The Best Episodes of Modern Marvels
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 - Radio: Out Of Thin Air
Season 3 - Episode 9
Though now considered a country cousin when compared to the sophisticated television, merely a century ago, the radio galvanized communications as it linked the world without wires. The program examines the long life of the radio.
#2 - Engineering Disasters (2)
Season 5 - Episode 31
A look at unforeseeable factors and what made these engineering feats into engineering disasters.
#3 - Hoover Dam
Season 5 - Episode 14
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.
#4 - Strategic Air Command
Season 8 - Episode 28
With the ironic motto "Peace is our Profession", the Strategic Air Command was in charge of US nuclear forces from 1946 to 1992. SAC was the ultimate Cold War military machine, at its height controlling thousands of nuclear weapons, planes, and missiles, and boasting over a quarter-million personnel. We travel to the Strategic Air and Space Museum, located 20 miles from SAC's old headquarters in Nebraska, and walk through the cavernous bomb bay of SAC's workhorse, the B-52 Bomber.
#5 - Nuts
Season 12 - Episode 29
Pintsized as a pea or big as a bowling ball, nutritional, durable, and versatile, nuts have been a staple of the human diet since time began, and archaeological evidence places them among our earliest foods. Nuts sustained the imperial armies of Rome and China, the royal navies of England and Spain, and the native tribes that roamed the American wilderness.
#6 - Snow
Season 12 - Episode 55
It is the bane of every suburban parent and the joy to every school kid. Born in a swirling storm cloud through a process called nucleation, the characteristics of snow flakes are threatened by pollution trapped in the clouds.
#7 - Walt Disney World
Season 11 - Episode 63
It is a magical place, full of animated storybook characters, majestic castles, thrilling rides, and colorful parades. For over thirty-five years, Walt Disney World has been welcoming and entertaining kids of all ages, cultures, and backgrounds. The world-famous Orlando theme park is not only the most visited in the world, it’s also the most technologically advanced. From a network of underground tunnels connecting various regions of the park, to the space-age propulsion technology of linear synchronous motors, the Disney dynasty has been on the leading edge of theme park innovation since the opening of Disneyland, its first park, in 1955. With soaring castles, sleek monorails, and lifelike animatronics, THE HISTORY CHANNEL takes a behind-the-scenes look at the ingenious industry and incredible engineering feats that went into building the renowned 27,000 acre Disney World complex.
#8 - Hangars
Season 8 - Episode 25
Come in for a smooth landing as we explore the history of hangars--stark, massive structures that house and protect flight vehicles. We visit the first hangar, built on a German lake; Boeing's Delta 4 rocket hangar; Hangar Number One in Lakehurst, New Jersey, that housed all US airships built in the 1920s and '30s; and the Space Shuttle's hangar--as big as four skyscrapers! Back in Germany, Cargolifter's mammoth hangar, large enough to enclose the Superdome, signals the rebirth of an industry.
#9 - International Airports
Season 7 - Episode 15
The developments and technology of international airports' construction and operation.
#10 - Renewable Energy
Season 12 - Episode 38
Take an in-depth look at the most proven and reliable sources: solar, wind, geothermal, biofuels, and tidal power. From the experimental to the tried-and-true, renewable energy sources are overflowing with potential... just waiting to be exploited on a massive scale.
#11 - Extreme Aircraft (1)
Season 10 - Episode 30
Join us for a supersonic look at some of the most cutting-edge aircraft ever developed--from the X-1 that first broke the sound barrier to the X-43 Scramjet that recently flew at Mach 7. These extreme aircraft have made their mark on aeronautical history, and sometimes on political history as well. The U-2 and SR-71 spy planes played a crucial role in the Cold War, and now Lockheed Martin's top-secret "Skunkworks" division is touting the new "air dominance" fighter plane-- the F/A-22 Raptor.
#12 - Fireworks
Season 5 - Episode 20
Since the invention of gunpowder, fireworks have thrilled audiences around the world. We'll review highlights of fireworks exhibitions throughout history, and go behind the scenes to explore how science and art mingle in this unique, ancient craft. The world's preeminent fireworks families explain how they create their spectacles.
#13 - The Manhattan Project
Season 8 - Episode 20
At 5:30 a.m., July 16, 1945, scientists and dignitaries awaited the detonation of the first atomic bomb in a desolate area of the New Mexico desert aptly known as "Jornada del Muerto" (Journey of Death). Dubbed the Manhattan Project, the top-secret undertaking was tackled with unprecedented speed and expense--almost $30-billion in today's money. Los Alamos scientists and engineers relate their trials, triumphs, and dark doubts about building the ultimate weapon of war in the interest of peace.
#14 - Emergency Room
Season 5 - Episode 27
One hundred million Americans will use an emergency room this year. From stitches to gunshot wounds, the flu to heart attacks, the men and women who work in these pressure-packed places are at the front line of the battle against death. This episode goes inside a busy emergency room to see how the paramedics, doctors and nurses work together. As the cameras roll, these real-life heroes fight a variety of ailments and injuries, constantly adjusting to the flow of new patients and swiftly changing situations. Trace the development of the machines that have transformed the face of emergency medicine, from the ambulance to the electrocardiograph, and see how medical techniques have evolved over the years. And find out why Mt. Everest may hold the key to the future of emergency medicine.
#15 - The Turkey
Season 14 - Episode 36
The turkey is the centerpiece of Thanksgiving dinners and one of the dumbest birds in the animal kingdom, but it has managed to survive since the dinosaurs; Butterball factory; turkey hunting; dining on turkey testicles and eggs.
#16 - Hydraulics
Season 10 - Episode 15
The machines that helped build our world have been powered by hydraulics, a compact system of valves, hoses, and pumps that transmits forces from point to point through fluid. This basic concept of powerful force transmission through fluid provides the drive for most machines today. From the ancient Roman mastery of the aqueduct to Universal Studios, a veritable hydraulic theme park, we see how hydraulics power industry, keep planes flying, and make that 3-point-turn a U-turn.
#17 - Snackfood Tech (1)
Season 10 - Episode 58
Extruders, molds, in-line conveyor belts. Are these machines manufacturing adhesives, plastics, or parts for your car? No, they're making treats for your mouth--and you will see them doing their seductively tasty work in this scrumptious episode. First, we visit Utz Quality Foods in Hanover, Pennsylvania, that produces more than one million pounds of chips per week, and Snyder's of Hanover, the leading U.S. pretzel manufacturer. Next, we focus on the world's largest candy manufacturer, Masterfoods USA, which makes Milky Way, Snickers, Mars, and M&Ms, and take a lick at the world's largest lollipop producer, Tootsie Roll Industries. And at Flower Foods' Crossville, Tennessee plant, an army of cupcakes rolls down a conveyer belt. The final stop is Dreyer's Bakersfield, California plant, where 20,000 ice cream bars and 9,600 drumsticks roll off the line in an hour.
#18 - Pocket Tools
Season 16 - Episode 8
People's pocket contents are examined to see what they carry and why.
#19 - Concrete
Season 6 - Episode 16
Invented by the ancient Romans, concrete is a relatively simple formula that changed the world. Concrete has been used to divide an entire country, as in the Berlin Wall, and to unite nations, as in the Chunnel. We'll review the history of this building block of civilization and look at modern applications
#20 - Desert Tech
Season 11 - Episode 10
It's hot, dry, deadly, and hard to ignore with close to 40% of Earth classified as desert. But in this scorching hour, the desert turns from barren wasteland into an environment rich with hope. In the Middle East, desalination of seawater now fills water needs. Americans have created booming desert communities like Las Vegas, where the Hoover Dam produces hydroelectric power and manmade Lake Mead supplies water. Native Americans farmed the desert on a small scale, but 20th-century technology begot greater opportunity. Once desolate areas of California and Mexico now grow agriculture due to irrigation, and the desert's abundant sunshine allows solar-energy and wind-power production. And in the future, desert technology may enable colonization of planets like Mars. We also take a look at how refrigeration and air conditioning have made life in desert communities tolerable, and examine the latest in survival gear and equipment.
#21 - Acid
Season 13 - Episode 34
It is the most widely produced chemical in the world and possibly the most dangerous. Take a look at the many uses of acid.
#22 - Halloween Tech
Season 14 - Episode 34
An inside look at the technology used for the Halloween traditions such as producing latex masks, professional monster makeup, carving jack-o-lanterns, making fake blood and a glimpse of a popular haunted house attraction.
#23 - Drag Racing
Season 8 - Episode 18
Dragsters hit top speeds above 330 miles per hour. MODERN MARVELS heads to the drag strip and back in time to tell the complete story of these amazing machines. Even before World War I, speed demons were modifying Model T Fords to see how quick they could make them. From these humble beginnings, a new type of racing developed. DRAG RACING goes inside the shop with top driver Gary Clapshaw to see how a modern dragster is put together, from the aerodynamic package to the 7000 horsepower engine. Legendary designer Bob Norwood reveals his latest design, which may revolutionize the sport. And watch as dragsters compete over the quickest quarter-mile on earth.
#24 - Engineering Disasters (17)
Season 11 - Episode 55
It's another chapter of complex, deadly and controversial engineering failures, using 3-D animation, forensic engineering experts, and footage of the actual disasters to understand what went wrong, and how disaster has led to improvement. In Sun Valley, California, weeks of record rain turn a crack in the middle of a street into a 200-foot long sinkhole. Months later, rain led to the Laguna Beach, California landslide, which destroyed 11 homes and caused millions in damage. On May 23, 2004, four people were killed when the roof of the new Terminal 2E at Charles de Gaulle International Airport in Paris collapses. Other disasters: the 1931 crash of Fokker F-10 passenger airplane with coach Knute Rockne aboard; the sinking of the coal ship Marine Electric off the coast of Virginia; and the blinding reflection of the new Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles.
#25 - Transatlantic Cable: 2500 Miles Of Copper
Season 3 - Episode 15
An examination of how one man's vision and the cooperation between the US and England resulted in an instant, reliable transcontinental mode of communication in the mid-1800s. See how wealthy 33-year-old Cyrus West Field endured many failures and lost millions in his attempt to close the communication gap between the Old and New Worlds.