Nova (TV Series)

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Nova is an Emmy award-winning science news television series produced by WGBH Boston for the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) television network. Created by Michael Ambrosino, Nova is seen in more than 100 countries. NOVA is the most watched science television series in the world and the most watched documentary series on PBS. It is also one of television's most acclaimed series, having won every major television award, most of them many times over. Most of the episodes aired in a 60-minute time slot. Executive producers are Paula Apsell (senior), Julia Cort, and Chris Schmidt.

Premise[edit]

As educational as the show is also informative, NOVA grapples headline-grabbing innovations and discoveries from our planet and universe past, present and future, demystifying the scientific explorations and technology along the way while highlighting the human side of the people "who make science happen."

Each week NOVA delves into an in depth look at a focused topic or human in the science field. NOVA's topics cover all branches of science, engineering, technology, and little to almost no biblical facts. NOVA's unique way of presenting each topic can be interesting to both those with no prior knowledge or those whose life's work is being covered.

As of October 2021, the show has ran for 48 seasons, premiering on March 3, 1974.

In 2005, Nova began airing some episodes titled "NOVA scienceNOW", which followed a news magazine television format. For two seasons, "NOVA scienceNOW" episodes aired in the same time slot as Nova. In 2008, NOVA scienceNOW officially declared its own separate spinoff series and given its own time slot.

Reception best and weakest episodes[edit]

Nova has been praised for its in-depth science research racking up numerous episodes over the seasons. There are blunt wordly viewpoints on many political, moral, and theoretical views from a liberal perspective. Alternatively, Nova has produced a smaller number of full episodes exploring a conservative and bilbical point of view. Below is a list of best and weakest episodes based upon online fan votes as of October 2021.

Notable Episodes[edit]

Title OriginalAirDate ProductionCode ShortSummary
"Surviving The Tsunami" September 28, 2011 3812 Season 38 - Episode 12

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.

"Engineering Ground Zero" September 7, 2011 3811 Season 38 - Episode 11

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..

"Hunting the Elements" April 4, 2012 3906 Season 39 - Episode 8

Where do nature’s building blocks, called the elements, come from? They’re the hidden ingredients of everything in our world, from the carbon in our bodies to the metals in our smartphones. To unlock their secrets, David Pogue, the lively host of NOVA’s popular "Making Stuff" series and technology correspondent of The New York Times, spins viewers through the world of weird, extreme chemistry: the strongest acids, the deadliest poisons, the universe’s most abundant elements, and the rarest of the rare—substances cooked up in atom smashers that flicker into existence for only fractions of a second.

"Secrets of the Sun" April 25, 2012 3907 Season 39 - Episode 11

It contains 99.9 percent of all the matter in our solar system and sheds hot plasma at nearly a million miles an hour. The temperature at its core is a staggering 27 million degrees Fahrenheit. It convulses, it blazes, it sings. You know it as the sun. Scientists know it as one of the most amazing physics laboratories in the universe. Now, with the help of new spacecraft and Earth-based telescopes, scientists are seeing the sun as they never have before and even recreating what happens at its very center in labs here on Earth. Their work will help us understand aspects of the sun that have puzzled scientists for decades. But more critically, it may help us predict and track solar storms that have the power to zap our power grid, shut down telecommunications, and ground global air travel for days, weeks, or even longer. Such storms have happened before—but never in the modern era of satellite communication. "Secrets of the Sun" reveals a bright new dawn in our understanding of our nearest star—one that might help keep our planet from going dark.

"Apollo’s Daring Mission" December 26, 2018 4518 Season 45 - Episode 17

Astronauts and engineers of Apollo 8 explain the inside story of the first mission to circumnavigate the moon. The Apollo astronauts and engineers share the inside story of Apollo 8, which was the first crewed spacecraft to successfully orbit the Moon and return to Earth. The U.S. space program suffered a bitter setback when Apollo 1 ended in a deadly fire during a pre-launch run-through. In disarray, and threatened by the prospect of a Soviet Union victory in the space race, NASA decided upon a radical and risky change of plan: turn Apollo 8 from an earth-orbit mission into a daring sprint to the moon while relying on untried new technologies. Fifty years after the historic mission, the Apollo 8 astronauts and engineers recount the feats of engineering that paved the way to the moon.

"The Fabric of the Cosmos: Quantum Leap (Part 3 of 4)" November 16, 2011 3818 Season 38 - Episode 17

Brian Greene explores the weirdness of quantum physics, which governs the universe on the tiniest of scales. While counterintuitive, it's one of the most successful theories in the history of science.

"Separating Twins" February 8, 2012 3908 Season 39 - Episode 6

Witness the extraordinary surgery that will allow twin girls, born joined at the head, to live separate lives. Bangladeshi conjoined twins Trishna and Krishna appear in this program validating that they have beaten the odds with their miracle story of survival, both awaking from landmark separation surgery. The twins, who were abandoned shortly after birth at an orphanage in Bangladesh, they had little chance of survival, until the twins were separated by a 16-member medical team from the 32-hour marathon surgery at the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne Australia. Since the beginning, surgeons knew there was no guarantee of survival for either of the girls—but without surgery there was no hope at all. With exclusive access to this extraordinary human and medical drama, Nova's cameras have been with Trishna and Krishna and their caregivers at each moment of their journey.

"Finding Life Beyond Earth: Moons and Beyond" October 19, 2011 3813/3814 Season 38 - Episode 13

The effort to locate life elsewhere in the universe is examined. It's a difficult task due to the many planets that could theoretically support life. Nova takes 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 dormant, lifeless rocks where life could never take hold. Today, however, the solar system looks wilder than we ever imagined.

"Space Shuttle Disaster" October 14, 2008 3512 Season 35 - Episode 12

An investigation uncovers the human failures and design flaws behind the 2003 Columbia tragedy. An in-depth look at the Columbia space shuttle disaster in 2003. Nova includes interviews with shuttle astronauts, family members, flight control personnel, administrators and investigators. Also included is a brief history of the space shuttle program.

"3D Spies of WWII" January 18, 2012 3903 Season 39 - Episode 3

The story of British aerial military photographic reconnaissance and analysis using stereoscopic viewing techniques during World War II. During World War II, Hitler’s scientists developed terrifying new weapons of mass destruction. Alarmed by rumors of advanced rockets and missiles, Allied intelligence recruited a team of brilliant minds from British universities and Hollywood studios to a country house near London. Here, they secretly pored over millions of air photos shot at great risk over German territory by specially converted, high-flying Spitfires. Peering at the photos through 3D stereoscopes, the team spotted telltale clues that revealed hidden Nazi rocket bases. The photos led to devastating Allied bombing raids that dealt crucial setbacks to the German rocket program and helped ensure the success of the D-Day landings. With 3D graphics that recreate exactly what the photo spies saw, NOVA tells the suspenseful, previously untold story of air photo intelligence that played a vital role in defeating the Nazis.

"Stephen Jay Gould: This View of Life" December 18, 1984 1118 Season 12 - Episode 18

What do dinosaurs, a panda's thumb and a peacock's tail have in common? Dr. Stephen Jay Gould, the internationally renowned paleontologist and Evolutionary theorist, provides some surprising answers in this NOVA profile.

"Memory Hackers" February 10, 2016 4307 Season 43 - Episode 7

Memory is the key to our identity. Its the glue that binds our mental lives. Without it, humans would be prisoners of the present, unable to use the lessons of the past to change our future. From our first kiss to where we put our keys, memory represents who we are, how we learn and how we navigate the world. But how does it actually work? In MEMORY HACKERS, NOVA explores the cutting edge frontiers of cognitive Science and molecular biology, where neuroscientists are probing our brains to unlock the secrets of human memory. The one-hour documentary, examines how memories are formed, what encompasses the act of remembering and the new technologies being used to implant, edit and even erase memories, a process that could DELETE our worst fears and, one day, may help us to re-write our past with the flip of a switch. Washington University research on Jake Hausler, a St. Louis child with Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory, and Actress/author Marilu Henner who has a Superior Autobiographical Memory are featured on this hour of NOVA.

"The Bible's Buried Secrets" November 18, 2008 3516 Season 35 - Episode 16

A powerful partnership between science and scholarship breaks exciting new ground in investigating the origins of the ancient Israelite's, their faith in a single, omnipotent God and the creation of the Bible. “The Bible’s Buried Secrets,” produced by Rhode Island-based Providence Pictures for PBS's science series Nova, attempts to uncover who wrote the Hebrew Bible and whether it’s history or parable, delving into the origins of the Israelite's to explore their gradual transformation into a monotheistic people. The show also poses provocative ideas – including the “revelation” that many Israelite's believed that God had a wife – and disputes literal readings of the text.

Controversies[edit]

Creation versus evolution for our planet Earth and universe is a topic that is not heavily explored head to head on the Nova TV series. Instead creation is underscored by the worldly view that evolution and planet earth ecosystems changed following the dinosaur extinction with emphasis that humans are fictionally, but according to Nova, evolved and were not created by God. Not even theoretical creation opposition from a worldly or biblical perspective is provided to viewers on the so called "asteroid" hitting the earth thereby wiping out dinosaurs with an earthly evolution of mammals forming in this series Nova. Instead viewers and students are told this evolution of mammals is the solid truth of humans creation. This theory within the controversial Nova episode aired on October 30, 2019 titled "Rise of the Mammals" is showcased on the southern California PBS SoCal website as suggested teacher resource learning material for students. Moreover there isn't heavy concrete evidence suggesting this "asteroid" theory is truth. Furthermore, polls suggest the majority of humans believe humans were indeed created by God as written in the Bible. NOVA: Rise of the Mammals describes that their evidence suggests how environmental factors influenced plant and animal survival after this "asteroid" hit earth with an emergence of species diversity. Parents need to know that NOVA is an award-winning science series that explores many topics that are educational and have solid evidence outside of the aforementioned "asteroid" theory that is likely fictional. Topics may be considered controversial, from AIDS to human cloning and "safe" cigarettes. While the science is presented in easy-to-understand terms, younger kids may not be able to grasp everything presented. Parental guidance is suggested along with biblical fact checking on some topics explored on Nova.

Narrators[edit]

The vast majority of episodes have a recurring voice actor or well known on screen actor or personality that is the narrator. Jay O. Sanders the narrator for the PBS series “Wide Angle” from 2002–2009, has served as narrator for a number of Nova episodes starting in 2007 and is credited as narrator for the most episodes of Nova.

Below is a list of Nova narrators in multiple episodes:

  • Jay O. Sanders
  • Craig Sechler
  • Lance Lewman
  • Will Lyman
  • Neil Ross
  • Stacy Keach
  • Liev Schreiber
  • Eric Meyers
  • Peter Thomas
  • Gene Galusha
  • David Ogden Stiers
  • Don Wescott
  • Neil deGrasse Tyson
  • Edward Herrmann
  • John Lithgow
  • Miles O'Brien
  • Richard Donat
  • Brian Greene
  • Jeremiah Kissel
  • Corey Johnson
  • Zachary Quinto
  • Joe Morton
  • Janna Levin
  • Tony Kahn
  • David Attenborough
  • Jamie Effros
  • Rena Baskin
  • Kathryn Walker
  • Roy Scheider

External links[edit]