on two treacherous trips as we follow two separate structural moving families in their struggles to relocate and save a 100-year-old homestead and an 1890 Queen Anne Victorian house. In Colorado, a father and son have to fight fierce weather and the fragility of a purported haunted log cabin and decaying barn to move them two miles across a rugged mountainside. In Illinois, three generations of movers are pushed to their limit when they are hired to transport a 180-ton monster house across town. Will these historic homes reach their final resting places in one piece and find peace?
#11 - Cotton
Season 13 - Episode 3 - Aired Jan 18, 2006
Tune in as Modern Marvels looks into the history of cotton, a product used in hundreds of different products, from clothing to lipstick.
#12 - Forensic Science: The Crime Fighter's Weapon
Season 5 - Episode 9 - Aired Sep 28, 1997
From Sherlock Holmes' examination of the physical evidence at a crime scene to today's DNA technology, we review the history of crime detection through the use of forensic science.
#13 - Coin Operated
Season 15 - Episode 24 - Aired Jul 24, 2008
Every 15 minutes, Americans insert over 3.5 million coins into vending machines. What are they buying? How do the machines work?
#14 - Super Human
Season 15 - Episode 39 - Aired Dec 22, 2008
hether humans have the ability to possess superpowers; a man can strap on an exoskeleton and lift hundreds of pounds with little effort; Mr. Cyborg can control machines with his thoughts; flying like Superman.
#15 - Ocean Liners
Season 2 - Episode 8 - Aired Dec 16, 1994
Luxurious ocean liners rival world-class land resorts.
#16 - Carbon
Season 15 - Episode 2 - Aired Jan 14, 2008
Carbon is the chemical basis of all known life and yet this simple element is also the foundation of modern technology. Carbon burns hotter, cuts deeper, insulates more thoroughly and absorbs more fully than any other material. See why carbon is the key both in heavy-duty industries, as well as in tools like the graphite pencil, the charcoal water filter, and the diamond saw blade.
#17 - Rescue Technology
Season 6 - Episode 25 - Aired May 1, 1999
Check out the latest advances in rescue technology, including a Searchcam system that locates buried victims, and the Jaws of Life that can extricate a person from a crushed car in seconds.
#18 - Tower Bridge
Season 7 - Episode 13 - Aired May 25, 2000
A look at London's Tower Bridge, a fine example of Victorian engineering and architecture that has attracted tourists since its inauguration on June 30, 1894, by Edward, the Prince of Wales.
#19 - More Gadgets
Season 8 - Episode 21 - Aired Jun 27, 2001
A salute to the tools and toys that have stood the test of time--from the Zippo lighter to the Palm Pilot, the 21st century's first great gadget. As we focus on the technology behind familiar gadgets, we see the subtle ways they have changed our lives. Other items include the flashlight, transistor radio, safety razor, and the metronome. We also go behind the scenes at Herbst-Lazar-Bell, a cutting-edge industrial design firm, and Gadget Universe, a fledgling retailer trying to topple the Sharper Image.
#20 - Dangerous Cargo
Season 10 - Episode 30 - Aired Jun 25, 2003
Toxic traffic is everywhere! An average of 800,000 shipments of hazardous materials hit our highways and railways daily. From Wild West wooden crates filled with explosives to HAZMAT containers of nuclear waste, we shadow dangerous cargo. We ride shotgun on a hazardous material shipment that's tracked by satellites; hunt down the hush-hush "ghost fleet"--trucks carrying classified government materials; and board a Con-Air flight moving another kind of nasty stuff--dangerous felons!
#21 - Military Movers
Season 10 - Episode 44 - Aired Aug 6, 2003
Military planners move millions of soldiers and tons of cargo halfway around the world and into the thick of action.
#22 - Sub Disasters
Season 11 - Episode 62 - Aired Nov 17, 2004
When the men and women aboard a modern submarine hear the command to dive, they can take a measure of comfort in the fact that no U.S. sub has been lost in nearly 40 years, though it's been said that the sea is a more hostile environment than space. The tragedies of former disasters have not been forgotten or squandered and the Navy has been extremely motivated to find ever more effective ways to prevent them. We'll examine sub disasters to discover what caused them and what they've taught us. And as we explore the early history of the submarine--including a sub used in the American Revolution and one used in the Civil War--we follow a modern crew using submarine simulators to train for disasters, study subs in the nuclear age, and explore state-of-the-art rescue technology.
#23 - The Arch
Season 12 - Episode 3 - Aired Jan 12, 2005
Join us as we explore the vast and varied world of the arch, one of the strongest and most versatile structures made by man. Deceptively simple, an arch can support tremendous weight because its structure is compressed by pressure, and it provides a much more spacious opening than its predecessor--post and lintel construction. Although ancient Egyptians and Greeks experimented with the arch, the Romans perfected it. Medieval Arabs incorporated it into stunning mosque architecture, soon followed by Europe's great medieval churches. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the steel arch became a favorite of architects and structural engineers. Dam builders employed it horizontally, using the water behind the dam to provide the pressure to compress it. And tomorrow, the arch will continue to serve mankind in every form--from nanotechnology to domes on Mars and beyond.
#24 - German Small Arms of WWII
Season 12 - Episode 55 - Aired Sep 24, 2005
An evaluation of the evolution of German "small arms" from the end of WWI, when the defeated nation was denied the right to rearm by the Treaty of Versailles, to the end of WWII, after Hitler had again supplied the country with the means to wage war. See how Lugers, P-38s, and Mausers wrote an agonizing chapter in the gun's history.
#25 - Money
Season 13 - Episode 19 - Aired Jun 19, 2006
How does America make money--literally? We visit the United States Mint and the Bureau of Printing and Engraving to see the secretive government facilities where our legal tender is generated. With a storied past as tantalizing as the wealth they create, these mints can spit out fortunes in an hour and keep our economy flowing.