The Best Episodes of NOVA

Einstein Revealed

#1 - Einstein Revealed

Season 24 - Episode 1

This two-hour program chronicles Albert Einstein's life and scientific achievements from his birth in 1879 to his death in 1955. The first hour follows Einstein in his quest to understand the nature of light. Graphics depict some of Einstein's famous thought experiments, including his eventual understanding of the interplay between the speed of light and time and his development of the special theory of relativity. The program also goes into great depth about Einstein's personal life, including his romance with and marriage to fellow student Mileva Maric and the death of his father. The second hour unfolds with Einstein preoccupied with finding a theory that accounts for gravitation and determining what orders the universe. Einstein addresses gravitation in the universe with his general theory of relativity. This is confirmed experimentally in 1919 when a solar eclipse reveals stars in positions that could best be explained by his theory: that gravity causes light to bend.

Infinite Secrets

#2 - Infinite Secrets

Season 31 - Episode 1

A battered manuscript turns up after 1000 years revealing the mind of the Greek genius Archimedes

Directors: Liz Tucker
Building the Great Cathedrals

#3 - Building the Great Cathedrals

Season 38 - Episode 1

Take a dazzling architectural journey inside those majestic marvels of Gothic architecture, the great cathedrals of Chartres, Beauvais and other European cities. Carved from 100 million pounds of stone, some cathedrals now teeter on the brink of catastrophic collapse. To save them, a team of engineers, architects, art historians, and computer scientists searches the naves, bays, and bell-towers for clues. NOVA investigates the architectural secrets that the cathedral builders used to erect their towering, glass-filled walls and reveals the hidden formulas drawn from the Bible that drove medieval builders ever upward.

Directors: Scott Tiffany
Mystery Of The Megaflood

#4 - Mystery Of The Megaflood

Season 33 - Episode 1

It was the greatest flood of the past two million years, and it posed a giant scientific riddle. A maverick geologist became convinced that thousand-foot-deep floodwaters had scoured out vast areas of the American northwest near the end of the last ice age. Mainstream scientists scorned his theory while he searched patiently for answers to what could have triggered such an inconceivably violent event. Finally, an ingenious solution silenced the skeptics: traces of an enormous ice dam half a mile high, which had blocked a valley in present-day Montana and created an enormous lake behind it. With the help of stunningly realistic animation, NOVA takes viewers back to the Ice Age to reveal what happened when the dam broke, unleashing a titanic flood that swept herds of woolly mammoth and everything else into oblivion.

Directors: Ben Fox
The Making Of A Natural History Film

#5 - The Making Of A Natural History Film

Season 1 - Episode 1

NOVA premieres on public television with a behind-the-scenes look at the making of a nature film. Oxford Scientific Films Unit shows how it tackles such problems as filming a wood-wasp laying its egg inside trees, the hatching of a chick and the courtship rituals of the stickleback.

Secrets of the Samurai Sword

#6 - Secrets of the Samurai Sword

Season 35 - Episode 1

NOVA follows the long and exacting centuries-old process of making a Japanese samurai sword, from smelting the ore to the finished katana.

Directors: John Wate
Ground Zero Supertower

#7 - Ground Zero Supertower

Season 41 - Episode 1

NOVA kicks off the fall season with a return to Ground Zero to witness the final chapter in an epic story of engineering, innovation, and the perseverance of the human spirit. “Ground Zero Supertower” examines the new skyscraper, One World Trade Center, rising up 104 stories and 1,776 feet from the site where the Twin Towers once stood. NOVA also goes underground to see another engineering marvel taking shape here: the construction of the National September 11 Memorial Museum that will house almost a thousand artifacts from that devastating day. In this update of NOVA’s Emmy-nominated special “Engineering Ground Zero,” which featured extraordinary behind-the-scenes access to the struggles of the engineers and architects working at 1 WTC and the 9/11 Memorial, NOVA goes inside the construction of the tower’s final floors and the installation of its soaring, 408-foot spire and beacon. The greatest test is still to come, though: Will One World Trade Center, a multi-billion dollar supertower, live up to its promise to be safe, beautiful and ahead of its time?

Directors: Terri Randall
Secrets of the Viking Sword

#8 - Secrets of the Viking Sword

Season 40 - Episode 1

The Vikings were among the fiercest warriors of all time. Yet only a select few carried the ultimate weapon of their era: the feared Ulfberht sword. Fashioned using a process that would remain unknown to the Vikings’ rivals for centuries, the Ulfberht was a revolutionary high-tech tool as well as a work of art. Considered one of the greatest swords ever made, it remains a fearsome weapon more than a millennium after it last saw battle. But how did Viking sword makers design and build the Ulfberht, and what was its role in history? Now, NOVA uses cutting edge science and old-fashioned detective work to reconstruct the Ulfberht and finally unravel the "Secrets of the Viking Sword."

Directors: Peter Yost
Engineering Ground Zero

#9 - Engineering Ground Zero

Season 39 - Episode 1

To commemorate the 10th anniversary of 9/11, NOVA presents an epic story of engineering, innovation, and the perseverance of the human spirit. With extraordinary access granted by The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, “Engineering Ground Zero” follows the five-year construction of One World Trade Center (1 WTC) and the National September 11 Memorial & Museum.

Directors: David Shadrack Smith
Arctic Dinosaurs

#10 - Arctic Dinosaurs

Season 36 - Episode 1

A field expedition to collect new fossil clues on Alaska's North Slope reveals details of the lives of polar dinosaurs.

Directors: Jackie Mow, Chris Schmidt
Dawn of Humanity

#11 - Dawn of Humanity

Season 43 - Episode 1

Deep in a South African cave, an astounding discovery reveals clues to what made us human.

Directors: Graham Townsley
Darwin's Darkest Hour

#12 - Darwin's Darkest Hour

Season 37 - Episode 1

This two-hour scripted drama tells the remarkable story behind the unveiling of the most influential scientific theory of all time, Charles Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection. The program is a special presentation from NOVA and National Geographic Television, written by acclaimed British screenwriter John Goldsmith and directed by John Bradshaw.

Directors: John Bradshaw
Emergency Mine Rescue

#13 - Emergency Mine Rescue

Season 38 - Episode 2

This one-hour film chronicles the fate of the 33 miners trapped in a collapsed Chilean gold and copper mine in August 2010 and investigates the many challenges faced by both the miners and those working around the clock to bring them safely to the surface. NOVA was on-site at the San José mine in Chile by early September. Conferred special access, NOVA's film crew interviewed engineers, NASA experts, medical personnel, and key figures from the companies that provided drills and crucial rescue equipment to give a more detailed scientific account of the unfolding events. The resulting film, using footage from the scene as well as advanced animation, showcases the extraordinary feats of engineering as well as the biological and geological factors inherent in the rescue. "Emergency Mine Rescue" also examines the psychological and physiological impact of this kind of prolonged ordeal on the miners and those involved in the rescue efforts.

Directors: Kate Dart, Nick Evans, Tom Stubberfield
Space Shuttle Disaster

#14 - Space Shuttle Disaster

Season 36 - Episode 2

An investigation uncovers the human failures and design flaws behind the 2003 Columbia tragedy.

Directors: Gilles Cayatte
Surviving the Tsunami

#15 - Surviving the Tsunami

Season 39 - Episode 2

The earthquake that hit the northern coast of Japan on March 11, 2011, was recorded at magnitude 9.0 the worst ever recorded in Japan. It generated an unprecedented tsunami, obliterating coastal villages and towns in a matter of minutes. In some areas, the tsunami climbed above 100 feet in height and traveled miles inland. Amazingly, amateur and professional photographers captured it all on video, including remarkable tales of human survival, as ordinary citizens became heroes in a drama they never could have imagined. As the waves rush in, a daughter struggles to help her elderly mother ascend their rooftop to safety; a man climbs onto an overpass just as the wave overtakes his car. These never-before-seen stories are captured in video and retold after the fact by the survivors who reveal what they were thinking as they made their life-saving decisions. Their stories provide lessons for how we should all act in the face of life-threatening disasters.

Directors: Tetsuji Miyagawa
Forensics on Trial

#16 - Forensics on Trial

Season 40 - Episode 2

There is a startling gap between the glamorous television world of “CSI” and the gritty reality of the forensic crime lab. With few established scientific standards, no central oversight, and poor regulation of examiners, forensics in the U.S. is in a state of crisis. In "Forensics on Trial", NOVA investigates how modern forensics, including the analysis of fingerprints, bite marks, ballistics, hair, and tool marks, can send innocent men and women to prison—and sometimes even to death row. Shockingly, of more than 250 inmates exonerated by DNA testing over the last decade, more than 50 percent of the wrongful convictions stemmed from invalid or improperly handled forensic science. With the help of vivid recreations of actual trials and cases, NOVA will investigate today’s shaky state of crime science as well as cutting-edge solutions that could help investigators put the real criminals behind bars.

Directors: Scott Tiffany
Megastorm Aftermath

#17 - Megastorm Aftermath

Season 41 - Episode 2

In October 2012, superstorm Sandy cut a path of devastation across the Caribbean and the East Coast, killing hundreds and doing tens of billions of dollars in damage. Now, one year after Sandy’s deadly strike, NOVA follows up on its 2012 film “Inside the Megastorm” with a fresh investigation of the critical questions raised by this historic storm: Was Hurricane Sandy a freak combination of weather systems? Or are hurricanes increasing in intensity due to a changing climate and rising seas? How can we gird cities against future storm surges? Join NOVA on a trip to the Netherlands, a country which has combined extraordinary engineering with natural landscape restoration to protect its low-lying cities from the sea. And meet climate scientists who are racing to understand how a warming world will affect extreme—but unpredictable—weather phenomena like hurricanes and tornadoes. To many, Sandy was a wake-up call: One year later, are we still listening? And how will we answer?

Directors: Miles O’Brien
The Elegant Universe: Einstein's Dream (1)

#18 - The Elegant Universe: Einstein's Dream (1)

Season 31 - Episode 3

An introduction to string theory and its unification of general relativity and quantum mechanics.

Directors: Joseph McMaster
Secrets Of The Mind (aka Phantoms in the Brain)

#19 - Secrets Of The Mind (aka Phantoms in the Brain)

Season 29 - Episode 3

This NOVA program delves into the mind-tingling efforts of neuroscientist V.S. Ramachandran to discover how the brain works.

Directors: Christopher Rawlence
Making Stuff Faster

#20 - Making Stuff Faster

Season 41 - Episode 3

Ever since humans stood on two feet we have had the basic urge to go faster. But are there physical limits to how fast we can go? David Pogue wants to find out, and in "Making Stuff Faster," he’ll investigate everything from electric muscle cars and the America’s cup sailboat to bicycles that smash speed records. Along the way, he finds that speed is more than just getting us from point A to B, it's also about getting things done in less time. From boarding a 737 to pushing the speed light travels, Pogue's quest for ultimate speed limits takes him to unexpected places where he’ll come face-to-face with the final frontiers of speed.

Directors: Michael Bicks
Why Planes Vanish

#21 - Why Planes Vanish

Season 42 - Episode 3

The disappearance of Flight MH370 stunned the world. In an era of smart-phones and GPS, how could a 270-ton passenger jet vanish into thin air? It was a rude awakening for all of us, showing just how far we are from the world we imagined we lived in—in which every move is monitored all the time. NOVA tells the inside story of the search for Flight MH370 and meets the key players from all corners of the globe who have spent months searching for the lost plane. In the search for answers, we'll reveal how today's planes must fly through vast radar "blind spots," and investigate new technologies that could allow ground stations and satellites to track planes automatically, without pilot intervention, even in remote areas with no radar coverage. What will it take to guarantee that in the future, nothing will ever be 'lost' again?

Directors: Miles O’Brien
Parallel Worlds, Parallel Lives

#22 - Parallel Worlds, Parallel Lives

Season 36 - Episode 3

Join Mark Everett on his quixotic quest to understand his father Hugh, creator of a radical theory of quantum physics.

Directors: Louise Lockwood
Dogs Decoded

#23 - Dogs Decoded

Season 38 - Episode 4

"Dogs Decoded" reveals the science behind the remarkable bond between humans and their dogs and investigates new discoveries in genetics that are illuminating the origin of dogs—with surprising implications for the evolution of human culture. Other research is proving what dog lovers have suspected all along: Dogs have an uncanny ability to read and respond to human emotions. Humans, in turn, respond to dogs with the same hormone responsible for bonding mothers to their babies. How did this incredible relationship between humans and dogs come to be? And how can dogs, so closely related to fearsome wild wolves, behave so differently?

Directors: Dan Child
Galileo's Battle For The Heavens

#24 - Galileo's Battle For The Heavens

Season 30 - Episode 4

In this two-hour special, NOVA celebrates the story of the father of modern science and his struggle to get Church authorities to accept the truth of his astonishing discoveries. The program is based on Dava Sobel's bestselling book, Galileo's Daughter, which reveals a new side to the famously stubborn scientist—that his closest confidante was his illegitimate daughter, Sister Maria Celeste, a cloistered nun.

Directors: Peter Jones
Finding Life Beyond Earth: Are We Alone?

#25 - Finding Life Beyond Earth: Are We Alone?

Season 39 - Episode 3

Take a spectacular trip to distant realms of our solar system to discover where secret forms of life may lie hidden. Combining the latest telescope images with dazzling animation, this program immerses audiences in the sights and sounds of alien worlds, while top astrobiologists explain how these places are changing how we think about the potential for life in our solar system. We used to think our neighboring planets and moons were fairly boring—mostly cold, dead rocks where life could never take hold. Today, however, the solar system looks wilder than we ever imagined.

Directors: Oliver Twinch